It might seem strange that there has not been a single wrestling game on Virtual Console in the West so far, but when you really think about it, it makes sense. Almost every single wrestling title out there features the likenesses of real people, meaning it would take some serious effort and money to rerelease them. Games with made-up characters are of course much easier, but there's not as many. Natsume Championship Wrestling is is one of them, however, and it's a fairly good start for VC wrestling games.
Truth be told, this actually was a licensed title when originally released. Originally created by NCS, the makers of Cho Aniki, the game was originally the first title in the Japan-exclusive Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling series. Fairly popular, it lasted for eight games, each starring the likenesses of several moderately well-known wrestlers from around the world.
Eventually, Natsume offered to publish the first game in North America, but as it didn't want to go through the trouble of paying for the likenesses, it modified all the sprites and simply changed the wrestlers into fictional characters, though they still have some minor resemblances to the people they were originally based on.
Like pretty much any wrestling game, you've got the option of trying to win a tournament, or simply playing a quick exhibition match with a friend. Exhibition matches are pretty self-explanatory, but there are four different tournaments: regular, tag team, round robin and, of course, round robin tag team. For those not aware, round robin means that instead of only fighting a few opponents altogether, you'll fight every single opponent there is. You can also pick a difficulty level for each of the tournaments.
The strangest thing about Natsume Championship Wrestling is that, despite being released later, it actually has fewer selectable characters than its original form of Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling. That offered sixteen unique wrestlers, but here, you've only got a total of twelve. That doesn't mean the game is any less extensive, however: each fighter has a sizeable list of mostly unique moves at their disposal, with different moves of course being executable in different situations, like charging, grappling, being on top of the ropes and more.
One of NCW's major points is that both fighters have a very large health bar, which, when depleted, simply reveals another bar underneath. With six bars total, it can take a while before your opponent is worn out, but thankfully that also means the same goes for you. A welcome feature is that your health will actually regenerate, and the rate at which it does will increase the lower your remaining amount gets.
You won't lose even if you lose all your health, although it pretty much will be over for you: the only way to win in this game is to pin your opponent for three seconds, or keep them out of the ring for ten seconds. There are also no rules to abide by, so feel free to go all out on your opponent until their health is low enough to throw and keep them out of the ring or pin them.
The game is fairly standard graphics-wise, with decent-sized sprites and a loosely animated crowd, though there's nothing too amazing. The music is actually pretty catchy, with each fighter having their own theme song in exhibition matches. The themes are the same as in the original Japanese game, minus those belonging to the four missing characters, of course.
For anybody who's been waiting for a wrestling game to hit Virtual Console in the West, Natsume Championship Wrestling is a pretty good 16-bit offering, with a wide array of moves and twelve pretty different fighters. There's not exactly many other wrestling games that could easily come to the service, so don't get your hopes up for other, better titles to appear. Either get this one or dig out your N64 and that WWF game you used to love so much.