Eight months can be an eternity in the WWE. Careers can be made, and ended. Championship belts can change hands, over and over again, sometimes shifting more than once in the same week. Fan-favorite faces can turn heel and have arenas full of fans cursing the same names they'd cheered just half a year earlier.
A lot can happen in eight months' time. But with WWE All Stars, not much has.
This outlandish wrestling design first arrived on store shelves this past Spring, when versions for the Xbox 360, Wii and all three active PlayStations were each made available for fans of TV's most notable wrestling promotion. At the time, Nintendo's 3DS was just debuting in stores itself, so it's understandable that this particular edition of All Stars was bumped back a bit. But the extra time seems to have been mostly ignored by the development team at THQ San Diego, because none of the issues that held back those first five versions of the game appear to have been addressed here in the sixth.
There's still no tutorial, so newcomers will still have to grapple with a basic menu screen listing bland button commands to try to learn how to execute each Superstar's maneuvers. Reversals are still too difficult to time correctly, as the icon that indicates their availability flashes across the screen like lightning and is nearly impossible to catch before your brawler hits the mat. And the A.I.-controlled opponents still feel cheap, seeming to kick out of pins a bit too quickly and pull off their own most impressive moves a bit too easily.
Not that WWE All Stars was a bad game in its first versions -- far from it. But those are just some examples of parts of its design that could have been polished up before this 3DS edition shipped, and none of them have been. So what we're left with is mostly a direct, unsurprising port of last spring's experience.
The core of All Stars, thankfully, is still a lot of fun. Longtime followers of the WWE (and WWF before it) will especially enjoy its premise of bringing together Superstars of the modern era and Legends of decades past. And, as a wrestling fan myself, it is certainly satisfying to take a relatively new face like John Cena and have him prove himself against someone I watched as a kid, like Hulk Hogan.
Those kinds of past vs. present matches take center stage in All Stars' "Fantasy Warfare" mode, which is the highlight of the game -- it offers up time-spanning fantasy matches introduced by brilliant video packages edited together from years' worth of archived broadcast and pay-per-view footage. So when The Ultimate Warrior takes on Sheamus (The Celtic Warrior), you'll get separate clips of each man brought together by new narration that makes it seem like the match could very easily be taking place on next week's Monday Night Raw. It's great.
There again, though, that's a strength of All Stars that is no different from what we first saw eight months ago -- it should be no surprise that the positives of the game aren't going anywhere if the negatives didn't either. So where does that leave this 3DS version, in terms of truly new content? Well, we get two new match types and some slightly tweaked visuals.
The first totally new part of this port is Score Scramble. It's a new mode available under Exhibition matches, and it introduces running point totals to otherwise standard matches -- you score points for successfully striking or grappling your opponent, and the winner is the one who scores more in under three minutes (or, alternatively, the one who reaches a pre-determined point total first). This is a fine mode, and challenging yourself to achieve higher and higher scores over time could add some lasting value to this version -- but, if you're just playing to win the current match, it's easy to just slap the other guy once and then run away from him for three minutes straight to earn a too-easy victory.
The second new mode is the Gauntlet, a continuous onslaught of wrestlers. You start off in a normal one-on-one match, but when you pin or K.O. your first opponent, a second one appears. Then a third, then a fourth, and so on. Victory's only awarded when you make your way through every other competitor in the game -- all 40+ of them.
Oh, and that 40+ roster number is kind of new for this 3DS version. All of the console versions' DLC wrestlers, like Ted DiBiase and the Big Boss Man, are included here with no extra downloads needed. That's something, I suppose. (You still have to unlock all of them, though.)
Really, none of the new content here is all that interesting -- Score Scramble and Gauntlet are fair additions, but it's easy to understand why they weren't deemed interesting or important enough to make the cut for the original All Stars versions in the first place. And the 3D visual effect added to this version? Almost not worth mentioning at all -- it's barely noticeable, and clearly an extra tweak tacked on to a design never originally meant to feature it.