SmackDown vs. Raw 2009ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Tose Software
Wireless DS Multi-Card Play 1-2
Downloadable Content Support
Having had a chance to play Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 for the Nintendo Wii I was interested to see how the game would make the transition to the smaller and less powerful DS. What better way to pass the time on a long bus ride or enjoy some down time during the day than with a handheld wrestling game. This being my first experience with a wrestling game for the DS I wasn’t quite sure how this would all play out, but I was ready to put my stylus to the test to see how it would.
At first glance, the graphics in Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 look great, especially when it comes to the wrestlers. However, after a little while I noticed that the quality in other areas was sub-par and in need of some extra work. While the focus on the wrestlers is great I found the lack of detail in the surroundings including the generic fans, walls, stairs, and pretty much everything else in the arena, was a little on the distracting side. I also noticed that more often than not it seemed that the wrestlers actually didn’t hit or strike each other. The hitting or striking motion was visible, but the attacks would fall short of actually hitting the target. It was like there was a little shield around each wrestler preventing them from making contact. It was a strange thing to see.
On a positive note, the opening entrance for each wrestler is really well done. The wrestlers burst out into the arena and their movements are very much like their real life counterparts. Though it would have been nice to see the actual entrance videos of the wrestlers it was not to be as the images from these videos are displayed during the entrance sequence in a montage style on the screen above them.
Everything you would normally hear in a WWE match comes to life in this latest DS edition of SmackDown vs. Raw. That being said, as expected the sounds and music lacked the clarity of its console counterparts. The developers did do a great job with the combat sounds though as the matches are filled with hard hitting punches, crushing body slams, and bone crunching snaps when you perform a finishing move.
A wrestler’s entrance just wouldn’t be the same without their trademark theme song and SmackDown vs. Raw does not let fans down. The game features the entrance theme songs of all the wrestlers on the games roster including those of Carlito, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, John Cena, Undertaker and Triple H just to name a few. I give the development team some props for being able pack all of these sounds onto the tiny DS card.
Before you dive into Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 for the DS I highly suggest going through the tutorial to learn how the stylus is used to play the game. I decided to just dive into the Season mode without bothering to learn the controls. I was quickly slaughtered by Jimmy Wang Yang while playing as Batista. If you’re as much of a fan as I am of the WWE you obviously know how unlikely it is for Batista to be beaten by Jimmy so easily.
After my embarrassing debut it was off to the tutorial where I learned how to do the basic moves I would need use to be a Superstar. Moving your wrestler is the simplest of things. It involves moving at a slow pace with the d-pad or double tapping it to run in the direction you choose. Striking your opponent is accomplished by tapping the touch screen with your stylus when you are in range of your opponent. Your strike against an opposing wrestler will take the form of a punch, kick, or slap, and these are each dependent on your position and what direction you are holding on the d-pad. When your opponent is down in the ring you only need to tap the stylus on the touch screen to get in some strikes. Grappling requires a bit more effort. It is performed by making a single clockwise circle to perform a weak grapple and two circles to perform a strong grapple. The grapple move, like your strikes, is also dependent on your position and the direction you are holding on the d-pad. These are the basic moves you will need to play the game and you can combine them with a few other stylus moves that you will learn in the tutorial.
The control system for SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 has a lot of potential, but in the end it is sluggish and awkward to use. It was quite frustrating to have to make circles to perform grapples, and more often than not my opponent was able to strike or get their grapple in before I did. The development team obviously put in the effort to make the touch screen work controls work, but it fell short for a game that is supposed to be fast paced and full of in your face action.
You can play the game solo in Exhibition and Season modes or you can play against a friend in Multi-Card play. Exhibition features seven different matches where you choose your wrestler and play against the computer. The different matches include the standard WWE fare such as 1 on 1, Last Man Standing, Ladder, Steel Cage, Table, TLC (Table’s Ladder and Chairs) and Hardcore matches.
Season mode will bring all of the matches found in Exhibition mode into play as well providing you a storyline to progress through. Choose from the roster of WWE superstars, or choose your own created wrestler from the Create-A-Superstar feature, to start your career as a rookie in the WWE. Your story starts as you head off to the WWE Headquarters to speak with Vince McMahon himself where he will give you a chance to prove yourself as a Superstar. With some hard work and great wrestling skills you can become a WWE Champion and Legend. Season mode features a map where you travel to your home, WWE HQ, the gym, or the Arena. When travelling to each site you will have to travel through buildings to get to your final destination. Along the way you can interact with personalities from the WWE. This aspect of the game really annoyed me. It would have been one thing to have the map to allow you to go to different sites back and forth, but to have to travel through the buildings to achieve certain tasks was somewhat a waste of time and it just didn’t make the game flow like it should. However, I did enjoy the mini-games that you play in the gym. For each of the workouts that you complete, like Dumbbell Shrugs, Squats, or pumping iron on the Bench Press, each of theme works a specific part of your body to strengthen your wrestler and at you attempt to reach the goal of becoming a WWE Legend.
As I mentioned earlier on you can use a created wrestler to play through the game modes. You make your own wrestler in the Create-a-Superstar option. Here you can customize your Superstar with basic options like size, hair, facial features, and clothing. In this portable version of Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 you assign 30 attribute points towards Power, Submission, Durability, Speed and Momentum. Along with all these options you can also fully customize your wrestler’s move-set. You can select your favorite moves for your wrestler right down to the strikes, running moves, grapples, corner movies, and special finishing moves. Mimic your favourite wrestler, or combine three or four of them together to create a hybrid superstar that includes the best moves from all of your favorites.
I didn’t get a chance to play the multiplayer mode as the rest of the GameBoyz staff are on the West Coast while I am back East. That being said, it makes sense for a game like this to have a multiplayer mode because nothing is better then challenging a buddy for supremacy of the wrestling ring.
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