A small suplex.
There was a time when ports were lauded solely for their faithfulness to the original. A mere fifty bucks bought you a ticket out of the quarter-draining arcade arena and into the cushy realm of couch hermitism and Cheetos. With the advent of the PSP and the next generation of handheld gaming, the evolution of ports has come full circle, as Yuke’s new PSP version of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2006 tries to wrestle us out of our huts and onto our feet. Though it’s mostly identical to the console game, a few handheld tweaks make this lightweight nearly as strong as its heavyweight brother.
The PS2 version of Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 had an impressive collection of modes and match types, so the fact that all that muscle bound goodness made it onto the PSP’s lighter frame without warping or breaking shows you just how strong the little system can be. Season Mode features a pair of storylines in either the Raw or SmackDown! Brands, and with all the real wrestlers for you to tweak and unlockables to snag, there’s a lot of playability here.
[image1]The General Manger, menu-driven mode also made it through and makes even more sense on the PSP than it did for the PS2. Managing your talent’s contracts, creating feuds, and spending cash on advertising in competition with the other WWE brand is a very interesting and engaging addition, especially in small doses while on the go.
The Create-A-Wrestler is amazingly just as deep as ever, with every little detail you could want ported over perfectly, template to texture. But where the PS2 could effortlessly bench the data behind such glitzy changes, the PSP seriously struggles. Sluggish loads between tweaks can make a simple makeover eat up an entire bus ride.
Thankfully, you and your friends can trade wrestlers Ad Hoc, so you can share each others’ hard work and crazy ideas. You can also link up via USB to the PS2 version and import your created stars or anatomy tweaks to save yourself a load of time. Then again, you could save yourself a load of money by owning one version or the other, as they’re pretty much identical.
All the match types in the single-player game, including TLC (tables, ladders and chairs, not tender loving care), Royal Rumble, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber, and Buried Alive matches are here intact. Exhibition and title matches, in single or tag, can be enjoyed for wirelessly Ad Hoc, though nothing is playable in Infrastructure mode.
Instead, Yuke’s spent their time and wasted ours by adding three different arcades mini-games, each at varying degrees of uselessness.
The best, or least of the three evils, is a Texas Hold ‘Em monstrosity blending the stark lameness of “Bluff Master Technology” from World Poker Tour with the ghetto presentation and A.I. of World Series of Poker. The hands go quickly, but really, this mode can’t be over soon enough. The second is a multiple choice trivia game that ranks you on the speed of your answers í¢â‚¬“ another time waster but an easy way to earn cash to spend towards unlockables. Last is a horrifying game where the object is to get Eric Bischoff’s retarded nephew Eugene to the ring without falling over and hurting himself. It’s as riveting as this one-play flash game and tasteless even by pro wrestling standards.
Besides, the regular gameplay is possibly the game’s strongest feature. The move-reverse-counter gameplay still moves at a fast clip. Your success in countering moves as well as the variety of your attacks affects your momentum meter, and you can still gain and store special moves to pull off surprise pin reversals. Submission moves are their own timing mini-games, so there’s always something to look at besides your wrestler getting pained on.
Dishing out too much offense will drain your stamina, so you’ll have to take breathers by holding the Select”button, which is actually hard to find on the PSP. Thankfully, you won’t have to slam on the PSP’s pretty buttons a hundred times to get your wrestlers off the mat í¢â‚¬“ they’ve finally learned to get up on their own.
Even if there is some thumb lag, you won’t pay for it very much since the A.I. has a nice collection of neuroses. The CPU’s difficulty ramps up by simply increasing its reversal frequency and becoming more proactive with its momentum meter, so matches at different difficulties begin to feel the same after a while. On the other hand, the collision detection adds an element of random difficulty by allowing certain hits to land and others, inexplicably, to miss. This was also a problem on the PS2 version; it’s disappointing Yuke’s didn’t put a hold on this problem when they had the chance.
[image3]Even if they aren’t really hitting each other, they sure look convincing. The character models are decent enough to get the point across that yes, you’re fighting Ric Flairí¢â‚¬Â¦again. Facial animations and detailing are preserved quite well, but an odd reddish blur bleeds into the wrestlers’ outline when they’re animating quickly, as if the PSP is still drawing out all the textures that Yuke’s tried to cram in there. Crowd members are sparse and look like cardboard cut-outs, but you’ve got to be glad Yuke’s focused mostly on the wrestlers.
All the jams in the PS2 are here as well, including “Start a War” from Static-X and a load of other crashy, bassy tunes. The spotty match commentary has been removed in favor of trusty entrance text and in-match music.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 for the PSP is a remarkably accurate and functional port, and as such, there’s a ton of content and great gameplay here. It’s so true to its predecessor, however, that it’s tough to justify buying again if you already own the PS2 version. But otherwise, this little beefcake should be a top contender for a spot in your PSP library.