Rumble Roses review
This Rose Has Thorns


Rumble Roses is a wrestling game from Konami featuring an all female roster, which is a nice change of pace from the games that are typically male dominated, which if done right should appeal on its own. However, there are no pretences here. Even the game acknowledges the primary goal is to provide ample opportunities to glimpse T&A at every given moment. Which is a bit of a shame, because the at times overkill crudeness can smother what is otherwise an enjoyable if basic wrestling game.

Anyone looking for a serious complex simulation are obviously looking at the wrong place here. RR works off a modified wrestling game engine that cuts down on the depth in exchange for accessibility. This is by no means a bad thing, but rather it means the game is far more suited to people unaccustomed to the genre rather than hardened veterans.

Your primary means of attacking is via striking (square) and grapple (triangle). Combining these buttons with optional directional inputs, orientation and position of the opponent to produce a variety of techniques. The literally movesets are obviously dependant on which beauty you're controlling in the ring but can see things like punch combos, slams, suplexes and throws to rack up the damage. Each attack will also target a specific part of the body, with an indicator flashing up onscreen to indicate where the damage is being inflicted. This is really where strategy does play the biggest card, as focusing attacks and holds on one specific part is generally going to be more effective than flailing on everything. It's worth noting though that there is nothing like a health gauge present so the only real indicator you have of damage being sustained is your character slowing down.

Of course, just tapping these alone won't help. Characters edge around the ring normally but can dash at the tap of the X button, either towards the other wrestler by itself or in the direction pressed. Combined with dash attacks this can make for some powerful openers. Circle acts as a general purpose action button, allowing you to go for the pin, break out of one, grab a weapon or exit and enter the ring.

Defending against strikes is done by using R1 to bring up a guard, although this won't help against a grapple. There is also the reversal system. Pressing R1 and either Square or Triangle in time to an opponent's strike or grapple will counter and throw them off balance, presenting a chance to counterattack. The timing varies between attacks, like some grapples give you a ridiculously generous window of opportunity to reverse it while some strikes come out of nowhere, but mostly it's a solid system and even if hit by a reversal you can have the chance to reverse it again.

Each girl also has access to some special moves, which requires you to build up the energy gauge by landing successful blows on the opponent or taunting. Each fill up of the bar allows you to activate one of these specials, which can be rather hard to dodge and are easily activated by pressing either L1 or L2, so no hard button combos to remember. Lethal attacks are available all the time when you have at least one bar charged while killer attacks require certain conditions, such as dashing into an opponent, to activate. Helpful onscreen advice indicates which are available and both are accessed with L1. The differences depend on the wrestler but both kinds of moves generally involve hitting the opponent really hard and some can lead to submission style holds.

Then there are the humiliation moves, seemingly designed purely just in case you didn't think the game was perverted enough. Each girl has a separate heart meter that fills when she is hit by a move that embarrasses her (hard to imagine given how stripperific some of these outfits are to begin with). When the heart fills completely she enters a humiliated state and can then by hit by a humiliation special using L2. For all intents and purposes though, this is a stronger version of the other specials and isn't really any more embarrassing than many of the other normal techniques. The difficulty of this is cool for showing off, but I found that I was finishing matches before I filled the heart gauge anyway unless I turned the gauge filling rate up to max. Even then, it wasn't adding anything notable I wasn't getting with the normal specials.

Winning in the game is not just done by damage. The goal is to either hold the opponent down to the count of 3 or force her to give up through submission moves. Circle goes for the pin and is pretty straight forward. If the opponent doesn't break out of it she loses, and her ability to resist decreases as she takes damage. Submission moves target a specific body part and a meter appears onscreen. The idea is that the number counter represents the victim and is reduced by mashing buttons, and if they can't reduce this to zero before the red gauge empties they lose, with the available time to do so shrinking as that body part takes more damage. This is a nice alternative to simple pin wins.

I mentioned weapons briefly before and I should discuss it more here. To be blunt, weapon combat isn't as fun as it sounds. Getting hold of one can be awkward, but the bigger problem is that attacking with them is so slow and clumsy. Seems like such a missed opportunity as it could have been so much more.

Numerous rings are available to fight in, but in all fairness there is not a whole lot difference between them, or rather not any at all outside of minor visual changes. Each stage is a square arena roped off and the outer area around it. Unlike normal wrestling there is no count out for being out of the ring, which can be a little broken when you can stack on the damage outside with no fear of being pinned yourself.

Difficulty is mostly good. Sometimes there's a bit of a predictable nature to things but chances are you'll be hit with reversals, combos and some nasty slams and submissions yourself that will outweigh the few cheap tricks you can pull out on them.

You start off with 10 fighters and the way you gain more is odd to say the least. Story mode has a normal unlock method, but to get the other characters in exhibition matches you have to alter their attitudes. The game plays on a "face" and "heel" persona system. Each of the characters starts off as one of these statuses but they have an alter ego that represents the opposite status. Changing attitudes involves setting vows before the match and then completing them, which goes some way to moving them over to face or heel. Some of the vows are odd (I'm not quite sure why not blocking attacks is considered a face trait) but it's an interesting aspect. What I don't like though is that you never have both personas available at the same time. So if you unlock Noble Rose you then lose access to Evil Rose unless you change her back to heel. What starts as a cool concept can be long winded and boring because of this. Speaking of the girls, the movesets aren't quite as unique as I would hope either. There are some unique attacks for the girls (sharing between personas aside) but it is disappointing to find many are shared amongst multiple girls.

In terms of game modes RR comes up short here too. There's a story mode, which gives you a series of fights finishing with a battle against the special boss girl. Exhibiton is what you'd expect, allowing you to dive into fights easily. Title match doesn't really differ, except that only girls who have achieved 100% face or heel status can fight for or defend the title. The only other option is Mud Wrestling, which is not as interesting as it sounds. The gameplay doesn't really differ much from the rest except that the ring isn't ropes off, but the core of it is the same. There's just not much variety in these modes.

The graphics, as expected of a game that relies heavily on visual appeal, comes along the high end of the quality scale. The girls have been modelled wonderfully and each one typically meets some kind of stereotype design moreso than video games tend to do, with many aiming for some kind of fetish fuel. Just see the naughty schoolgirl, strict teacher, hot nurse and one who can only be described as a bondage slave given her outfit. You get variety but I can't guarantee you won't be disturbed by some of them. A few details on them can appear a little flat, with Bloody Shadow's string vest thing being a prime example where the clingyness is unnatural. The rings themselves feature a lot of detail, including some impressive audience setups and environment tiling. Animation for the most part is good too. The girls move as you would expect them to and interact solidly with each other and the stages as you perform strikes and slams from all angles.

However, that is not to say the graphics are perfect. At times there are clipping issues where body parts will pass straight through other things, which is most noticeable with certain submission moves done near the ropes as you can see legs or arms go throw them clear as day. The mud effect in the mud wrestling mode is unimpressive, looking far too liquidy and the "mud" slides off their bodies awfully quickly. Apparently mud doesn't stick in the world of RR. There are also some strange animation choices, like during cutscenes girls will bounce and shift around with no real reason, almost as if they're bursting for a pee.

What worries me more though is the overkill focus on perversion. As if the costumes and concept didn't make the point clear enough you will find the game will aim the camera directly onto breasts and backsides whenever possible, hammered home sweetly by the game's gallery mode, where the camera's default position stares directly at the breasts of the chosen girl. The whole approach can get quite creepy and does cheapen the overall experience; almost as if Konami were afraid the core gameplay wouldn't sell and so resorted to some of the cheapest sex sells tactics around. Reminds of me the Dead or Alive volleyball game, but at least that game's creepier perverted moments were mostly limited to the optional relaxation moments and not constantly in your face like this game does.

Audio is a bit of a mixed bag. You've got the entrance themes, which has some good covers and some not so good but you'll end up skipping these soon anyway. During the fights though there is little to interest you. The girl cries and shouts are expected at this point and serve their purpose but that's all the good stuff.

During storyline cutscenes the audio can be similarly mixed. Some girls deliver some solid acting while others come across as wooden, as if they were random girls brought in to read lines without really seeing what they were voicing.

The story deserves a special mention, which might be strange for such a game in a genre where you might not expect much here. Not that you can expect a deeply complex tale of emotion and intrigue. RR's story of one painfully typical villain trying to take the DNA of powerful wrestlers to improve upon her Lady X cyborg (of which we never really find out exactly why she's doing it) is about as silly as it sounds. Each of the girls has a backstory connecting them to it but without proper development most of it falls flat. The one thing that prevents me from truely hating the story aspect is the sheer cheesy way it's delivered. You can't help but laugh at it all with an execution that almost feels like a pantomine performance that removes any sense of seriousness and allows for a glimmer of appreciation.

This leaves Rumble Roses in an interesting place. It has a good concept with an all female wrestling game and there is some fun to be had here. I just wish it wasn't buried under a mountain of pantyshots. That and the other flaws that build up make this a nice game but something that could have been so much more.

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