In late 1997, in the land of Nippon, the Nintendo 64 got its first sumo wrestling game. And, for no real reason, we’re celebrating it today!
Right, so obviously this thing never did make it out in the west. But that isn’t to suggest not all very Japanese games didn’t make it to the likes of the UK.
For example, the thoroughly bizarre Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon did make it out here. And baffled anyone who played it.
64 Ōzumō (64大相撲—Rokujūyon Ōzumō) isn’t quite as nuts—it presents its sumo wrestling world in cutesy fashion. Behold!
So, yes, it’s a cute sumo wrestling game. It seems a bit dubious to aim something like this at Japanese kids, but hey ho. Different cultural norms etc.
Developed by Bottom Up (whom we presume is now defunct, as you never hear from the company anymore), its release was only in Japan.
So the only access we’ve ever had to it is through N64 Magazine and YouTube clips of anyone who imported the game.
The title was reviewed by journalist Max Everingham in our favourite Nintendo mag.
At the time (1998) he was living in Japan, so reported on it for the rest of the UK staff—it was his only review for them. But he loved it, providing a strong score.
Back then, the only way to play such a title was to import it. And that was costly and expensive. These days, digital downloads make that much easier.
But importing was pretty common in the 1990s. Some Japanese titles just didn’t make it out in Europe or North America.
And didn’t do so until over 20 years later.
Frankly, we had more chance to play 64 Ōzumō than the Nintendo/Squaresoft collaboration. And that’s a bad thing? Nope. Look at how cute it is! Daaaw.
The goal of the game is to win sumo wrestling fights. And that involves shoving other sumo wrestlers out of a ring.
You also have options to train your fighter and monitor their diet (sumo wrestlers often indulge in a stew called chanko-nabe).
That ensures you’re bulky enough to do well in the battles.
It’s all a huge deal in Japan, of course, although the country has embraced international sports such as Formula 1, football, and baseball.
Sumo wrestling’s stars are treated like deities. The Mongolian born Hakuhō Shō, for example, is one of the biggest names there right now.
And you’ll also find the likes of Asashōryū Akinori, Harumafuji Kōhei, Kakuryū Rikisaburō, Konishiki Yasokichi, and Bob Geldof.
So we should imagine the game was a hit—there was a sequel, suggesting so. The title? 64 Ōzumō 2. Nice.
But, even now, we can’t really expect to see sumo wrestling games on the likes of the Nintendo Switch, PS4, or XBox One out here in the west.
And that’s probably a bad thing, as 64 Ōzumō looks like good fun.
Of course, over in Japan there are plenty of sumo wrestling games. It’s just we never hear of them as there’s no real market.
Two of the first were from the arcades, with Oozumou: The Grand Sumo and Syusse Oozumo released in 1984.
Developer Tecmo was behind many of these early titles, clearly pushing on with a manic lust for everything sumo.
Sega’s Mega Drive enjoyed a more advanced outing with Aah! Harimanada in 1993. It also went on to make its way to the Game Gear and Game Boy in the same year.
So, a bit more advanced, eh? But, still, in the west the closest we got to sumo wrestling action was with E. Honda in Street Fighter II Turbo. For shame!
Of course, as the technology advanced so did the game quality. And sumo wrestling games started getting the serious treatment with Sony’s PlayStation 2.
In 2000, sumo fans got Nippon Ōzumō Kakutōhen from industry legend Konami. Behold the lifelike graphics in this clip!
Okay, so that’s a feature from National Geographic. But we thought it was about time to offer some proper insight into sumo wrestling.
It may not be much of a thing outside of Japan, but you’ve got to consider the respect their love of this ancient tradition. Inashi!