When I strolled up to Mega Cat's booth to check out their upcoming WrestleQuest game, I wasn't entirely sure how it would go over. I approached WrestleQuest from the perspective of an RPG fan, with very little pro wrestling knowledge, but even so, I came away from my demo pleasantly surprised, both in the subject matter and the gameplay. Along with being slightly, albeit VERY slightly, more knowledgable about wrestling.
In WrestleQuest, you play as Muchacho Man as he explores a fantastical world full of other wrestling legend action figures. Yes, you read that write, everyone you encounter are all action figures, at the game leans heavily into this, which was a surprise, as I thought it was just a wrestling game. Equipment and their descriptions mention protecting the articulation and joints of the figures they are equipped to, and the posable joints can be seen if you look close-enough at the art.
The developers, Mega Cat, made it very clear that WrestleQuest is a JRPG-structured game through and through. Throughout your adventure you will be gaining levels, gaining new moves, stronger equipment, and more as your wrestling legend spreads. You will spend time venturing around a large overworld map populated with cities, each dedicated to one of the 30 famous professional wrestlers that are featured in the game.
These cities act as your standard RPG town fair, filled with NPCs, sidequests, and sidequests to discover, all leading to a final confrontation with that city's star hero (or villain) wrestler. Once you have bested this wrestler, you will gain them as a manager, a special type of companion that can be swapped in or out that will provide your team with bonuses, abilities, and other goodies. Many of these references and callbacks are completely lost on me, but I can tell that a lot of care has gone into details surrounding the legacy of these wrestlers and the phenomenon that is professional wrestling that will delight long-time wrestling fans.
Any RPG fan knows that exploration and questing are only part of the equation, with the other being the combat. WrestleQuest has opted for a turn-based combat approach that reminds me a bit of the Paper Mario titles. As you perform your attacks and special moves, you will increase an audience hype gauge, which in turn will boost and improve your attacks. It's a cool idea to help represent the showmanship and spectacle that goes into a wrestler's performance to get the crowds going. It reminded me a lot of the audience interaction features in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, just don't expect the stages to fall over on enemies in WrestleQuest.
During our conversation, Mega Cat is confident that JRPG fans will find something to love with WrestleQuest, regardless of their knowledge of wrestling, and I think I agree with them. One concern they do have though, is they aren't entirely sure how the game will be accepted by wrestling fans that haven't been exposed to interest in RPGs.
WrestleQuest showed me enough to whet my appetite and get me interested to see more. Between the solid sprite work and the solid implementation of RPG mechanics, I will be paying far more attention to this game going forward. I'm just hoping there will be some sort of appendix so I will be able to tell the difference between a DT Venom Super Slammer and a serving of Stone Cold Rock Soup!