WrestleQuest brings the spice but fumbles the execution

WrestleQuest brings the spice but fumbles the execution

Full disclosure to start off with: the reason I’m not doing a formal scored review of Wrestlequest is because I did a stint of remote freelance writing for the developer, Mega Cat Studios. It wasn’t anything glamorous, but I got the opportunity during one of the lowest points in my life. COVID was in full swing, and I had lost my job. It helped me hold onto a shred of self-worth for a while. I faded off shortly after, but I enjoyed the time I spent collaborating with them.

I didn’t work on WrestleQuest, though. The closest I came was when I was asked if it looked like one of the crowd members was flipping the middle finger. I didn’t even remember that until I noticed that same crowd member.

Anyway, the real reason I’m playing WrestleQuest is because of Macho Man Randy Savage featuring prominently. He was one of the finest entertainers of all time, absolutely captivating whether he was dropping elbows or hocking nitrite-filled meat sticks. Sometimes you just have to load up one of his promos to feel better. Unfortunately, WrestleQuest doesn’t carry the same macho charisma.

WrestleQuest Kayfabe
Screenshot by Destructoid

WrestleQuest (PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch)
Developer: Mega Cat Studios
Publisher: Skybound Games
Released: August 22, 2023
MSRP: $29.99

While WrestleQuest is chiefly an RPG in the Japanese style of wrestling, it has another wrinkle in the fact that it’s all communicated through toys. While everything is kept legally distinct, you’ll no doubt spot a few classic playthings scattered around the thematic world.

However, the most important part of the toy theme is that it allows for a divorce from actual wrestling history. It certainly taps into the ebb and flow of the industry and alludes to things like Vince McMahon Jr.’s crusade against smaller promotions in forming the WWF. However, the protagonists are all (mostly) original characters, and the events of the game don’t require any knowledge of wrestling to know what’s going on.

You play as alternating parties that you switch to throughout the story. Macho Man heads none of them, but one of them stars a Mexican counterpart named Muchacho Man. It works. The story about the protagonists taking different routes to rise in the world of professional wrestling is enjoyable.

At the same time, you’ll see greats like Andre the Giant and Junkyard Dog mixed in as summons. It’s a decent tribute to pro wrestling while also allowing for unique storytelling.

Macho Man Randy Savage dig it, yeah.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Cuppa coffee in the big time

As a game, however, Wrestlequest is just okay. It uses a Super Mario RPG system where you can improve the effects of your attacks and defenses with timed button presses. The downside is that these are presented more as QTE, and some attacks are absolutely useless (or don’t work at all) unless you manage to pull off the QTE. It’s okay, at first, but having to repeat these sequences every time you want to use a move gets really tiresome.

Your characters also wind up learning way too many special attacks. One character learns multiple different versions of the same attack, each with a different elemental effect. However, if enemies are weak against certain elements, I never really found a good example of it. I mostly just rotated between them, trying to figure out if they were weak against fire or microwave.

The difference between attacks was often mystifying to me. What benefits did each hold? I could never tell. For every other character, out of the dozens of moves they learned, I’d often just stick to two or three that seemed to have the best effect.

The dungeons are another matter. I appreciate the fact that there are no random encounters and a dead enemy stays buried, but I feel like Wrestlequest’s wonky difficulty makes it necessary to fight everything. Or not. There were sections where I had to tip-toe between encounters to keep my party alive and others where it felt like I was extremely overpowered. I guess that’s the scripted nature of wrestling.

Wrestlequest Baby Oil
Screenshot by Destructoid

Spice so nice, brother

I also feel like Wrestlequest doesn’t cash in on the wrestling theme very well. There are custom walk-ons, a hype meter where you excite the crowd for bonuses, and special goals in some matches where you have to put over your opponent to increase the drama. However, only the hype meter is present in smaller battles.

I think it would have been more beneficial to Wrestlequest’s mechanics if it focused more on boss battles. Less combat would have made the QTEs more tolerable and got more mileage out of the theme and the mechanics built around it. Even if some bosses repeated, it would still feel more like wrestling.

Actually, a lot of its design would have been better if it was smaller. I put dozens of hours into Wrestlequest and still haven’t seen the ending. I’m not sure I ever will. It’s certainly ambitious to try and meet the runtime of games like the genre greats like Final Fantasy VI, but it resulted in a lot of bloat that is difficult to sort through.

Wrestlequest Combat
Screenshot by Destructoid

Art thou bored!?

It feels like a lot of time was spent on crafting a big game, and not enough of it was spent tightening up what was there. At the very least, its themes and visuals help it stand out from the glut of Kemco JRPGs on digital marketplaces.

To be certain, Wrestlequest isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t quite feel like the main event it should be. There are a lot of great ideas mixed in here, but they’re piled on by unnecessary bloat. An infectious love for the subject matter doesn’t quite manage to hide all the flaws. It’s got the spice, but not the execution.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Zoey Handley

Staff Writer – Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.

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