Yuke’s vision from previous eras holds value more than we realize. The genius of a good game engines is that it that it is easily adopted to modern consoles.
Nintendo and THQ understand this. That’s why THQ and developer Yuke’s are building AEW: Fight Forever with an AKI-inspired game engine. WWE No Mercy Director Hideyuki Iwashita is advising on the project, and THQ’s reimagining of the unmistakable AKI engine is exactly what the game set out to achieve with WWE Day of Reckoning 2 in 2005. Yuke’s a game by most accounts, is the forgotten spiritual successor to WWE No Mercy. Maybe we just never paid enough attention.
Part one of this two-part feature argues that Day of Reckoning 2 is a quintessential Nintendo GameCube sports classic.
WWE Day of Reckoning 2 was developed by Yuke’s and published by THQ in 2005 for the Nintendo GameCube. I will refer to its core game engine(s) as the Yuke’s engine.
If Nintendo is synonymous with simple controls and refined gameplay, THQ adopts these same principles. Nintendo sports titles from the N64 and GameCube eras deliver mechanics that are still used in today’s sports games. This includes No Mercy’s grappling engine, and Day of Reckoning 2’s simulation interpretation of the grappling system thus fitting perfectly at the heart of the Nintendo sports portfolio. Lastly, I’ll contend that THQ and Yuke’s have improved the game flow for future iterations of Yuke’s engine. Something that AEW’s: Fight Forever is set to take advantage.
The Nintendo Sports Formula
WWE Day of Reckoning 2 is a classic Nintendo GameCube sports title. The spiritual successor to WWE No Mercy offers smooth game play wrestling that competes with modern-day fight games.
Nintendo is subjectively the king of gameplay. It’s why I love Nintendo. The iconic software company balance both simplified controls and deep learning curves. These traits resonate with many gamers, and the blueprint is why I find the classic Nintendo 64 sports titles brilliant.
Similar to Japan’s elegantly engineered bullet trains, Nintendo’s games are engineering feats in computerized form. Nintendo’s games score top marks in gameplay and design in any era or platform. The Kyoto-based developer and publisher prioritize imagination, depth, and tact over realistic visuals.
These reasons are why Nintendo sports games can thrive as deep, rewarding sports gaming experiences. WWE Day of Reckoning 2, a Nintendo GameCube exclusive by THQ, is a prime example. DOR2 blends NFL Blitz-style hits with simulation sports gaming. It delicately balances easy controls with rewarding depth and strategy. DOR2 is trained by the N64 classics, and I believe it performs above its weight class.
The best Nintendo sports games deploy game mechanics that are leveraged cross-generationally. Similarly, THQ and Yuke’s are taking full advantage.
WWE No Mercy and the famous “AKI-engine,” developed 25 years ago by AKI and Asmik Ace under the direction of Hideyuki Iwashita. The unprecedented AKI engine mastered console wrestling with an N64 controller that featured just one joystick. WWE No Mercy struck the right notes with all demographics. THQ gave gamers what we wanted and let us button-mash, throw down ring-rumbling specials, and taunts all day. We cannot forget the taunts which impact a player’s charisma and influence their ability to perform morale-shattering moves. WWE No Mercy is one of the first games to include emotional-based health meters in a game. This was unprecedented for its time.
Classic gameplay engines like No Mercy’s endure in great part because the way we play games is primarily the same , with a controller. It stands to reason then that developers today must map controls just as they did years ago. The control design is especially vital now as animations become more realistic. When Nintendo’s GameCube launched in 2001, the controls schemes barely slipped outside of the wake of the Nintendo 64’s iconic controller. Hence, AKI’s holy trinity of grappling, striking, and submissions still has serious juice left today. THQ and Yuke’s took full advantage in 2005 with the Yuke’s engine, and are poised to redeliver in 2022.
But even with a refreshed take on the grappling engine in WWE Day of Reckoning 2, the GameCube was never seriously considered by sports gamers. The GameCube lacked the processing power of Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. The ports from third parties were and still are afterthoughts, and consequently, Nintendo sports titles are considered lower-grade because of the lack of graphical fidelity. Even to this day, Nintendo is not positioned in the minds of gamers as a sports gaming console. Perhaps we are making a mistake.
Day of Reckoning 2 does not feature premier lighting and graphical overlays but don’t let it fool you. There are thoughtful game mechanics hidden in DOR2. And if you like science, the game has an endless animation library with realistic movements, locomotion, and a body-weight system to simulate Newton’s laws of physics. I especially enjoy the submission system because the holds look extra dramatic even comical, as facial expressions deliver round after round of painstaking nuance. With all that the sim tools in DOR2 still perform well even in 2022.
The Simcade Sweetspot
The best-performing Nintendo GameCube sports games, as rated on Metacritic, are action-heavy. The list includes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 because all roads lead back to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and SSX 3. DOR2 somehow doesn’t make the cut but I’m including it anyway. Interestingly, all three games possess cross-cultural, international appeal. Wrestling and snowboarding resonate in various territories, particularly in Japan.
Mass appeal is not necessarily bad for sports games when they play as well as these action sports games. This is something EA Sports has attempted for years. I call such games like this “simcade,” because they balance simulation and arcade gameplay to varying degrees.
A Forgotten Nintendo Sports Exclusive
The one Nintendo exclusive in the group is WWE Day of Reckoning 2. I argue Nintendo’s exclusive partnership with THQ and Yuke’s should have been leveraged harder in the GameCube era. Instead, Nintendo continues to rely on third-party sports games and lacks Nintendo sports exclusives designed with the Nintendo ethos. In contrast, 989 Studios became the home of Sony’s flagship baseball game, and Yuke’s DOR2 engine could have similarly been locked up by Nintendo. I believe it was and still is a premier piece of code.
Game sales aside, WWE Day of Reckoning 2 is proof that Nintendo hardware can perform perfectly well with the right partnerships and creative direction to hit on the Nintendo “simcade” formula. Irrespective of the era. Yuke’s DOR2 engine has aged almost 20 years and hits with the precision of a simulation 2K Sports title, with finishers fit for arcade lovers alike.
Day of Reckoning 2 embodies everything Nintendo asks from its third-party publishers. And while Wii Sports titles performed well. Nintendo has never bridged the gap between simulation sports fans and casual, pick-up-and-play sports gamers quite like WWE No Mercy. WWE Day of Reckoning 2 was a missed opportunity to carry the iconic No Mercy torch.
A Refined Grappling Engine
WWE Day of Reckoning 2 leverages its own Yukes engine, which embodies the Nintendo formula, and moves the gameplay forward.
WWE Day of Reckoning 2 feels like an attempt to emulate what was done on N64, but on what was a new platform with more horsepower. By most accounts, the GameCube was not a strategic platform to program for, but Day of Reckoning 2 delivers potent combat sport. The game may not possess the polish of its predecessors, but Day of Reckoning 2 is a digital animation achievement. THQ and Yuke’s deliver a buttery smooth fight system. The fight choreography – the way animations play out and how the space in the ring is utilized — competes with anyone in the genre.
THQ’s fighter is an anthology of wrestling moves. Its animation library unofficially features over 1000+ animations. I challenge you to create a wrestler and sample the move sets to see for yourself. DOR2 is more simulation than arcade — more technical than flash. I’m honestly impressed by how it plays and the depth of its offerings, revisiting it in 2022.
Day of Reckoning 2 is a prime example of how to build from the foundation up. Nintendo continues to develop the same line of iconic titles, THQ and Yuke’s are pursuing a similar track with the Yuke’s engine. Day of Reckoning 2, with its simulation-style game engines, play a critical role in where the genre is today. AEW: Fight Forever is up next.
In summary, WWE Day of Reckoning 2 follows the recipe of WWE No Mercy and the Nintendo sports classics from the previous eras. THQ and Yuke’s have advanced the genre’s gameplay and the game finishes with sweet notes simulation sports gaming. Day of Reckoning 2 is a quintessential Nintendo sports title, one I feel the sports gaming community never truly respected.
That’s it for part one! Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed learning about WWE Day Reckoning by THQ and Yuke’s, part two will explore the Yuke’s game engine(s) in more detail – consider it a preview of what to expect in AEW: Fight Forever.
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