I was so excited to see AEW Fight Forever load up on my Nintendo Switch. After three hours of downloading, I was ready to experience the spiritual successor of No Mercy.
Positive: AEW is alive on my Switch
I got some fan-boy joy seeing the opening movie of AEW Fight Forever and all its greatness starting in 2019. It is a minute and 21 seconds of pyro, grand entrances, slow-motion finishers, and epic camera angles. The music was inspirational and the narrator spun a story of the company’s boldness to create the blood and guts company. I cheered as AEW’s game is the only celebrate Japanese style wrestling, a representation that is sorely missing in American wrestling. It’s hard not to feel pride in the company as you witness WWE’s most prominent competition demanding you feel their greatness.
Negative: Oh boy, the Switch hasn’t aged very well
The very first character model I saw was Yuka Sakazaki and she looked…rough. We knew that AEW Fight Forever would be a lesser technical effort because AEW wanted a game that could be played on the Switch, but you can’t prepare yourself for this. The crispness that you would get from Steam or a console is replaced with watered-down graphics. The characters look blurry. It gets a little better as you play the game and some of the textures start to “render”.
The upside to the graphical downgrade is that there is virtually no lag, stuttering, or load times. Yukes was smart to make the Switch version uglier in favor of gameplay. I can’t help but feel that this might be Nintendo’s final warning that they can’t run with the big dogs anymore.
Positive: Casino Battle Royale groups are a treat
My first official match was the Casino Battle Royale. You have the option to pick groups or solo. When you choose groups you get to be added to one of four card teams. My team had Yuka Sakuzuki, Kenny Omega, and Ruby Soho.
Battling for ring supremacy felt thrilling. You beat down your opponents and whittle away at their health and when they are thoroughly beaten you Irish whip them over the ropes. It was easy to do. Kenny Omega has the weirdest Irish whip where he runs behind the opponent and shoves their head in the general direction.
I also got to learn how to do the signature and finishing moves. As long as you know how to taunt and use the R-stick you are good to go.
After defeating twenty wrestlers, including CM Punk, Yuka Sakazaki won the match.
Negative: Casino Battle Royale Solo
Before I did the group royale I tried singles. I had not experienced a single ounce of gameplay and I thought a single battle royale would be a good start. Upon picking Yuka, I also had to pick a random place in the card deck.
When the match started I instantly realized that I would have to watch the computer duke it out until they picked my card. I couldn’t even control the other wrestlers. I don’t know about you, but waiting for your turn in a battle royale match is not a fun time. This was a very odd choice.
You also don’t get to customize who is in the battle royale. The game auto-selects all your opponents. It would be nice to have more match customization. I can understand the appeal of this if you are playing with your friends over the co-op couch, but I wanted action and I wasn’t going to wait.
This isn’t related to the battle royale, but William Regal interrupts your match several times when you first start playing. He does this in every match mode. As you are about to strike your opponent he pops up and tries to teach you about the game. He will do this six times in a match. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like him.
Positive: Ladder and Exploding Barbed Wire matches are fresh
There is nothing worse in a wrestling game than a favorite match type that is bogged down by bad controls. AEW Fight Forever sticks with the simple is better. The ladder match is very serviceable once you learn how to pick up objects. The ridiculous part is trying to knock down your opponent long enough so that you can climb each individual rung of the ladder and play a button-bashing event to get the casino chip. It puts you in suspense as you can see Hangman Page waking up and you have to decide if you are going to keep chipping away at the prize or jump off the ladder on top of him. It reminds me of TNA Impact’s Ultimate X mode.
The exploding barbed wire match felt like a level out of Metal Gear Solid. The arena becomes an ominous red, there is wall-to-wall sparking barbed wire, and the slightest move can push your opponent into the cutting electricity. After a couple hundred seconds the whole ring explodes like someone threw a flash bang in COD. Both wrestlers get knocked over, but no health points are lost. It’s cool and makes for a very quick match.
Negative: Weapon fighting can be repetitive
Imagine you are on a 1v1 match with no DQ. There are weapons all over the ring. You immediately grab a Kendo stick and beat down your opponent. You grab a garbage can and beat down your opponent. You grab a chair and beat down your opponent. You pin them and win.
I was led to believe that the 40 weapons in this game would be versatile and unique, but almost every weapon is for bonking on the head or poking into the stomach. You can do fun things with the garbage can and throwing a propane tank is cool, but I didn’t see those weapons nearly enough. Most of the time I was flooring the easy computer opponent with head bonks and stomach pokes. You also have to realize that weapons do extra damage so the match is going to end much sooner. Matches can be won in under three minutes without weapons (especially with the computer on easily).
Tables are a nice touch if you can get them to stay up. Knocking into a table slightly makes it fall over, which serves no purpose but to frustrate. Once you get a wrestler on the table you have seconds to react before it falls over again. I prefer Wrestling Empire’s table physics over AEW Fight Forever.
Positive: Your created wrestler has their own personality in the story campaign
In the career campaign, AEW decided to have fun with the wrestling personalities. You can create a wrestler who eats only vegetables and is rude and it plays out through the career. Your wrestler will then be rude to waitresses (eating unique foods is a weird flex that the story mode is excited about) or other wrestlers. The game’s story is told through word bubbles, which is definitely a step down for those who like spoken dialog. If you can get over that you will see that AEW Fight Forever is at least trying to weave a zany story with your wrestler.
I created B3cca, an indie wrestler, who is rude but prides herself in being an omnivore. She had snarky things to say to her fans, other wrestlers, and waitresses.
Negative: the Create-A-Wrestler mode has some bizarre design choices
Rumors circulated that AEW Fight Forever would have very limited options for customization. I had heard water cooler talk that it was a deal killer for those looking for a WWE 2K experience. With that in mind, I had no idea what I was in for.
Creating a female wrestler almost made me cry. After choosing from 5 face types and 12 hairstyles for B3cca, I got the chance to choose her ring attire. She could only wrestle in five crop tops. Let me repeat that. She could only wrestle in five crop tops!!! This is insane. Was the budget for wrestling in shirts and suits axed? Can a female only wrestle if her belly button is showing? This was the strangest choice ever.
You can add street clothes and entrance clothes, but in-ring attire has to be one of the five crop tops. Nyla, Yuka, and Riho get to wear normal clothes. To add insult to injury the game wouldn’t let me put on a jacket that covered the crop top. It kept telling me I was wearing the wrong kind of shirt. What kind of crop top makes a jacket unwearable??
If the shirts and suits budget was axed then the hand positions and wrestler announcing budget was maxed. There are hundreds of names you can get the announcer to call you. You can be called any wrestler from WWE or NJPW. With hundreds of names, you would think there would be a way to skip to the letter you are looking for. Nope! You need to sift through each name until you find it. This is cumbersome. Another weird flex is that your wrestler has to have a last name. If you leave it blank the entry card will call you B3cca Wrestler. I put a mid-dash for her last name. So weird.
The entrance editor is where you can pick your wrestler’s pose and toggle the pyrotechnics and filters that happen. I kid you not, you can choose from over twenty hand positions for your wrestler. You get five crop tops, but you can choose between a thumbs-up, a finger gun, and a claw for your entrance. I guess if someone really wants the accuracy of making their wrestler do the “I love you sign” with their hands while waving then this is the game for you.