Notes: This game was played on a Retron 2 HD console, outputting through HDMI. It was connected to a 65-inch HD-tv. This will be a hybrid gameplay description and review, rather than a look at the history of this game.
Brief History: Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2: 3-4 Budokan was the third and final game released in the Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling series. It came out for the Super Famicom in 1995, and it was exclusive to Japan. ‘Budokan’ refers to the Budokan Arena, one of All-Japan’s famous venues.
Players: 1-4, both co-op and competitive
Language barrier? Not really, no. The wrestlers names are in Japanese, as are their winning quotes. Some of the menus have Japanese; however, the Start screen, difficulty, and time limit screens are in English. Plus, there is a selection screen with a set of pictures that clearly depict which mode you’re selecting.
Difficulty: Most modes have a selection from Beginner, Normal, and Hard. Once you understand the mechanics of winning grapples, it’s a cinch to win almost every grapple on Beginner.
Y punches (when in close). B kicks (when in close). X runs. L makes a pin attempt, or tags in tag-team mode. R (or down + R) taunts.
When grappling, Y (or Y plus a directional input) executes a light wrestling maneuver, like a body slam.
When grappling, B (or B plus a directional input) executes a medium wrestling maneuver, like a pile driver.
When grappling, A (or A plus a directional input) executes a strong wrestling maneuver (or your character’s finishing move), like a chokeslam or an enziguri.
When grappling, X whips the opponents into the ropes. If you stand still and they run back toward you, pressing Y, B, or A executes a wrestling move, like a back body drop or clothesline. If you run at a whipped wrestler then press Y, B, or A, you’ll execute a wrestling move, like a shoulder block or flying kick.
When a wrestler is down, pressing B or A near his head executes a stomp, knee drop, leg drop, etc. If you press A near his legs, you’ll put on a submission hold, like a one-legged Boston crab. Pressing Y near the downed wrestler’s head will pick him up.
To climb the turnbuckle with some wrestlers, pressing a direction plus Y or B will climb up, and pressing Y or B will jump off with his particular move.
To exit or enter the ring, pressing Y and the direction toward the nearest ropes enters or exits. If you execute a move near the ropes, you’ll dump your opponent outside the ring. You’ll have a slow-10 count to pile drive him on the mats or whip him into the steel railing. There are no weapons to use, unfortuantely.
So, how do you win? This game has a rather simple way to win grapples, once you understand it. You don’t need to press anything to start a grapple – simply press toward the opposing wrestler. You’ll lock up, and both wrestlers will step back then step forward as they initiate the lock up. As your wrestler steps down onto the ring from the lock-up position, simply press Y (weak wrestling maneuver) or Y + a directional button to win the grapple and hit your move. Once you soften him up with Y moves for a bit, you’ll be ready for B (medium) moves, and finally A (strong or finishing moves), all executed from the grapple position. If you try to execute a medium or strong move before wearing down your opponent, it USUALLY won’t work, and you’ll be countered. However, you’ll sometimes find that you CAN hit a big move at the very start of a match.
There are 16 wrestlers to choose from, all of whom were a part of the All-Japan roster at the time of the game’s release.
Dr. Death Steve Williams
The primary mode, accessible by simply pressing Start, is in essence a ‘Booking Mode.’ You schedule matches and try to put on a good show for the audience. The Budokan Arena slowly fills if your matches are good. This mode, unfortunately, has the most Japanese, and I found it to generally be the least interesting mode, at least as compared to the other selections.
By pressing Y on the main screen, you’ll pull up the ‘Options’ menu, where you can then select from six additional modes, each accompanied by a picture that generally corresponds to each selection. The options are:
World Championship – Choose your wrestler, and wrestle singles matches against the other 15 wrestlers to become the champion
Tag Team Championship – Choose your (pre-determined) tag team, and battle in eight matches to become the tag-team champs
Open League Tag Team – Wrestle a sort of ‘Round Robin’ against multiple other tag teams, who will do the same. Whoever has the most amount of wins at the end of the Round Robin are the champions
Open League Singles Division – Round Robin for a single wrestler. The wrestler with the most wins at the completion of the Open League schedule wins
Versus – One-on-one or Tag-Team vs Tag-Team for 1 or 2 players seeking to battle it out against one another
Battle Royale – A Fatal Fourway. Four wrestlers start, and elimination occurs following a pinfall or submission. Once a wrestler is eliminated, he exits the ring. Last wrestler left wins. Battles can still take place outside the ring!
*All Tag-Team matches and the Battle Royale are up to four players (with a multi-tap)
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A++ Wow. What a wrestling game! Once I figured out the (simple) grappling mechanic, I started having the time of my life with this game! While I was a big wrestling fan in my teenage years, and occasionally still check in on things today, I never knew much about All-Japan Wrestling, and I still don’t know much, although I did watch a couple of short documentaries. Boy, did I miss out on some great wrestling!
The graphics in this game are OUTSTANDING, both when this was released in 1995, and even by today’s standards, in my opinion. The suplexes, lariats, back drops, and power bombs all look fantastic. Some of them are absolutely brutal, like the brain-buster and choke slam, which is exactly what you want in a wrestling game. The sound effects of kicks, punches, chops, and slams are all extremely satisfying. What truly makes this game top-tier are these incredible looking moves. Additionally, the MUSIC in this game is phenomenal, from the opening screen through the ring entrances and into the matches themselves.
The mode selection presents a nice array of options, with the Battle Royale (Fatal Fourway) being the best of the bunch, particularly if you have four human players fighting it out for some old school fun. Easy to perform double-team moves (just be in close with another wrestler against an opponent and press a button) look awesome, too.
Two features I particularly love are the (1) lack of a health bar and (2) dramatic kick-outs at 2.5 or 2.9 seconds. The former keeps the tension of the match up, as you’ll not be quite sure when your opponent is ripe for a pin, and you’ll have to rely on his body language to let you know how weak he is. The last second kick-outs bring the crowd alive with awesome sound effects, adding drama to the matches themselves.
The ONLY knock I could give this game are (1) there are no weapons/gimmick matches, like a cage match. However, I read that this simply wasn’t the style of All-Japan at the time, hence there are no such matches. And (2), I wish there was an option for a ‘Tornado’ Tag-style match, where you and a friend could battle through as a Tag-Team against other Tag-Teams while being in the ring at the same time. While you do have the option of playing four-in-the-ring in the Battle Royale, and sure, you can form temporary alliances there, it’s not quite the same as a Tornado Tag, as in say, Saturday Night Slam Masters.
Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling 2: 3-4 Budoukan is quite possibly the best wrestling game I’ve ever played, old-school or otherwise. While the language barrier is NOT a major barrier to playing, I do hope someday, someone with the know-how will make an English-translated version of this masterpiece. If you love or even have ever enjoyed wrestling video games, check this one out!