A year ago at GDC, I had the chance to sit down and play 5 Star Wrestling. I walked away from the Moscone Center impressed, cautious, and wanting more. After playing through the final retail version, I came away excited for the future of the franchise. Yes, the final PS3 version was bare bones and compared to its juggernaut counterpart, the WWE 2k series, it was really hurting on variety. But what 5 Star brings to the table was a fresh take on gameplay that made WWE look almost like a single-button masher. Was it perfect? Of course not, but there was a lot I liked about 5 Star, and was definitely awaiting more.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really hear much more from Serious Parody after the game launched. Potential DLC and other additions to the game never made it in and wasn’t even mentioned. I was upset that something with so much potential got once again overlooked, and was prepared to move on, when it was announced that 5 Star would be returning in the form of a “remake” on the PS4. Add to the fact that 5 Star has been putting on actual shows in the UK with some top of the line performers (AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Jay Lethal, etc), and I was excited to see what 5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis would bring to the table.
The key word to remember here is that ReGenesis is a “remake” of sorts, so most of what you’re getting is what was already in the PS3 game. The roster of wrestlers is the same as it was, with clever parodies of existing wrestlers like Andy Organ and HarVee Dee. Entrance themes are essentially the same as well, though the entrances themselves are improved with a bit more pizazz than before. Graphics and frame rate have been cleaned up a bit, and you now get a full tutorial and some additional arenas. Another cool little addition to the game is the ability for faces to switch to heels and vice versa.
Perhaps the most important thing about ReGenesis is that it’s now launching on a platform that I felt 5 Star should have launched on in the first place, the PS4. 5 Star released on the PS3 towards the end of the console’s lifecycle. The PS4 now offer a fresh new platform for the game to grow on, where upcoming DLC can (hopefully) keep rolling out. Future patches and updates can be rolled out in a better manner as well, and the folks at Serious Parody now have the entire lifespan of the PS4 to work with.
While we’re on the subject of upcoming content, many of you already know that the legendary Rey Mysterio will be an upcoming playable character via DLC. Whether it’s a parody character or the actual Rey Mysterio remains to be seen, but seeing as how the marketing has actually mentioned Rey by name, I’m going to assume it will actually be him and not “Ray Mysterious” or something. What some of you may not know is that all the taped shows in the UK (with awesome sounding matches like AJ Styles VS John Morrison) will be made available via ReGenesis in the near future. Imagine that! These aren’t matches featuring some scrub wrestlers from backyard wrestling videos; these are top stars and some of the most legendary grapplers in recent history. I can’t wait to see these shows.
As far as gameplay goes, we’re not really seeing anything too different from the original 5 Star. The game is still centered around an excellent limb damage system which affects the moves you are able to perform and ones that you can escape from. A year later, I’m still impressed by the sheer amount of moves available via the face buttons and shoulder button modifiers. I haven’t run into as many bugs as before, though the collision detection could still use some work. I’ve encountered one too many occasions where I found myself grappling a whole lot of nothing when Mike Iceberg was standing right in front of me, or punching thin air because for some unknown reason, my character decided to suddenly turn away from my opponent mid-move. These quirks don’t happen often and they certainly don’t mess up the gameplay too much, but they’re still annoying nonetheless when they do occur.
Perhaps the biggest bone of contention that wrestling fans will find with ReGenesis is with the game’s quantity. There simply isn’t a lot in the game when compared to WWE 2K. You’re only getting a handful of wrestlers and arenas, no creation suite, no career/story mode, and outside of an admittedly extensive challenge mode, you’re only really getting exhibition matches. But here’s where I counter with my quality vs quantity argument. Sure, the WWE series has a game chock full of dozens of wrestlers, arenas, story mode, Universe mode, Career mode, etc. And yes, I love being able to create myself in-game and taking him through the MyCareer mode. In this sense, the WWE 2K series mirrors that of the actual WWE quite closely; big, loud, flashy, and very much a storyline based form of entertainment.
5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis, on the other hand, mirrors that of an upstart indie promotion like, for example, PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerilla). A small indie team (Serious Parody) has created a stripped down wrestling game experience with almost none of the flash and soap opera story goodness that WWE 2K offers. What it DOES offer is an attempt to bring you something different; something less flashy and big, but perhaps something more fundamentally sound. maybe instead of bright splash screens and licensed music blaring in the background, SP wants to just focus on the gameplay. Have you seen a PWG show? Take the most recent Battle of Los Angeles, for instance. The camera may as well have been shot on an old Blackberry phone, the event took place in what looks like an old school gym/bingo hall, and the sound is absolute garbage as you can’t hear a damn thing over the raucous crowd. Compared to a WWE PPV, PWG looks like crap, sounds like crap, and if you didn’t know any better, you may think that it was all crap.
But my goodness, the wrestling itself is top notch in any PWG show, and the quality of the matches more than makes up for any of its production related shortcomings. I don’t know about you, but I would watch Zack Sabre Jr. over Roman Reigns vs Sheamus for the hundredth time any day. Maybe the WWE can get away with matches that no one wants to see like Kane VS Big Show simply because they ARE the biggest wrestling company on the planet, but no one is going to say that Kane/Big Show is a wrestling showcase. The same can applied to 5 Star vs WWE 2k. WWE 2K has all the glitz and glamour with a huge roster and even mainstream stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But 5 Star is the one I have more fun playing from a pure wrestling standpoint.
I may not play it for hours at a time, but when I do choose to fire the game up, I have a ton of fun with 5 Star Wrestling: ReGenesis. You can get it in the PlayStation Store for $19.99, and while I would go so far as to say it’s a necessary buy if you already own the game on PS3, for first timers considering this, it’s a great buy.