Tag Archives: All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua

All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua: Rise! Dolphin! (Part 4)

In which Dolphin attains a modicum of fame.

IntroPart 1Part 2Part 3

So Dolphin dropped a match. No big deal. You don’t set the Canadian record in beanballs taken without learning a thing or two about suffering. Dolphin is used to physical abuse, and the way he views it, the neck is the most overrated part of the body anyway. As long as his hips can still swivel, he’ll be fine.


But if there is one thing Dolphin won’t stand for, it’s DISRESPECT. Dolphin can’t read a word of Japanese, but he sure as hell doesn’t see any nice pictures of himself on the cover of this Puroresu Weekry Illistratedu. Who do these fans think they are? He could have easily passed up this gig. He could be back in Durham, Ontario working at his buddy Tad’s Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He could be halfway to assistant regional manager of the year by now.

But Dolphin knows, deep inside, that the only way to win over the fans is hard work and dedication. Plus he can’t afford airfare back to Canada. Time to get an education in wrestling.

AJPWLevelupAnd by “get an education in wrestling,” Dolphin means “pick wrestling moves randomly from a confusing list he cannot read.” Looks like there’s a DDT in there. That’s a nice move. We’ll figure out the rest as we go. MONTAGE TIME!

Music: The King of the Streets by Lazerhawk.

Dolphin’s opponents, in order:

  • Gary Albright – Gary Albright looked like he crawled right out of the Double Deuce, and wrestled like he read every chapter of How to Kick Ass and Eat Steak.  A legitimate college wrestler and American bad ass, Gary Albright was famous for dropping people on their necks. Thankfully, he settled for dropping Dolphin on his spine, for the most part.
  • Johnny Ace – We already know all about this guy.
  • “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – Gary Albright read every chapter of How to Kick Ass and Eat Steak, but Steve Williams wrote the whole damn book. Also a legitimate amateur wrestler, Steve Williams was a huge star in AJPW. Further, his theme music was by Gene Simmons, which probably makes him even tougher, somehow. Not pictured in the montage: the additional 15 ringpost shots it took to put this behemoth away.

This clean sweep came at a high cost. Fortunately, neck points are strong against the yen in 1997, so Dolphin’s got that cost covered. A few notes:

  • By the time he got midway through his rematch with Johnny Ace, Dolphin’s neck was hanging on by a thread. His neck heals slightly every three matches, but he’s going to be hovering at about 98% neck damage until he develops some reversal skills.
  • Dolphin was able to score a relatively clean win against Albright, but the repeated and continuous attacks to his neck left him with no choice but to resort to the ringpost. Somersault kicks are pretty cool and all, but they’re the last thing a man with neck problems should be doing.  Until he expands his arsenal, that post will be his home away from home.
  • If you look at 4:22, you’ll see the exact moment Dolphin learned how easy it is to pull off ridiculously devastating maneuvers outside of the ring. Once a wrestler’s momentum meter is full, their full arsenal of finishing maneuvers becomes available to them, and for whatever reason, they are about ten times easier to perform on the concrete floor.

So, did Dolphin’s hard work pay off?


That sexy blurred out face in the bottom left corner says “yes.”



All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua: Rise! Dolphin! (Part 3)

In which Dolphin undergoes new employee orientation.

IntroPart 1Part 2

Improbably, Dolphin has won his first match.  Since there are no other discernible options, and Dolphin can’t read Japanese, ON TO THE SECOND MATCH.


Labor relations sure work differently in Japan. It appears Dolphin’s second opponent will be his boss, Giant Baba. As this game takes place in 1997, Baba  should be about 60. Jeez. While Dolphin is keenly aware that fighting your boss is a time-honored pro wrestling tradition, and he probably wouldn’t be doing this had he not shoved that pine tar down his third base coach’s throat, this is ridiculous. Giant or no, he shouldn’t be fighting a 60-year-old man.


1:06 – Yep, easier than medicare fraud. Dolphin starts off with a strong German suplex. Don’t go anywhere kids. You might not have too much more time with granddad.


1:14 – Well…


1:19 – That’s….


1:31 – Something else.  Hmm.  Dolphin is really getting flogged. Looks like Baba has no intention of collecting a pension any time soon. This is no good. After dealing with roughly a minute and a half (including intros) of punishment at the hands of his forbears, Dolphin does what any self-respecting member of the younger generation would do – he starts taking any advantage he can get.


1:46 – Yes, Dolphin just rammed a 60-year-old man’s head into the ringpost. Dolphin reminds you that anybody that gets in that ring knows the risk, and he had nothing to do with those recent updates to Baba’s life insurance policy.


2:51 – Let this be a lesson to you folks. You can lose all of your neck in less than three minutes, if you’re not careful. The fans seem to love Dolphin’s strategy. I hear “acromegaly” is Latin for “head filled with candy.” Let’s find out if that’s true!


4:01 – It appears that Dolphin does not fare so well when he employs legitimate tactics. Baba is reversing everything in sight.

7:08 – You know, one of the more popular features of this game is that “every move can be reversed!” Dolphin is beginning to wonder if “every move will be reversed” would be more appropriate.


8:25 – Great googledy moogledy. After Dolphin’s 19th attempt at a Dolphinplex, Baba slaps on an STF and Dolphin’s neck jumps immediately to 74% damage.  It appears that Dolphin’s spinal trauma has carried over from his last match with Johnny Ace. Whatever; we’ve still got 26% neck left.


9:49 – Listen, Dolphin doesn’t have much going for him. He’s got an ICS degree in gun repair, two families in two different Canadian provinces, a failed stint as a shortstop, and a mastery of approximately four basic wrestling moves. One of those moves is the Irish whip to the ringpost, and he’s not getting back in the ring until he’s sure he’s squeezed everything he can out of that inanimate metal column.


12:34 – Well, it was a nice run, wasn’t it flipper? You just had your neck completely destroyed by a crippled sexagenarian. No way you’re living this one down.


13:48 – Sweet fancy Moses! It took nearly 15 minutes, but Dolphin finally did it! Did Baba’s heart give out? Did he age himself out of contention? Dolphin doesn’t care though, because he just bought himself his second ‘W,’ all for the low, low price of his neck.

If you’d like to stare into the abyss for about 14 minutes, here’s the full match:

Two matches in, and Dolphin has already secured his future in a cervical halo. Nevertheless, Dolphin understands that the only way out is through: No neck, no skills, no problems. MATCH 3!

JunEntranceThis is Jun Akiyama, and his theme is titled “Shadow Explosion.” Dolphin has never seen a shadow explode, but he assumes that it is worse for him than a standard explosion. Youtube research reveals that Jun Akiyama has a proud tradition of dropping people on the back of their heads.  This, of course, bodes well for Dolphin.


1:23 – Not off to a bad start. Dolphin is able to string some offense together right out of the gate.


1:33 – Two moves. It only took two moves for Akiyama to snap the stack of dimes Dolphin calls a neck. It’s gonna be a long career (mode). Dolphin is tempted to hit the reset button.

1:49 – Dolphin has quickly abandoned any pretense of winning this match legitimately. TO THE RINGPOST!  It only took him three more seconds than last time to come to this conclusion!


2:56 – YES! So long, and thanks for all the fish! Dolphin’s catch phrases admittedly need work. If the last match is any indication, we’ve only got about eleven minutes of sustained neck damage remaining before Dolphin puts this chump away.


4:22 – Blowhole plunge! Dolphin is swimming down the road to victory!


4:48 – Err… the announcer just yelled “exploder” in English. This is probably not good for Dolphin’s neck rating. This suspicion is confirmed by Dolphin’s pained squeals.

6:06 – This time it sounded like “exploiter,” which is appropriate, because Dolphin is starting to feel more than a little used up.


6:38 – Dude, dolphins are a threatened species. You’ll burn for this.


6:54 – As he’s going nowhere fast, Dolphin decides to roll to the only place where he seems to be worth a damn – outside the ring.  Well guess what: you can never go home again.

8:55 – Dolphin is beginning to wonder if it actually means anything when your neck gets broken in this game, as he has to give up the ghost to Akiyama at about the 9 minute mark, despite dropping him on his 0% neck several times.

Well, to quote Dolphin’s favorite artist, Meatloaf, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  At least he didn’t lose to the geriatric.

Grab a handkerchief and cry yourself to sleep as you watch Dolphin’s heartbreaking loss:

NEXT TIME: Montage!

All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua: Rise! Dolphin! (Part 2)

In which our intrepid hero finds no practical use for his decaying infielding skills.

The first and second posts in this series will undoubtedly increase your enjoyment of this installment.

Now that he’s successfully completed his mandatory new hire processing and and picked out some sweet threads, it’s time for Dolphin to step into the squared circle. Sure, he’s a little long in the tooth, and he’s got no real practical experience, but with nearly a decade of single A under his belt, he’s got some fundamental athletic prowess that will undoubtedly carry the day against whatever jabroni the higher ups toss his way.

Caring not who he will crush, Dolphin makes his way to the ring:


Clearly, great things are expected of Dolphin. He’s already got his own theme! Prepared by the legendary Sega Sound Team, the driving force behind such hits as “Green Hill Zone,” “Space Harrier Theme,” and “Game Over Yeah,” no less! Note that Dolphin is so manly he uses the original Greek “Heracles” instead of the far less tough “Hercules” as the basis of his theme. No one stands a chance. Who will Dolphin be using as a springboard to glory?

Well, turns out it’s Johnny Ace, better known to US wrestling fans as John Laurinaitis, one time director of talent relations for the WWE. Turns out he actually had a serious run in AJPW back in the 90s. Also turns out he was a wrestling aqua sock enthusiast.  Having a past as an actual legitimate sportsman instead of some lame extreme “athlete,” Dolphin has to have a bit of a leg up here. Enough blabbering. TO THE MATCH!

0:29 – Dolphin is demoralized as he quickly realizes that Sega Sound Team has also done Johnny Ace’s music. Wikipedia reveals that Johnny Ace’s theme was actually Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crüe. This can only be a mind game. There’s no way anyone would otherwise be willing forgo such a grand entrance song.

1:30 – Things get off to a rocky start, as Dolphin’s clumsy first move is reversed into a swinging neckbreaker. Dolphin starts to take a pretty serious beating at the hands of big Johnny. Good thing he pre-loaded on those pain pills. Note that as Dolphin takes a beating, his life bar drops, but the meter directly above his name increases. This indicates that the crowd is behind him and his momentum is building! They must be remembering that time back in ’88 when he set the single season hit by pitch record. Dolphin’s past in baseball has apparently garnered him some goodwill with the fans.

2:39 – The crowd appears to be very impressed with Dolphin’s apparent love of taking unanswered blows to the face. With each elbow crammed down his throat, Dolphin can feel a groundswell of support rising from the crowd. As they begin chanting his name, Dolphin wonders why they aren’t cheering for the clearly superior athlete. Johnny must be pissed. Dolphin also notes that the crowd is a flat bitmap, and begins to wonder if he is in some kind of existential hell.

3:00 – Realizing his dream is fading, Dolphin digs deep into the bag of tricks he learned at wrestler’s correspondence school, and he starts to mount some offense! The crowd support is making it a little easier for him to time his moves – he’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s narrowing the gap.

4:00 – Dolphin begins to notice that every successful hit he lands on Mr. Ace seems to be increasing the crowd’s support of him as well. Dolphin is confused about Japanese culture and wonders if he should have eaten all that octopus before his match.

5:00 – Ace damn near takes Dolphin’s head off with a lariat from hell, and goes for the cover. Dolphin kicks out before 2, but only at the expense of some of his crowd support. Dolphin fails to see why escaping defeat would somehow lessen his crowd support. Then again, Japan is a strange place. They eat with sticks.

5:25 – Dolphin has had enough of this crap. If he loses this first match, he’ll have wasted five minutes of his life, and he’ll have to cancel Christmas for at least two of his families. He rolls out of the ring.

5:34 –

AJPWAceStunnerYep, that was a Stone Cold Stunn…. Ace Crusher. Crap.  Can’t get worse than that, though, can it? Nobody can pin you outside of the ring, and there doesn’t appear to be a countout here. Dolphin will just sit tight for a bit.

5:45 –

AJPWAceNeckSWEET LORD.  Do you SEE that thing? CLEARLY, this second Ace Crusher has done some serious damage to Dolphin’s neck. Why else would it say “Danger” three times and have a little picture of a bomb? Presumably, this means that Dolphin only has 70% more neck left before he explodes. This is not a positive development.

6:10 – After ambling around aimlessly, pondering how to win this match with only 70% neck remaining, Dolphin manages to ram Ace’s head into the ringpost with a satisfying thud. This seems to yield positive results, and Ace doesn’t seem to have been programm… er, trained to deal with this. It isn’t long before Ace is receiving warnings about his cervical spine as well.  Weirdly, the crowd loves it. Sick.

8:00 – Hey, we’re starting to have a nice little back and forth here. Maybe now that Mr. Ace fully appreciates that Dolphin is a scumbag who is willing to do anything (within his limited four move arsenal) to avoid defeat, he’s treating him with a little too much respect. Dolphin is not to be respected. Ace will learn this the hard way. Nobody respects Dolphin and gets away with it.

10:00 –


Improbably, after getting elbowed in the face and taking a vertical suplex in the middle of the ring, Dolphin hits a relatively routine belly-to-back suplex…. and then….


Wow. This makes absolutely no sense. Dolphin had absolutely no skill going into this match, the little noise meter at the top of the screen seems to indicate the crowd is fully behind Ace, and Dolphin had just eaten a series of devastating maneuvers right in the middle of the ring. If Dolphin didn’t know better, he’d say this was fixed. Dolphin is silently thankful that this is all happening in 1997, and the Internet wrestling community is not well developed enough to complain about this kind of lazy, disappointing booking.


Tune in next week, as Dolphin perfects his craft,  attempts to scale the language barrier, and considers taking out a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy!



All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua: Rise! Dolphin! (Part 1)

In which we start an aging shortstop down the path towards championship gold.

If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at the first post in this series.

No sense in delaying thiokngs; let’s get right to it. The quest for the Triple Crown Championship starts now, and I’m already 17 years behind schedule. Time to dig into AJPW’s charmingly titled “Featuring Mode” and grab that belt.


Featuring Mode is equal parts “create-a-wrestler” and “career mode.” Rather than let you choose the appearance and attributes of your character outright, in a design decision I can only describe as “innately Japanese,” AJPW requires you to fill out a job application in order to determine what type of grappler you’ll be portraying.

All right, let’s get…


Huh.  Well, that’s something else.  Fortunately, the same translation guide I used back in 1997 is still publicly available.  ECrouser, I may never meet you in person, but when I win the gold, I’m dedicating it to you.

First,  we’re presented with a list of names for our wrestler:


Back in 1997 I’d have been inclined to pick “Bastard.” That’s a name that inspires fear, respect, and paternity suits. But this is 2014, baby, and I need a name that says “experience.” I need a moniker that says, intelligence, experience, and general superiority. They often say that the majestic bottle nose is the most intelligent mammal on the planet, so let’s go with “DOLPHIN.” Remember that name, for it is the sound of your doom.

Next option: Choose your wrestler’s age. As I’m writing this, I’m 32, so my wrestler is 32.  Easy choice. Next question. Let’s just ignore the fact that 32 is the maximum age the game lets you choose, because that is not depressing at all.

So we’re a 32-year-old wrestler named Dolphin. The game now wants to know what prior sports experience our majestic Dolphin is bringing to the dance:


One can assume that if Dolphin is entering the ring as a second career at the ripe middlish age of 32, things probably didn’t end up so hot for him during his first athletic endeavor.  Much like me, returning to AJPW 17 years after the fact, Dolphin is looking to recapture faded glory. Of all the sports on the list, baseball would have probably garnered him highest base level of glory from which to fade. No disrespect to arm wrestlers, drummers, or ???ists, but chicks dig the long ball. Dolphin used to be a shortstop.

Now we’re on to the substance of our job application – a personality test of sorts. Dolphin used to bat 6th for the Blue Jays’ Single-A affiliate. He’s used to dealing with the tough questions, so this should be no sweat.


Question: All Japan Puroresu is Giant Baba?
1) Of Course
2) It is the four lords of heaven
3) It is Rusher Kimura

Crap. Dolphin was not prepared to respond to any queries of an existential nature. Thankfully, Dolphin has access to a smartphone. It appears that Giant Baba was the founder of All Japan Pro Wrestling, essentially making him Dolphin’s boss.  Dolphin knows where his bread is buttered, so Giant Baba it is.

Question: How should a Pro Wrestler win his matches?
1) Pretty (Technically sound) Suplex should decide
2) The big move done in the heat of the match should decide the victory
3) It does not matter

Dolphin is in this for the money. He’s got three kids in Durham, Ontario that don’t know his name. There’s child support to pay, and it just does not matter.


Question: What technique do you like?
1) Counter attacks
2) Throwing
3) Stretching

Baseball. Throwing. Duh.

Question: What should the Pro Wrestler's goal be?
1) Strength
2) Championship Belt
3) Fans enjoying the match

Well, Dolphin is in this first and foremost for himself. Undoubtedly, he’s already strong, and fans will probably enjoy the match no matter what if he obtains the Championship Belt, so let’s go with option 3.


Question: Tomorrow is your Pro Wrestling debut. What are you thinking?
1) Think positive
2) Concentrate
3) Win at all costs

Dolphin has got child support to pay. Number 3! It’s all about that cheddar. Win at all costs.


Question: Why did you become a pro wrestler?
1) To become strong
2) ( Not Sure )
3) To become a famous wrestler

You know, I’m not really sure why I’m doing this at all. Whether it’s a translation error or not, we’re going with option 2.

Question: To become a strong wrestler requires endless stamina and techniques. How do you do it?
1) Extra long training
2) ( Not Sure )
3) Eat three times as much

As a former professional baseball player. Dolphin understands that physique does not matter. He will eat three times as much as the normal human.

Question: Your opponent misses a wild attack. So your counter attack begins. How do you start?
1) Yell to get your ki up
2) Slap your face to get your ki up
3) Do a surprisingly cold and precise counter

Like his namesake murdering sharks with a nose to the abdomen, Dolphin will be dispatching his foes with precise counterattacks.

Wow! Those were some intense questions. Based on our responses, we’re now presented with some cosmetic choices:


Way too Zubaz. Dolphin knows better than this.


No sense in wearing a mask. The good people of Durham, Ontario already know what Dolphin looks like. Plus, hiding from child support payments is downright shameful.


Nope.  Dolphin is a lot of things, but Irish isn’t one of them.

Oooh. Perfect. Simple, yet stylish. Beautiful magenta tights with a zebra print accent? Western efficiency meets eastern style. We have our Dolphin, ladies and gentlemen.

Next time, we’ll be leading our newly minted wrestler into battle. Tune in next time – same Dolphin time, same Dolphin channel!

Onward to Part 2!

All Japan Pro-Wrestling Featuring Virtua: The Legend Begins

AJPWCoverAll Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua
Sega Saturn, 1997
Developer: Scarab
Publisher: Sega

The late 90s were a great time to be a fan of pro wrestling video games.  As the red-hot ratings war between the WWF and WCW escalated,[1] the genre started receiving an unprecedented degree of attention and care from western publishers. Companies such as Acclaim[2] and THQ[3] began packing their U.S. wrestling games with true to life wrestler entrances, detailed creation suites, motion captured animation, and a degree of graphical polish previously reserved for simulations of legitimate sports. Yes, publishers were finally treating wrestling games like big ticket releases, and PSX and N64 owners were in the midst of a golden age of virtual wrasslin’.

Saturn owners, like me, however, were not so lucky. The Saturn began dying a slow death in North America right from its surprise launch in May of 1995, and by the time pro wrestling’s renaissance had begun, Sega’s 32-bit workhorse was little more than an also-ran in the console race. The big WWF and WCW titles never landed on Saturn, and unless you had access to imported games, you were stuck watching the rebirth of the pro wrestling genre from the Spanish announce table.

AJPWcharselectFortunately, I had a very generous older brother who did have access to imported games, and on Christmas morning, 1997, I unwrapped a pristine copy of the Saturn classic, All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua. I was ecstatic. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to play as Stone Cold, Scott Hall, the Rock, or any of my other favorites – but I’d finally be able to play as Stan Hansen, Kenta Kobashi, that dude that got knocked out in the Brawl For All, and countless other combatants that guys on geocities sites swore were the greatest wrestlers on the planet. Strangely, that last sentence was not sarcastic in the least.

Kenta & Ace
Every red-blooded American wanted to see these guys wrestle back in ’97.

All Japan Pro Wrestling Featuring Virtua is a true Saturn classic which took a completely different approach to the pro wrestling genre than its western contemporaries. I spent countless hours playing AJPW, trying to master its deceptively complex grappling mechanics and intricate damage system, but the rigorous pressures of being a teenager in suburban Philadelphia proved to be too much for me to handle. I couldn’t balance my hectic high school schedule with my virtual pro wrestling career, and I had to put down my controller before I could achieve the game’s ultimate goal: the Triple Crown Championship.

Nice hardware.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be replaying AJPW in an effort to slay that white whale; I’m finally going capture that championship belt that eluded me all those years ago. In the process, I also hope to shed some light on what a weird and wonderful experience it was being a Saturn owner in the late 90s. Crack open a Steveweiser and dig in.

Onward to Part 1!

[1] At the peak of the “Monday Night Wars,” approximately 10 million viewers were watching wrestling per week.

[2] WWF Warzone, WWF Attitude, ECW Hardcore Revolution, ECW Anarchy Rulz

[3] The WWF Smackdown series, WCW vs. the World, WCW vs. NWO World Tour, and many others.