The people most excited about Rumble Roses will likely fall into a few categories: A) people who like to look at swishy, bouncy mammaries; B) people who prefer their solid wrestling to have some feminine flair; or C) people who want to beat women with baseball bats and brass knuckles. Hopefully you fall into one of the former categories, but if you are in the latter, at least you now have a safe place to take out your anger.
Rumble Roses starts out with a bang, featuring a sharp CG intro of the Roses strutting their stuff, and a girl-power remix of David Lee Roth’s Yankee Rose blaring behind it. The front end of the game menus is pretty simple, featuring Exhibition, Story Mode, Options, and Gallery selections. Each mode has a subsequent menu tree that remains simple and intuitive (a help screen is available for just about everything) and adds new variations for each mode.
In Exhibition, you simply pick two Roses and slug it out. You can also engage in sticky-yet-sultry Mad Mud Matches on the beach, or utilize the Vow system, where you pick other objectives for the fight besides winning that add some variety. When Vows are fulfilled, points are earned to move your character’s alignment towards either Face (good girl) or Heel (bad girl). Getting a character to 100% of either end of the scale makes them eligible to challenge the existing Champion, and winning with that character opens them up in Gallery mode, which serves as little more than a biography/peep show of the girl of your choice sporting one of her many outfits. It’s certainly titillating for anyone who thinks the bikini is man’s greatest invention, but doesn’t serve much purpose besides that.
One thing the Gallery showcases is the graphical splendor of the character models. Nary a texture seam or warped polygon can be found on these lasses. They’re not technologically to the point of confusing Maya models with runway models, but the animations ? both active and idle ? and detail on these ladies is fantastic. If you’ve never seen a girl in her skivvies before, this is a good place to start. Of course, the M-rating pretty much ensures that these pubescents won’t be able to pick it up at Wal-Mart anyway. I didn’t really understand the mature rating. I suppose the language is borderline, but there’s nothing here you wouldn’t hear in a PG-13 movie, and if the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is any indication, the only part of a breast you can’t show in mainstream media is the nipple. There’s no innuendo, no sex or blood, nothing terribly objectionable, unless the idea of girl-on-girl action is absolute in its naughtiness. Bearing that in mind, the M-rating is a bit confounding. Sorry teenagers. I know you really wanted this game, and it was clearly made for you.
Getting back to the girls for a moment, they at first seem almost clich?, but through the Story Mode emerge their individual personalities and reasons for being in this tournament. Many of you will probably skip these yummy but dialogue-heavy in-engine cutscenes ? replete with awkward pauses that could only exist to let you gawk at the girls ? and just dwell on the outfits, which fit every wardrobe fetish a guy ever had. Among others, you’ll find Miss Spencer, the schoolteacher; Candy Cane, her unruly student adorned with a classic schoolgirl outfit; Dixie Clemet, the naughty cowgirl; Evil Rose, the dame adorned like an S&M demon; Anesthesia, the wicked nurse with a cure for every ailment; and Bloody Shadow, the foxy ninja with a heart of gold. Each character also has an unlockable alter ego and costumes. The girls are certainly gorgeous, the outfits spectacular, and each character is well balanced and has just enough personality and different moves to make them all worthy contenders.
What isn’t so pretty are some of the environments. The rings and entrance sequences look fine, as do the blatant self-promotional Konami ads for Castlevania, Neo Contra, and Metal Gear Solid 3, but look much further and you’ll see that the crowd appears to be made of casting rejects from the worst looking PSone games. They are blocky, ugly, and they have about three different animations, so at any time you can see a few dozen onlookers cheering with the same gestures, perfectly in synch with each other. It looks dumb. However, if you spend much time looking at the crowd, you’re missing the point.
The actual game play was a pleasant surprise to me. I generally don’t find much joy in wrestling games, but this one had me pulling off sweet, painful-looking moves pretty quickly, and loving every minute of it. Bats, whips, brass knuckles, oars and other objects are scattered in the far corners of the arena, hidden behind barrier walls. As you pile up the damage on your opponent and execute taunts, a meter fills up that enables special Killer and Lethal moves, which range from fancy looking to high-flying. Some attacks humiliate your opponent a bit, which fills up another meter. Once it’s full, you can pull off especially wicked Humiliation moves. Figuring out where you have to be (in front, behind, standing on the turnbuckle, standing over your downed opponent, etc.) is the only variable, and then the moves are just a button-press away.
The sound in Rumble Roses is adequate. Occasionally you’ll hear the same painful squeal from someone a few times in a row, the voice acting ranges from average to cheesy, and the soundtrack is all over the place, but it keeps things lively. The crowd reacts according to how the match is going, which taunts are displayed, and how much pain is being inflicted. There are some places where the spoken dialogue doesn’t match up with the subtitles (which can’t be turned off). Generally, it gets the job done, and nothing more.
When Yuke’s broke onto the faltering wrestling scene a few years back, they reinvigorated it with simple but elegant controls, solid animations, and added impact to the fights. They’ve done it again with Rumble Roses, though it seems to be more of a decent first effort than the game that will redefine the genre. I like the girls, I like the game play, but a few jerky animations and awkward voice-acting leave behind the feeling that a bit more could be done here. This is a good start to what will surely be a solid new franchise, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next featuring these lovely Roses.