Sony has been pushing older games out through the PlayStation Network Store for a while now, under the title of “PlayStation Classics.” The games span from back to the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2 as well as everything else that happened with the PlayStation name and they do a good job of curating the store to only bring aboard games that are in a certain level of demand. So, you’ll imagine my surprise when last week they announced that they’d be bringing the Spike classic Fire Pro Returns from PS2 to the table.
Fire Pro is a wrestling game series that dates back to the 80’s and a company called Human, which was then bought out by Spike who have continued to work with the series over the years. It has a rather rich history for such a niche series in a niche genre of games and an extremely rabid fanbase who purchase anything and everything with the Fire Pro name. If you need proof of that, look no further than the fact that someone actually purchased the “Fire Pro Wrestling” that Spike released on the Xbox 360 that used Xbox Live avatars, because that happened.
Fire Pro Returns — also known as Fire Pro R or FPR — was released in September of 2005 by Spike in Japan, tweaking the game from the previous entry in the series, Fire Pro Z, to help appease fans who weren’t pleased with some of the bugs present in FPZ. By default, Fire Pro Returns is the ultimate game in the series, with the most moves, character heads and features, although sadly lacking in a cohesive single player campaign that previous games had. When released in 2005 it immediately shot up the charts for game import sites as one of the most imported games, which caught the attention of an American company, Agetec, who then turned to the online Fire Pro community to help to localize the game. It was then released in the United States in 2007 to the tepid reaction you’d expect for a fringe wrestling game whose fans had already purchased the original two years before.
That had looked like the end of the Fire Pro games as fans knew them, as the only signs of life from Spike and wrestling happened to be the Xbox Live Arcade title which showed little resemblance to the Fire Pro that fans knew and loved. So the release of the Agetec version of Fire Pro Returns is quite a welcome event in Fire Pro lore and helps to bring some hope to fans of wrestling games.
What has become clear is that this game, released in 2005 and utilizing 2D sprites with everything kept rather simple, is still a breath of fresh air compared to the current lineup of wrestling games available. This isn’t to say that the WWE games are necessarily poor, but the fact that an eight year old game can be released like this and put a modern game to shame for lack of features is really saying something.
Fire Pro Returns might force you to be a bit creative sometimes to create a character who doesn’t have a head modeled after the real person already in the game, but it is quite easy to create a striking likeness to just about any character that you wish to create using the in-game editor. You also might have to substitute a few moves, as some are innovated or personalized, but at the core, you will still be able to find something to your liking.
This is just further proof that Sony releasing these “classics” like they have is good for gaming as a whole, as great games like Fire Pro Returns can get some new air breathed into them and hopefully make their way to the hands of some gamers who might have missed them the first time around.