[Written By// @K1ngEljay]
I have to admit something.
I’m a huge fighting game fan. Don’t get me wrong, there’s several genres of games I enjoy. I can tank 20+ hours into a role-playing game without even knowing if I like it or not (like, The Witcher 3, for example), I’m always down to pick up a shooter and blow enemies away, and sports games (mainly basketball, I’ll be honest) are always good for ruining friendships.
However, there is something much more intimate about being able to pick up a controller, hand your friend the other one, and beat the crap out of them with minimal excuses. You can’t blame lag, hit markers, your dog, stupid A.I. that wouldn’t run the correct play, or elements like we’re prone to do in RPGs. All of that goes out of the window when you have punch, kick, and block buttons and two characters with health, and your objective is to drain theirs.
At the same time, I thoroughly enjoy games that are aware of their surroundings. Some TV shows and even Anime are like that, making clever references to pop culture or music. I got to watch Black Lagoon for the first time the other day, and they made a Brett Favre reference that made me laugh. Those type of things add a layer of replay value for me.
So when games combine the best of both worlds, I – for lack of a better phrase – flip out. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter had me in my emotions. Super Smash Bros. came out for the Nintendo 64 and I was running around like an idiot with my cousins:
BRUH, YOU CAN PLAY WITH PIKACHU AND MARIO IN THE SAME GAME. N*GGA DID YOU HEAR ME?! SAMUS IS A GIRL, BUT SHE IN SUPER SMASH BROS. WHAT IS LIFE I CAN’T EVEN
I essentially thought that was as high as we could get in life, but then one day I stumbled across Def Jam: Vendetta. For those that don’t know, it was a wrestling game that combined the current rap roster from Def Jam and the newly minted Def Jam South with other artists, celebrities, and models and made them all go crazy with over-the-top wresting moves. In short, it was a precursor for greatness based off a simple premise, but there was a wrinkle.
I don’t like wrestling games.
I played it a bit with my friends, but the hype for it wore down extremely quick. As big of a gaming fan as I was and as big of a rap fan I was becoming, I just didn’t care for it. I held the game for a while, then gave it away to my cousin (who broke it three weeks later, whatever).
That’s why it caught me off guard when Def Jam: Fight For NY struck me as fun. The M-Rating jumped at me (because, kids love M-Rated games, and don’t let them tell you any different), but the more I saw about the game, the more I wanted to give it a try. My parents thought it was a basic wrestling game, so they didn’t trip like my dad did when he found my Clipse album (I’ll up that story later).
A few hours later, I felt like I had stumbled onto the greatest thing in the world. I didn’t realize how great a game it was until a few weeks ago, when I was linked to a compilation video. The more I watched, the more I realized that this was arguably the greatest wrestling game ever created, and, JUST MAYBE, one of the best games of our generation.
Let me explain.
In gamer’s terms, wrestling games are pretty simple. Everything’s a 50/50 chance, basically: if you’re getting punched you can block it, if you’re being grabbed you can reverse it, if you’re being pinned you can break out of it, etc. So those games with limited options didn’t really appeal to me like that. That being said, Def Jam: Fight For NY had wrestling mechanics, but it didn’t feel 100% like a wrestling game because of how brutal the combat was. There was no traditional ring to fight in, the moves had an essence of savagery to it, and the KOs from the special attacks – dubbed “Blazin’ Moves” – literally makes you cringe (as seen above).
The controls were pretty solid as far as wrestling games go. There’s never a moment where you felt like your controls were going to be the reason you lost, yet it was momentum based as ever. If you’re getting pummeled, you know you’re going to get disrespected with a Blazin’ move if you don’t find a chair or a wall to jump off and grab the match back by the horns.
The best part about the game, however, was the roster and it’s inclusion into pop culture. Check this list out: Bubba Sparxx, Method Man, Redman, Ludacris, David Banner, Xzibit, WC, Snoop Dogg, Trejo, Capone, Noreaga, Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Bone Crusher, Scarface, Shawnna, Joe Budden, O.E (Omar Epps), Fat Joe, Fam-Lay, Erick Sermon, Crazy Legs, Busta Rhymes, Freeway, Flava Flav, Slick Rick, Havoc, Prodigy, Ice-T, Warren G, and MORE… As a Hip-Hop head, just looking at the roster can make you dizzy, and they were all in the same game and a semi-cohesive story.
Think about it a second. You could have Flava Flav Vs. Snoop Dogg, Havoc Vs. Prodigy (which is kind of a real thing now, I guess), Scarface Vs. Slick Rick (MY GOD, BRUH), Ludacris vs. Lil’ Flip (since T.I. couldn’t get into this one), Elephant Man vs. Sean Paul (no one would pronounce the letter ‘H’, ever), Capone and Noreaga vs. Erick Sermon and Sticky Fingaz (MY GOD, BRUH, WHAT), Joe Budden vs. Method Man (which, again, kind of happened)… You see where I’m going with this? There’s a level of surreality to the roster that may never happen again, especially if you base it off real people in entertainment. Granted, the newest iteration of Super Smash Bros just completely went batsh*t crazy and added Cloud (from Final Fantasy), Ryu (from Street Fighter), and Bayonetta (from, uh, Bayonetta) to the SAME GAME, but those are made-up characters.
Scarface and Ludacris were at a time competing in my head for my favorite rapper of all time. And they’re in the same game, alongside my favorite duo in rap (Meth/Red), and more. To top that off, there was an elaborate story that included most of the characters that was dramatic to play.
Oh, and the critics loved it, as well. Check the scores below, with links to their reviews:
- Gamespot | 8.7 / 10
- IGN | 8.7 / 10
- Game Informer | 8.5 / 10
- GameZone | 9 / 10
- GamePro | 4 Stars (out of 5)
It’s not really an exaggeration to those music heads that grew up in the PS2 console era that this is one of those time-defining games. The inclusion of characters, pop culture, and simple controls made it stand out that way, and I think we should acknowledge it as such. It’s one of the few games that I’d love to see remade (not continued…redone, because Def Jam: Icon was not the move). Can you imagine that game online with the technology that we have now? It could ruin lives, friendships, and the like, and I’d be right there with Redman and Scarface, kicking fools in the nuts.
It’s only right.
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