Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fire Pro Wrestling... 3D Future?

John Marine | 12/11/2010 04:25:00 AM | | |
Believe it or not, I haven't done a Fire Pro Wrestling blog post in a LONG while! This is a blog post I had prepared a long time ago, but never finished (until now, obviously). So here is another quality post from yours truly regarding FPW.

There has never been a true 3D Fire Pro Wrestling game in 3D except for "Fire Pro Wrestling: Iron Slam '96." Fire Pro Wrestling features some of the finest and most creative usage of 2D sprites to create fighters. The system is so intricate that you can sometimes wonder if all the sprites are all hand-drawn. There is such a play on sprites in the Fire Pro Wrestling games that make them unique. However, the 2D graphics for each of the wrestlers has its limits, and they show greatly. A comparable 2D engine will not allow for certain textures and certain items to be used. Things like ladders, tables you can actually pick up and set up, skirts on female wrestlers, and more are not possible. The one female wrestler in the GET promotion, Omatsu has one outfit that looks like a Japanese school girl's outfit, only that she wears tights instead of a skirt. Because of these things, it is possible that something new should be tried for any possible PS3 or XBOX 360 rendition of a future Fire Pro Wrestling game.

The last attempt at a 3D Fire Pro Wrestling game was called "Fire Pro Wrestling Iron Slam '96." According to a video review I've seen on YouTube, this game had nowhere near the level of customization and expandable gameplay as any traditional FPW game. If you are to follow this logic, then it would be a bad idea to come along with a 3D FPW. Times have changed. Is it still possible to make a decent 3D FPW title? First of all, why 3D? Let's explore that avenue for a moment...

--- Why 3D? ---
Make no mistake about it- Fire Pro Wrestling games have the most amazing usage of sprites in any game of any genre. Despite this, customization options can be limited. You have to at least play "Fire Pro Wrestling Returns" to get a feel for what the game has to offer in structuring wrestlers and the game environment.

What Would Work Best?

I want to stress that I'm NOT considering that Fire Pro Wrestling has a 3D model similar to recent SmackDown games. I was thinking more like 3D versions of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns models. I still want it to be possible to have eight-player matches. without too much a hit in frame rate. I may even look at more outfit options. Again- credit this franchise for making a solid wrestling game series, but for lots more in making more realistic wrestlers (without overstepping any boundaries), I'd open the playbook a bit more to allow for more detailed and expansive wrestlers. Spike doesn't have to go pursue licensed wrestlers. They've done just fine making ficticious representations of real wrestlers both past and present.

I think if you're trying to retain the 2D character of wrestlers and action, you can go with cell-shaded 3D models. Cell shading allows you to make stylish 2D-looking models that are still very much 3D. A number of games, movies, cartoon series, and more have done cell shading; and featuring cell shaded models for Fire Pro Wrestling wouldn't hurt too much. The game just needs to have the same look and feel of past Fire Pro Wrestling games while offering something a bit new. The reason why "Fire Pro Wrestling Returns" is such a wonderful game is because it paid homage to past Fire Pro Wrestling games on the PS2. I'd want to see this same level of detail and dedication go into this wave of consoles. Maybe a proper FPW is made for all three consoles- PlayStation 3, Wii, and XBOX 360.

Let's now explore separate avenues of this topic.

--- 3D in Environments ---
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns offered up 3D environments, but more can be done. One of the most disappointing things was in seeing the table weapon in FPR. The table is basically just 1/2 of a table with just the wood. Imagine actually having tables to grab and set up a table. Same can also be said for a ladder. Having a more complete 3D environment would allow for more detailed and realistic wrestling action. There is also the weird deal in wrestlers easily being thrown out of the ring when on the ropes or near the ropes. Having actual 3D will make table and ladder matches more interesting and realistic. On a different note, the Cage matches, Deathmatches, and the mixed-martial arts deals were all very well executed in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.

A sad fact about Fire Pro Wrestling games is that everything is so constricted out of the ring. Think about the SmackDown! games, where you can go all outside the ring and even up to the main stage. You don't have as much interactivity with Fire Pro Wrestling titles. I think this needs to change and have a new formula put into place to help spark a little life into the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise. While past formulas have worked, it's time to try something a bit different to keep things fresh and interesting.

If you have played "Fire Pro Wrestling Returns," a number of factors leave more to be desired. One such example is the flat entrance themes and animations. Think about watching your favorite wrestlers from your favorite wrestling promotions (assuming you're not a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment or Total Non-Stop Action). Don't some of your favorite wrestlers have their own unique entrances and different ways of entering the ring? I want to see the environment factor extend to entrances. Make it like the SmackDown! games with customizable entrances, but don't make it TOO MUCH like SmackDown! games.

Another advantage to a 3D model would make for more believable and expansive wrestling locales. Imagine having Falls Count Anywhere and Hardcore matches. Imagine going around various arenas and other locales trying to beat up the other wrestler(s). I think of various SmackDown! games where there were arena options other than the main arenas. For example, you could wrestle in the boiler room, a VIP suite, outside the arena, the parking garage, a sports bar, and places like that. I would love to see such believeable locales to bring plenty of life to the wrestling. The wrestling is great in Fire Pro Wrestling games, but it can be just a touch better to really be impressive.

--- 3D in Wrestlers/Characters ---
Much like the SmackDown! games, you have to have great options for which to customize wrestlers. The Fire Pro Wrestling series is good for both wrestling and fighting. I am thinking more along the lines of things like kendo and such. Therefore, I'd be interested in seeing options for hakama pants and kimonos among customizable options. I'd want to see business suits for managers and such. I'd be interested in seeing feminine shoes, sandals, and boots for female wrestlers/fighters. And of course, proper skirts and dresses for female wrestlers. A trick to 2D wrestlers is to mirror certain sprites to offer a fake 3D appearance. However, what if you want to offer unique views of wrestlers?

Another advantage to a 3D model for wrestlers and other characters is in making more realistic tattoos and other such features. Imagine you want to design your character's left arms with a lot of tattoos. The tough thing to replicate in a 3D model would be bleeding wrestlers. If you somehow manage to bloody your opponent in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, you actually note the blood from that wrestler cover the face and chest. It would be tough to replicate such rough action with 3D models.

Again- to keep the 2D style intact, I'd like to see this future FPW game be cell shaded. Make the game 3D, but while looking as 2D as possible. This is what games like Street Fighter IV and others have done very well. I don't want to see this be a watered-down deal. I won't be happy with anything but classic FPW goodness for a next-gen console. On the wrestling front, make the wrestling as classic as it always has been. On the fighting front, the mixed-martial arts and boxing will just be as solid as they have been for a long while with 2D-style characters. There should be a great deal of options for customizing characters' looks. Everything from proper wrestling/fighting attire to street clothes to oddball outfits will make me happy in the customization department. I want to think of the customization factor to be as varied, unique, and fun as say... ModNation Racers. Will it happen? Will we get this 3D-style 2D FPW title in the future, and will the classic gameplay style remain? We shall see.

--- Can a 3D FPW Succeed as Well as its 2D Counterparts? ---
That will be the ultimate question. Will the series shy away from its 2D roots and be as successful as a 3D-style game? Could a 3D FPW be as customizable and fun as any of the 2D FPW games? Could it succeed where "Fire Pro Wrestling: Iron Slam '96" didn't? To keep everything classic, a 3D FPW needs to retain its nostalgic character and deliver a solid top-to-bottom package. I'd still be happy to see perhaps matches with up to 8-players be retained.

Apparently for the XBOX 360, there is a Fire Pro Wrestling slated to be released for the XBOX 360 in 2011. It allows for XBOX 360 avatar usage and 3D graphics. Purists of FPW obviously dislike how downgraded and watered down this FPW will be for the XBOX 360. Even with this, I'm still pulling for a 100% classic FPW experience with cell shading, but while still being fun to play and intense as past Fire Pro Wrestling games.

What do you think about a 3D FPW, Fire Pro Wrestling fans? Do you agree or disagree with my own ideas? Feel free to comment!

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