It has been more than 20 years since Tecmo released the first sumo video game on the Famicom, so whilst this goofily named WiiWare update (we guess the original Japanese "Tsuppari Big Sumo Wii Stable" didn't have enough pizzazz) seems a bit overdue, it has most certainly been worth the wait.
Your life as a sumo starts when you select your wrestler: you choose the gender (there are female sumo in real life too!), name, face/skin tone, mawashi (sumo thong) colour and home nation. This is followed by some questions about your preferred technique (striking versus pressing), which will determine your sumo's starting stats. Players familiar with the Japanese release will note that the country selection is vastly greater with Japan de-emphasised. In the original Japanese release your choices were Japan and… elsewhere. If you chose the former you were prompted to choose Japanese regions and then prefectures, with the foreign country choices being limited to America, Hawaii, Mongolia, Egypt, France, Spain and England. This localised release is much more international with the USA, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, India and a dozen European countries to choose from in addition to Japan (though without the ability to drill down to the local level).
Once created, you can start bulking-up by your wrestler by playing a food ("chanko") eating mini-game or training in one of following three areas: Stomping, Striking (tsuppari, the palm thrust) and Sparring – each with a corresponding mini-game. Every one of these mini-games affects your "Heart" stat (represented by a smiley face) and will increase two other stats – all of which have an impact upon your wrestler's performance in the all-important tournaments.
In the chanko mini-game the object is to click on groups of squares in a grid that have images of meat, veg or bowls. Every time you click on an ingredient, an entry appears in a column over the head of your seated wrestler. When you've clicked one group of each, a big bowl of food will drop down on a table in front of the sumo for them to chow down on. The size of the bowl is determined by the number of connected squares were selected: e.g., clicking on a group of two veg followed by one meat and two dishes will result in a small bowl; if you select larger groupings then you get bigger bowls and more calories. Selecting a new set of items before your wrestler finishes eating gets you a "refill" bonus; otherwise new blocks drop into the grid replacing the ones previously selected. The game ends when all the lines in the list are filled or one of the ingredients exceeds the number of slots in its list column. The more calories the better (too few and you'll lose weight). When the score is totalled, the amount of weight gain will be displayed and your sumo will visibly increase his waistline. Your stable master will recommend eating chanko every other tournament, which is a good idea since training exercises will cause you to lose weight whilst increasing your other stats.
The Stomp mini-game sees your sumo standing on one leg with the other high in the air. While here, the screen image will start to tilt left and right; when this happens, things become unsteady and you need to tilt the remote in the opposite direction to stabilise the sumo. If done successfully, the stability gauge at the bottom of the screen will increase; when a positive number appears, press and your wrestler will slam their foot down and switch to the other leg. The higher the number in the gauge and the more times this is achieved, the better the resulting score and stat increase.
The Strike mini-game involves a side view of your sumo and a set number of bouncing rice bales coming towards them. You’re prompted to either press or , and pressing the indicated button just after the fourth bounce will result in a tsuppari thrust destroying the bale; time it too early or too late and your sumo gets a face full of rice stalks! The more bales destroyed, the higher your score and the more the linked stats increase.
Training in the Sparring mini-game is much like the regular tournaments with a ring in a gym and an iron-man setup. Here your sumo will face one opponent after another within a fixed time limit. Opponents get steadily more difficult to defeat until you're either thrown out of the ring yourself or the clock runs down. The only real difference in play is that you're able to perform finishing moves at any time; not just when your grab gauge is maxed out (which is the case in tournaments).
After partaking in one of the training sessions, a tournament starts. Consisting of two sets of five bouts each, with a break for training in-between, these are where you can exhibit your sumo prowess. In battles, the sumo wrestlers are rendered in 3D but viewed from the side, with the action limited to two dimensions – 2D crowds and famous backdrops (complete with landmarks) are pencilled in the background scenery. The wrestlers have a slightly cartoony look to them, with jiggle physics being appropriately employed for their bellies (it is Tecmo, after all!). (Note that this game is presented in 480i resolution, so you may want to confirm that resolution is supported if you’re running component.) Tying off the whole package is the largely traditional-sounding Japanese soundtrack that is interspersed with the slapping and slamming sound effects coming from the sumo – very entertaining!
The game itself sticks strongly to its 8-bit rooms: the Wii Remote is used on its side in a typical Famicom controller orientation for the most, with motion controls strictly limited to helping with lifts and throws in the fights. You use left and right on the to move backwards and forwards; to tsuppari and slap your opponent back towards the outer edge of the ring; and to grapple with them. It makes it sound almost simple.
Yet despite only using a couple directions on the and two buttons, there's a lot of moves you can pull off to defeat your opponent. You can parry and switch places with a charging opponent by pressing the in the direction opposite to them and pressing ; lift your opponent (if you're strong enough and they're not much heavier than you) by pressing up on the , holding and lifting the remote up; attempt a throw by pressing and tilting the remote left or right; or simply press the in their direction to try and push them out of bounds. Any time you grab your opponent you can repeatedly press to fill your "grab gauge" (though this does open you to being pushed or thrown) or to drain your opponent's grab gauge to break their grip. Filling the grab gauge will allow you to perform special finishing moves on opponents when they run out of health. Sumo with maxed out grab gauges will have flaming auras and can perform finishing moves of various types; often outside the bounds of reality, like planting your opponents head in the ground or sending them flying into the air!
There's a good amount of depth to the gameplay, with three basic moves that can be used to counter each other in a "strategic circle": Parry > Press > Throw (Lift) > Parry. Learning the counters is critical to long term success; especially since every time your sumo gets thrown, their health gets reduced for successive bouts in that segment of the tournament! After executing any bout-ending move, a transliteration of the Japanese term for it will be displayed with the English written below. Then, after a few seconds pause the winner is shown triumphant and the loser openly weeping, whilst stable masters are shown making comments with looks of ecstasy or despair depending upon the outcome. Individual bouts can be over in seconds – it all comes down to your sumo's skill level and how their stats stack up against the opponent’s.
After five bouts of a tournament are complete, the results are announced by TV presenters via a static cut scene. This is followed by a single chanko or training session and then by the final five bouts of that tournament. You’ll need to win eight bouts total in one tournament in order to get the winning trophy. After each five-bout tournament segment the game will auto-save – there is no option to save manually.
The end goal of the game is to rise through the ranks to attain the lofty title of Yokozuna. After you go through the lower ranks as a Juryo and graduate into the multi-tiered upper ranks of Makuuchi, you're given the option to swap your sumo's head for a Mii on your system – seeing your own likeness on a sumo body is pretty cool! Your current sumo will also appear in the start-up sequence following the title screen when you launch the game. Before each tournament you can find your sumo's name highlighted in the overall ranking list as you progress on your journey to the top – you'll need to win more than a dozen tournaments to get there, and the opposition will become steadily tougher the further you get – good luck!
If you want to play against a friend, there's a two-player mode that allows you to select from the wrestlers you've created (you can have up to four in the stable at any time) and in-game opponents – including a Spaniard called "El Gordo" and a Belgian named "Sprout", amongst others. You can elect to play 1, 3, 5, 10 or 15 bouts and then set your sumo's health levels, allowing for a skilled player to have a handicap to even the odds up – a nice feature more fighting games should have. Multiplayer is a great blast, providing you can find a sumo-loving friend!
If you have an interest in sumo wrestling or want to try a different kind of fighting game, you'll get a lot out of this one – even if it has a lame name! While the mini-games aren't amazing, the ability to improve your sumo gives the game a great RPG feel that will keep you coming back for more. There’s such a great sense of achievement here: from winning a bout without striking your opponent to defeating one of the upper-ranked Ozeki, you’ll want to always do your best. The fact alone that Eat! Fat! FIGHT! has been localised is amazing, and we applaud Temco’s efforts for making this title available.