The rebirth of a classic!

Back in 1987 Tecmo released Tsuppari Oozumou for the Famicom. This was the first (and one of the only) sumo wrestling games to come to home consoles and was basically a button masher at heart where the object, like real sumo, is to force your opponent out of the ring or put him on his back like a fat unruly turtle. A sequel followed on the Super Famicom, but the character design was lacking compared to the original and it's pretty clear that Tsuppari Oozumou Wii Heya is more of a revamp of the original game than anything that followed it.

Your first task is to create your sumo. You can have up to four in your stable of wrestlers. Initially you pick a name and then another name (not sure which is what or what the other one is -- maybe forename, surname or since it's Japan the reverse?) using hiragana, katakana or romaji. Then you pick your sumo name using 1-4 kanji characters. Next are what I think is your birthdate and your nation of origin, either Japan or "other" which gives you more choices including the USA and England (the other countries were in kanji and I couldn't read them, but I expect China and Korea to be included). Finally you choose the look of your sumo in terms of a head, each with different hair/skin colour and then the colour of your thong from a veritable rainbow of 8 choices from white to black. Now we're into the game menu. Your sumo is pictured next to a vertical menu. You can choose to view stats or quit out, choose some mini-games to play (one by itself and then three grouped under one option) or jump into a tournament.

You must eat to grow into a might sumo!

The first mini-game is probably the most important: The eating game! You need to put on weight to be able to throw those big sumo boys out of the ring and starting out at a paltry 110kg you better do it quick! Sitting expectantly you click the squares featuring icons representing three different ingredients for your dinner (coconut, meat or cabbage) from a columns-like layout using the A button after highlighting them with the pointer. Each time you click one all connected squares with that picture disappear, and you get a corresponding symbol entered in a "notepad" above your character which has one column for each ingredient. Get one of each in a row and a giant bowl of food drops down which your sumo promptly consumes. Each bowl eaten results in a displayed calorie count incrementing which represents your score and once all rows on the notepad are filled it's game over and the results assessed. If you got a lot of calories your weight will increase and your character will become more rotund; do poorly and you'll lose weight! It's not terribly difficult: you just want to ensure you've got large groupings of icons touching every time you choose an ingredient to get a bigger score; it's mostly just a way to build up your character.

Another menu option gives you a choice of three exercises which are addtional minigames. The first is a balance game where the screen tilts as your character stands on one leg; you're supposed to tilt the wiimote to steady your character who will then switch to the other leg after you maintain stability for a given length of time. To be honest I'm completely rubbish at this. The screen is constantly tilting back and forth; there's no real sense of feedback and it's nigh impossible to balance. Do poorly on this and lose weight, so I tend to avoid it.

In the second game you press 1 and 2 as prompted to thrust your right or left hand to smash hay bales that come bouncing to you. Again, not a great game as it's hard to sense when you're supposed to hit the button, so I end up getting a face full of hay over and over again. Losing weight is bad, so I also avoid this minigame.

Control, control, you must learn control!

The last minigame is a sparring match against a sumo opponent. Every time you push him out of the ring he comes back stronger until finally you get knocked out -- not bad, but I can do that in the game itself, so mostly I just stick with the food.

After completing any one of these mini-games you play a tournament. Each tournament consists of a series of matches against five or six different sumo from around the world. Every so often the tournament is a ranked one which shows a nice banner with your placement in the league before the match starts in one of several arenas. The entire game is controlled only with the wiimote on its side (except for the pointer-driven eating game above) Famicom-style with the d-pad controlling movement toward or away from your opponent, the 1 and 2 button being used to slam or slap your opponent and the + button pausing the action. Using the buttons combined with various d-pad movements you can push against your opponent, perform hand thrusts against their chest, grab their thongs, pick them up, do throws and apparently even super moves (I have had my head slammed through the floor once or twice). Your opponent will counter you and you need to counter their moves to stay in the ring. Getting hit takes down a life or power bar below each character; when a character has no arrows remaining in their gauge they can be thrown out of the ring, though a super move (indicated by the character flashing) will do extra damage. Get slammed to the ground or shoved/thrown out of the ring and you lose the match; do the same to your opponent and win! Do well in a tournament and watch your ranking go up in the next ranked tournament -- you may even win some trophies!

I know I lost some change around here somewhere...there it is!

In all honesty the game is basically a button masher, but button mashing with sumo is somehow more satisfying than doing so with a conventional fighter so I'm actually enjoying it. After the first ranked tournament you unlock the ability to swap your character head with a Mii head -- seeing my Mii caricature on the body of a sumo is worth the 1000 points right there! In addition to the tournament mode you also have the option of playing a two-player game using some system-created sumos or playing any of the four mini-games by themselves (though I'm uncertain as to why you'd want to).

Tecmo never localised this game for non-Japanese territories as far as I know and I see little reason they would do different here. It's stayed in the top 20 WiiWare downloads in Japan since it's release mid-April and you can count me among the converts; with any luck some intrepid Western publisher will decide to take a chance on something different and bring this overseas. The mini-games are lacking (unless I'm just doing it wrong), but the core game is pretty nice.

Long live sumo!