Wrestling games have a beloved legacy on the Nintendo 64, with mega-hit releases that helped define a generation of wrestling fans. Whether you were a hardcore WWF or WCW fan back in the day, the games you played were based on the AKI engine, which was incredibly fun to play. In the years that followed, that style of wrestling game faded into obscurity in favor of realistic renditions of sports entertainment. But in keeping with the spirit of being different and standing out, AEW’s first major video game release goes back to what long-time wrestling fans remember about that era. AEW: Fight Forever borrows many aspects of those classic AKI-engine games while showcasing its edgy style and flair for the business. But while it’s a great throwback that’s easy to get into, the game suffers from many technical issues that turn it into a borderline jobber.
AEW: Fight Forever controls almost exactly as those classic wrestling games like WWF No Mercy and WCW/NWO Revenge. Even the menus in AEW: Fight Forever are very reminiscent of No Mercy’s locker room-themed menus, right down to the various music that plays in the background. It’s not a flat-out copy of it, but those who have played those games will immediately recognize the inspiration. The same also goes for how you control your wrestler when playing a match. Grapples are mapped to one button, with special and signature moves being done when you build up enough wrestling spirit.
There are minor changes to the formula, such as punches and kicks mapped to different buttons, but the foundation of those older games is very much present. Some presentation choices are confusing and could be reworked, such as tag-teams not entering together or entrances being very quick. It’s cool to be able to control the fireworks and display when your wrestler entrance is happening, but you don’t see them walk over to the ring. It’s a huge part of the spectacle leading up to the match that is just completely dropped.
Even if you weren’t playing wrestling games long ago, all of this makes AEW: Fight Forever very easy to get into. You don’t have to understand any intricacies of your moves to be able to jump in and start dishing out pain. Even reversals and counters are made simple with one shoulder button press. And picking up or using weapons is a breeze. Unlike the simulation wrestling games from other companies, AEW keeps things simple and straightforward. Teaming up with a partner and doing tag-team moves is fun and exciting, especially when you dominate the opposing team with popular tag teams from AEW.
You’ll spend more time wrestling than worrying about how to do the moves you want. It’s a low barrier for nearly any wrestling fan to enjoy, which can help if you’re trying to introduce friends who watch AEW with you that never played any games. It also can make things incredibly competitive for those who are very familiar with this kind of wrestling game. Matches will often lead to constant momentum shifts with counters and grapples between players that can get very tense.
But with this also comes a myriad of problems that make AEW a technical mess in some instances. Bugs and glitches when countering moves are a constant problem, especially in tag-team matches of any kind. Sometimes it’s never visually clear when you counter an attack or grapple, leading to some very awkward exchanges and outcomes in some matches. With bad luck, you can find your wrestler stuck in an animation and unable to recover at all, completely locking you out of control and bringing the match to a screeching halt.
This type of problem can happen in any match offline or online, and it’s a real drag. One minute you’ll be immersed in a competitive match, the next you’ll struggle to understand why a wrestler is locked into a weird pose on the ropes or mat. Hopefully, some updates can remedy a lot of these instances, but it’s a major problem for everything in the game that needs to be addressed.
Speaking of online modes, AEW: Fight Forever can be either hit or miss when playing online. Most matches you get into with friends or rivals will be ok. If you end up with connection issues, however, matches can turn into a big mess. Some issues you might run into include wrestler spirit bars being displayed wrong, such as having high spirit for your wrestler but being labeled as in Danger. Other problems like wrestlers sliding or floating across the mat can happen, as well as getting locked into the ropes without any way to get out. Stuff like this can ruin matches online, especially when they are compounded by bugs and glitches you’d find offline.
When bugs and glitches aren’t a headache, the game has a decent amount of content to explore. You can play any kind of match you see in AEW offline, either with friends or against the CPU. Ladder matches, battle royale, exploding barb wire matches, and every other AEW match type you can think of is here. But Road to Elite is the career mode of the game that you’ll spend a lot of time with, which has different elements of past wrestling game career modes mixed together.
The simplicity of starting matches and winning titles comes straight from the N64 games, while the production value and cheesy storylines are very similar to the SmackDown wrestling games. Plotlines in AEW: Fight Forever aren’t anything exactly like you see on TV, they’re just inspired by them, even if you choose a wrestler on the main roster and not a created wrestler. Unfortunately, Road to Elite can also fall victim to many instances of recycled animations, repetitive matches, and cutscenes, as well as inconsistent difficulty spikes.
Road to Elite also has a light RPG system for your wrestler, where you can manage things like your energy, charisma, and skill points. All of these things affect your ability to do well in matches, as well as build up a reputation to earn money and new skills. It’s not very deep overall, but it requires some attention to manage things right and let you have an edge in matches. You play through a number of weeks of AEW programs and events, which lets you choose how to build up your wrestler within a given week before a show. Keeping energy and charisma up is very key to being at full power for n event match. If you don’t choose things wisely, you might put yourself at a disadvantage when match time arrives. Luckily, you don’t get heavily penalized for losing matches, just a massive bump down on your rewards.
Going back to custom wrestlers, the Create-A-Wrestler mode in AEW: Fight Forever is deep to a point. You’ll still get to choose the appearance and arsenal of moves for your wrestler, but it’s definitely not as detailed as any simulation wrestling game. The best part is that there’s no shortage of options when it comes to giving your wrestler a custom look and selection of moves, especially when you want the selections to be simple enough to quickly get into matches after. You’ll definitely have to unlock a bunch of custom options in the shop in order to have more to play with. You can actually earn money by playing any mode within AEW: Fight Forever to help unlock custom wrestler items, Entrance options, and even a few bonus wrestlers. However, there’s not a large number of unlockable wrestlers in the shop compared to the custom items you can get. It would’ve been nice to see a few extra wrestlers made into unlockables you have to earn, but the majority of the AEW roster is open to you from the start.
The best thing one can say about AEW: Fight Forever is that it reimagines a lot of the better aspects of wrestling games over the last few decades. Instead of being overly complicated, Fight Forever is fun to play as a simple wrestling game heavily inspired by its classic predecessors. It lets you have fun with the AEW roster in various ways that will please most wrestling fans out there. But the charm can quickly be lost with so many bugs, glitches, and technical hiccups that ruin the overall experience. Any big AEW fan that wants to support the brand will definitely enjoy what is here, despite the major problems that linger around. The game will inevitably get patched to fix many of these issues, which will hopefully make many aspects of the offline and online experience much better.
AEW Fight Forever
This is a great throwback to iconic wrestling games on the Nintendo 64. The gameplay is simple to get into and play with friends. The roster is big and filled with many AEW wrestlers to play with. Unfortunately, the game also has many bugs and glitches that are a major problem. Some issues so severe that they can ruin the experience. The Road to Elite mode is interesting, but has a lot of repetitive elements. The online modes can be a varied experience based on a number of factors.
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