Rage of the Gladiator was one of the best hidden gems from WiiWare. A Punch-Out style fighter with various characters influenced by Roman mythology sounds like a match made in Heaven, and thankfully, it was! Now after three years, the game finally makes its way to the 3DS. While I do miss the really cool MotionPlus controls from the original release, the game still manages to be fun and charming in its own right.
The story is fairly simple: Gracius, the main character, is framed for the murder of his father, the king, and is pit against various Roman gladiators and mythical beasts (and the occasional ninja). The story is only told in between beating the game’s three difficulty settings, but we do get some amusing taunting from each opponent before, during, and after the fight. The game has a great sense of humor, which is a really odd contrast to how straight-faced the cutscenes are presented.
The gameplay, as said earlier, is similar to Punch-Out, only you play the game from a first-person perspective and you get a weapon, a shield, and various charms. You can attack your opponent by either catching them off-guard after they attack, or by finding their various tells that leave them open for attacks. If you successfully knock them out three times, you win the match, but if you get knocked out three times, you lose and have to restart the match. The fights can get pretty intense when you try to figure out your opponent’s attack patterns and timing. I felt a great sense of satisfaction when I finally defeated them. I personally prefer the more physical nature of the original WiiWare release, but it’s hard to argue against using the Circle Pad/D-Pad and buttons, as they are far more accurate and responsive.
Whether or not you win the fight, you gain gold, which can be used for various upgrades. You can buy new weapons, shields and potions. You can also spend the gold on Skill Points, which give you special magic spells or allow you to upgrade abilities such as damage, health, auto-blocking, and more. You also gain one free Skill Point for every opponent you defeat. You’ll need these upgrades if you don’t want later fights to take an excruciating amount of time, but if you’re skilled enough you can still hold your own.
The graphics are quite nice, and are a little bit bolder than the WiiWare version. The only caveat is that the game runs at 30 frames-per-second compared to 60 in the WiiWare version. The 3D effects are a fair tradeoff, as it makes the already crisp graphics stand out even more, and makes it easier to judge the speed and distance of your opponent’s projectile attacks. The music is well composed and has an epic feel to it, but I was too busy paying attention to each fight to feel as if it made an impact on the experience.,/p>
If you skipped out on the original WiiWare release, this version is still an excellent choice. It performs slightly worse than its console counterpart, and fighting the same opponents in each difficulty level can get a bit annoying, but despite those two small complaints, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still an excellent game in its own right. The WiiWare release is still the ideal version in my eyes, but being able to have this game while you’re Roman, you’ll be glad-iator that you bought it.
...I’ll see myself out.