Game: AEW Fight Forever
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Consoles: Steam, PS4/5, Xbox O/S/X, Switch (Reviewed on)
Release Date: June, 29th, 2023
Wrestling fans have been waiting since 2021 for an AEW game that could shut the mouths of all those whiny WWE fans. AEW Fight Forever promised to be hard-hitting, a throwback to the N64 days of No Mercy, and an arcade feel to wrestling.
After three delays and a lot of promises, AEW has finally gotten their game out. Fans have spent internet real estate speculating, criticizing, and ruminating over what kind of game this would be.
Not only will I be silencing the speculation, but I will be doing it all from the perspective of the Nintendo Switch, the underdog that is often overlooked when it comes to wrestling games. The WWE had rejected The Switch after WWE 2K18 was a mess, but AEW Fight Forever is honoring the console that hosted WWF No Mercy.
This is AEW Fight Forever’s bread and butter. When Kenny Omega (the overseer of this game) commented on the fan’s expectations he said that graphically this game would not be as impressive, but the gameplay would more than make up for it. To back his claim, Yukes would make sure that this game felt like a Nintendo 64 party.
The fighting engine is based on the 90s format with a few tweaks. Wrestlers can do 4 weak grapples and 4 strong grapples on their opponent based on how hard they held down the grapple button. The other face buttons perform less exciting strike grapples. Wrestlers can also do the usual corner, rope, and ground grapples. It is basic 64-bit wrestling.
The moves were easy to do and I found myself going between weak and strong grapples with ease. The game makes it easy to exit the ring and climb the turnbuckles. By my third match, I was hammering the AI opponents.
What concerned me the most was the no-sell moves. Sometimes your wrestler will pull off a string of strikes and your opponent will not bother to feel any of them. I couldn’t tell if this was the computer defending itself or if the hitboxes were broken. I noticed this happened a lot more in online multiplayer.
Reversing grapples and strikes is also a key element that a wrestling game cannot screw up. The L and R buttons perform the grapple and strike reversals. Most modern wrestling games stick to one reversal button, but Yukes wanted the old-school way. Not only do you have to time the reversal at the right time, but you have to remember if it is L or R. I had a devil of a time figuring out the reversals when it came time to fight the computer. Different wrestlers have different reversal strengths and it was easier to do them with Sting than any other wrestler.
AEW Fight Forever may be easy to get into, but there are a few noticeable hiccups. If you are pounding on a wrestler and they start the get up animation then your moves will clip right through them. When a wrestler is on the ground between two opponents, the grounded wrestler acts like a wall that neither opponent can step over. The computer AI will walk dumbly into your downed body trying to step over it.
In a match that has more than three wrestlers, your character will auto-target only one wrestler. To change the target you need to push in the L-stick. I would much prefer using the directions on the R-stick to point to the wrestler you want to target. Changing targets can be cumbersome.
Move variety is key in keeping wrestling games fresh. You can perform grapples, running grapples, strikes, running strikes, signatures and finishers. Yukes made the weak and strong grapples a bit low compared to WWE games that give your wrestler 10-15 moves.
Signatures, Finishers, and aerial moves felt very satisfying. The game rewards you with a replay whenever you do a move that hits hard.
AEW Fight Forever prides itself on the weapons you can use in the ring and it shows. Weapons are varied and fun to use, but I think the novelty wears off after you have beaten your opponent for the 60th time with a kendo stick. The table is the wonkiest weapon in the game. Touching a table slightly knocks it down on the ground and you have to pick it up again.