I'm ashamed to say I spent hundreds of hours playing WWF Super WrestleMania on the Sega Genesis as a kid. Those hours have been revealed to be terribly spent after revisiting the game in 2017. Developer Sculptured Software (aka Acclaim Studios, Salt Lake) made their debut WWF game here and continued to make wrestling games through the PlayStation era. It is the third WWE game to be published by the notorious LJN. Marking the first time gamers would see their favourite WWF Superstars on 16-bit platforms, the game featured sprites with more detail than seen in the past. The Superstars look pretty decent and are clearly recognisable, but everyone shares the exact same animations. Every wrestler also appears to be the same height. That means although Earthquake is sporting an appropriately large gut, he moves the same way everyone else does. The audio is actually pretty decent, especially in the SNES version of the game. Strikes, slams , grunts, and referee voice samples punctuate the otherwise dire game play.
Controls are sluggish and unresponsive, with strikes not landing until about half a second after a button press. Grappling takes the form of a button mash battle. You slam the button for the move (such as bodyslam, irish whip etc.) until you discover who wins and the animation plays out. There is no on-screen information on how this tug-of-war is going, so you spend a lot of time mashing aimlessly until something happens.
Every Superstar has the exact same move-set. There is essentially no difference between choosing Shawn Michaels or Yokozuna, they are identical other than their sprite.
Admittedly, this makes for a balanced game, just not a very enjoyable one. Every character has the same punch, kick, suplex and bodyslam. In fact, that's pretty much the entire list of moves in the game. Repeat the above until your opponent's on-screen health bar is depleted, go for the pinfall and win. It won't feel much like winning at all.
Action can spill out of the ring, not that it adds much variety at all. Oddly, you cannot reenter the ring from the bottom edge. Instead you have to walk back round to the sites of the ring. As combat is so slow and the referee will count quickly to ten, you really want to get back in as soon as possible. Or perhaps it would be best to take the count-out loss and play something else.
WWF Super WrestleMania was a terrible debut for 16-bit systems. The game feels like you are wrestling underwater and there is no ebb and flow to a match. Superstars will kick out at one after a finisher if they have even a fraction of health. There is no phycology to matches whatsoever, the game is merely a race to deplete a health bar and then hit the pin button. Thankfully, Sculptured Software did make improvements on future games, with WWF Royal Rumble and WWF RAW being worth a look. When the game was originally released, it received marginally above average reviews. It is worth noting that the import scene was much smaller in 1992, so few journalists would have played Super Fire Pro Wrestling the year before. If they had, they probably would have no been so lenient. In 2017, WWF Super WrestleMania is for hardcore collectors only.