At a Glance: Long gone are the golden days of wrestling, their rabid fans now forced to suck on the dry marrow left in the wake of legends like Tugboat and the Bushwhackers. Where has the gentle spirit of wrestling gone? Was it America that slid into the ring with a steel chair while the ref wasn't looking? Or was it just wrestling's time to tap out of the ring to let the leather clad bad boys of modern times take over with their pyrotechnics and barely terrible video games. To help the internet return to their roots I'm bringing you all the fully terrible NES stylings of M.U.S.C.L.E.
Platform: NES (Download Emulator here - 192k)
Download: Download ROM here - 133k
Story: To understand how you've become a freelance Viking fighting a man with a serious case of hookermouth, you have to understand the tortured history of triumph and loss that is M.U.S.C.L.E. The mighty acronym title stands for "Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere". The space protagonist, Muscle Man, leads the Thug Busters against the villainy of Terri-Bull and the Cosmic Crunchers. To help promote their causes every wrestler on each intergalactic wrestling squad allowed themselves to be shrunk, cloned, and spread across the world for charity. It is through their valiant efforts and complete immobility that children everywhere learned to stiffen and give up in the face of adversity. This title is just a sample of their epic conflict that has been reduced to a simple, never-ending, round after round torturetopia for the NES.
Gameplay: You begin the game as one of the mighty M.U.S.C.L.E wrastlin characters: Muscleman (blowface), Terry Man (prettyboy), Ramen Man (Chinese), Robin Mask (knight), Terri-bull (Viking), Wars Man (mod haircut), Geronimo (surfer), and Ashura Man (Hindu god). Each of these characters have special moves that can be unlocked by the mutant that prowls outside the ring. You better thank God that those ropes are separating you and that creature. Holding up a single arm, one of the few limbs it decided not to gnaw off, he exhibits his radioactive powers to send forth a radium-spiked biscuit. Apparently nuclear fallout survivors can choose to be CSI murder victim extras or wrestling managers. This is a good thing because qualification for one automatically qualifies you for the other.
Despite my intense and brain throttling introduction, I have little knowledge of the intricacies of oiled male on oiled male combat. Is it natural for you to fly into the electrified ropes and become stuck until you die? Do the managers throw glowing balls that give you super powers? I only assume that it s commonplace for your enemy to know the exact timing and location that these balls will appear so they can get them before you can. There would be no challenge in wrestling without it, I get it. Maybe my major complaint is that these rules are a little too obvious without you being able to bend the rules. Where's the fun in life if all you're doing is "realism"?
I stopped playing the title after about round 19 but I'm going to go on a limb and say it keeps going until you end up on round "crown 9", gasping for breath on the floor of the ring while a six armed monster you just fought a hundred times before slides across the mat with murder in his eyes.
Graphics: When I think of wrestling I imagine glistening bodies in spandex displaying their might in a very much so heterosexual way. Special moves and neon colors fly about the ring like a ninjitsu paintball tournament being held in a cyclist clothing store.
Well let me tell you the good news, very much so hetero readers: wrestling has never been so sexy. Ladies, does being able to draw a 90 degree angle off of your lovers bulging pectorals get you in a tizzy? Guys, isn't it a huge pain having a mouth? Sadly there is no way you can achieve this, but at least with M.U.S.C.L.E we can watch the dream from a far and keep it alive in our hearts.
Enemies: Your wrestling foes come from another planet and that planet is pain (also known as Howthefuckdidhe). Not a moment goes by in this game where your opponent isn't trying to hurt you, hurting you, or reading your blog to figure out how to really hurt you. If I had one tenth of their fury you would have to shoot me, stab me, toast my head in an easy bake oven, hit my head with all of your cooking pots in alphabetic order, validate my parking tickets sarcastically, cut me up with a plastic knife, then bury me under a mountain of cabbages. Even then my hand might detach and come after you or play your piano menacingly during the night to keep you up when you're trying to sleep.
Fun: Fear of death is a new concept to me. Normally I wouldn't contemplate drinking an active circle saw. But after the 17th round against the Chinese guy in the electric ring I realized there are lots of things in this world I haven't tried yet. Thankfully, sound logic prevailed and I played another two rounds before I gave up with no end in sight. What stopped me? Realizing I had no proof that when I die I would not end up inside this game.
Defining Moment: I really hate this game. The only reason why it doesn't have a straight negative fifty is that I can actually barely beat the rounds and the controls actually work. Barely.
Each category in the rating system is based out of a possible -10 score (-10 being the worst). The overall score is based out of a possible -50 score (-50 being the worst).