Reviewed: December 14, 2008
Released: November 9, 2008
It is always fairly impressive when developers can deliver a full-featured sporting experience on a portable device, but with WWE SmackDown vs. Raw on the Nintendo DS, the folks at Yuke’s have done just that.
The wrestling genre has been a staple since the early days of gaming, and Yuke’s has been at the helms of a number of high-profile wrestling titles over the last decade – so it’s no surprise that they would be the ones to deliver one of the most comprehensive wrestling titles to ever hit the DS.
With scores of real-life wrestlers from which to choose, most of which feature custom arena intros – pro wrestling fans already have plenty of enjoyment, even before considering the fourteen unique match types and the 19 wrestling venues from which to choose.
The character modeling is a bit flat and blocky – especially compared to the PSP release – but the animations of the characters are top-notch for the tiny DS screens. The crowds are a pixilated mess, but who really cares about the action outside of the ring, right?
Much like the graphics, the sound quality is a two-fold issue; with an overall lack of resolution to the ambient effects, but with certain elements that really stand out – the arena intros’ music and color commentary really stand out.
The Nintendo DS’s touch screen controls are utilized to their fullest, with stylus-based input for everything from grapples and holds to reviving fallen characters with gentle poking and massage-like rubbing of injured body parts. The controls are very well implemented, but the ago-old problem of simultaneously holding of the DS and controlling movement using the left hand, and balancing that against the right-handed stylus input, is awkward as all get out.
To be fair, I was playing the game on a first-gen DS brick, so maybe the balance of the DS Lite might make it a bit more amenable, but the Lite’s cramped button layout might make it worse. I found the best trick was to place the DS on my knee to steady the handheld and take some weight off, but the whole time I found myself wishing the controls could somehow be a bit less uncomfortable.
Still, the overall wrestling package is as impressive as it gets on the DS, and fans would be remiss in missing this extension of the franchise.