The charm of late ’90s and early 2000s pro wrestling video games echoes through time, leaving a powerful mark on their fans. Titles such as WWF No Mercy, WCW/nWo Revenge, and the initial SmackDown! series encapsulated the essence of wrestling in a beautiful balance of simplicity and complexity. Fast-forward to 2023, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) sets out on a mission to recapture the glorious past with AEW: Fight Forever, strikingly bridging the gap between nostalgia and modern gaming.
AEW: Fight Forever flaunts its old-school charm with a medal of recommendation from Polygon Recommends 2023, the platform endorsing thought-provoking, entertaining, inventive, and fun gaming experiences.
The game harkens back to the golden era with its gameplay mechanics, primarily designed by the seasoned developer Yuke’s, known for their work on the same classic wrestling games. The game caters to beginners, allowing button mashing victories, while also rewarding expert play with a diverse array of moves triggered by precise button timings. The game’s manager, William Regal, guides players through tutorials, laying the foundation for both casual and hardcore wrestling fans to explore and engage.
Remember the adrenaline rush from playing WWF No Mercy while making daring leaps from the ring’s corner? AEW: Fight Forever brings those memories back to life.
The game’s aesthetics draw from the past too, favoring an exaggerated and cartoonish look over the hyper-realism pursued by contemporary WWE 2K games. Despite a few imperfections in the character selection screen, the fighters look commendable in the ring, each flaunting unique taunts, sound effects, and moves that entice players to explore and experiment.
In the game’s ‘Road to Elite’ mode, you will embark on a year-long wrestling storyline journey, advancing through different cities, improving stats, managing energy levels, and more. Along the journey, interactions with quirky NPCs and mini-games add layers of excitement and immersion to the experience.
The game impressively recreates famous AEW storylines for its story mode, often followed by real-world highlights, effectively connecting the dots between the virtual and real wrestling worlds.
Notwithstanding its efforts to relive the past, AEW: Fight Forever could not escape the constraints of its development timeline. Initiated in 2020, the game’s roster may appear outdated to some fans, considering the growth of AEW in the intervening years. However, the inclusion of major players like CM Punk offers hope for future DLCs and unlockables that could rectify the missing characters.
While some elements might feel rushed or outdated, the essence of AEW: Fight Forever is a heartfelt homage to the golden era of wrestling video games. The game masterfully captures the old-school magic while looking forward to the future, promising to rectify minor shortcomings over time.