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Jeff Jarret "bought in" to WrestleQuest "from day one"

Jeff Jarret says that WrestleQuest is a "love letter to the pro wrestling of the '80s and '90s

With both WWE and AEW releasing their big simulation wrestling games this year, it’s refreshing to see an indie studio take on the world of pro wrestling. WrestleQuest by Mega Cat Studios is a JRPG set in a toybox world featuring major stars from the ‘80s and ‘90s like Andre the Giant and Macho Man Randy Savage.

One such star who is still actively wrestling to this day is Jeff Jarrett, who worked closely with the Mega Cat team in bringing this journey to life. We catch up with Double J, as well as James Deighan and Zack Manko from Mega Cat Studios about how the game came together, with Jarrett being immediately enamored with the concept.

WrestleQuest Randy Savage fighting a Dinosaur

“I wasn’t part of the genesis of WrestleQuest,” Jarrett says, “but when [James and I] connected, we just really hit it off. From a creative perspective, with me being a third-generation promoter/wrestler, it’s always been the old adage of ‘Oh, that’s fake stuff’. Of course, it’s scripted entertainment, but the magic we do is based on authenticity and [ensuring you can] really feel this emotionally, and WrestleQuest did that from the beginning.

“WrestleQuest is a love letter to the professional wrestling of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and I love a good romance novel, so I bought in from day one.”

Picking the right wrestlers to feature was crucial to making Wrestlequest work, and Deighan says that while the team was careful in selecting the roster, his own love of the sport couldn’t help but play into it.

“I was raised by wrestling,” Deighan explains. “Our whole team was founded and based in Pittsburgh, and we’re a big sports city. The big joke in our household was that we were a wrestling family – which my dad never lived down.

“So it was hard to choose my favorite wrestlers because it was my introduction to pop culture and it was so nostalgic, and that’s what we wanted to capture. We went through all of the things we think will fit. [We wanted wrestlers that] had high nostalgia factor, feel like a JRPG character that can be over-the-top, and can work through the genre of JRPG, which is all about making the character classes resonate with wrestlers.

WrestleQuest jungle statue of Jake "The Snake" Roberts

“If someone’s favorite wrestler is Junkyard Dog, how do we make sure that there’s enough screentime and pop for JYD as there is for Andre the Giant? Then also making sure we’re being respectful to all the other players like WWE and AEW. This is a fandom moment. One of my favorite things about when I first met Jeff is that he said ‘Ultimately, we’re all wrestling fans first’, and that’s been the thread with WrestleQuest.”

While the team didn’t work specifically with any of the major wrestling promotions, plenty of individual wrestlers were consulted during development, and the team are proud of the overall positive impression they got from everyone.

“WrestleQuest really resonated with a lot of the wrestlers because of the DNA of the design,” Deighan says. “Even without them being huge gamers, I think it resonates with a story-driven, character-driven story. Like, how do we take everything that exists through these gimmicks and these stories through the high fantasy world we created?

“It’s really over-the-top. Like now Andre the Giant is an actual giant and he can snap the ring in half – those things are what makes WrestleQuest really interesting to explore.”

WrestleQuest match gameplay

Speaking as one such consulted wrestler, Jarrett adds, “The very first conversations I had were about the IP that was going to be engaged, and when you start with Andre the Giant, you don’t really need to hear any other names. But then, Macho Man, Road Warriors, Jake the Snake, JYD, and Soul Man Rocky Johnson – his son [The Rock] has done pretty good for himself – so when you just think of the lineage of everybody in the game, it’s five stars all the way around.”

Jarrett has gone through many gimmicks over the years. Teaming with Owen Hart and fighting Chyna for the Intercontinental title in WWE, then jumping to WCW where he’d become a more realistic heel character who won multiple world championships. Still, it’s the classic 1993 country singer gimmick that features in WrestleQuest, with his iconic cowboy hat and guitar that he’d break over people’s heads.

“I had, not final say, but input,” Jarrett explains. “It’s a fan-first mentality, but Zack, his creative juices nailed everything. It’s a love letter that you emotionally get engaged with.”

“When writing a part of any of the wrestlers that we have in the game, it’s about nailing that authenticity,” Manko adds. “Take Jeff, for example. He’s a third-generation promoter, life-long heel, so it’s about presenting the ethos of each persona in a way that matches the RPG sensibilities. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to a lot of promos from all these wrestlers and let me tell you, that’s more powerful than coffee to get you going.”

WrestleQuest cutting a promo

Taking the technical flow of a pro wrestling match and turning it into an engaging JRPG combat system is no small feat, but the team at Mega Cat came up with a great turn-based, quick-time event system that hinges heavily on the crowd’s enjoyment of a match – Manko explains how they reached this system.

“When we were conceptualizing the game, one of the first things we realized was how much of a shared foundation there is between JRPGs and pro-wrestling,” Manko says. “They both have this focus on story, larger-than-life characters, and the spectacle of combat. So once we drew those connections we took it a step further.

“It’s about looking at those JRPG tropes and characteristics through a wrestling lens. The biggest example of that is the combat. We wanted to maintain that turn-based system, but then wrestleify it to make it more engaging. You can’t just sit back and spam the attack button, and every battle takes place in front of a live crowd, so you have to keep them interested. It’s designed to make you stay engaged with the fight.”

While both the WWE and AEW games use a star-rating system to judge matches, WrestleQuest is the first to truly bake it into the flow of gameplay. Jarrett talks more about what he’d like to see the wider world of wrestling video games adopt from WrestleQuest.

WrestleQuest match gameplay

“In professional wrestling, we’re a hybrid – we’re not true sports and we’re not all entertainment,” Jarrett says. “The simulation games go so hard down into the sporting side of things, but WrestleQuest is the essence of why anyone is a wrestling fan. If you’re just a fight fan, then you’re going to like boxing or MMA, but it’s the pomp and circumstance, the story, the characters, and the matchups – that’s why we’re gonna have 85,000 people in Wembley Stadium, and that’s why I think the game has resonated. It’s truly the launch of a franchise, the way I see it.”

Since his 1986 debut, Jarrett has done just about every job imaginable in the pro wrestling world as both a performer and promoter, but he’s still looking to push his legacy further. He remains an active wrestler on AEW’s roster to this day, and being so heavily involved with WrestleQuest is a big part of that.

“At a very early age, my grandmother was the one who said ‘Learn to do everything you possibly can’” Jarrett says. “So I set up the ring, I refereed. Obviously in those days, it was very basic, but now I love being a part of [Mega Cat Studios] because it’s truly the extension of what I started watching with my dad at 8 years of age.

“I love the gaming hat that I’m getting the opportunity to wear right now because it’s truly an extension of what I am, who I am, and the legacy that I hope to leave. The WrestleQuest franchise launches [August 8] and I think the sky’s the limit, I really do.”

Wrestlequest gameplay

WrestleQuest’s launch comes just a few weeks ahead of AEW All In at Wembley Stadium on August 27. Ticket sales are already over 77,000, and are fast approaching the all-time attendance record for a pro-wrestling show. Naturally, both Jarrett and the Mega Cat team are excited about the event and getting to make WrestleQuest a part of it.

“We’re gonna see history being made,” Jarrett says. “I just got back from London – I did a PR tour over there – I’ve been coming to London since 1993 and I’ve never seen the city have that kind of buzz and excitement. I just think everything has aligned, including WrestleQuest. When you think of all the moving parts that’s going on right now in pro wrestling, I think Wembley is making such a statement for AEW. It says volumes that we’re in a unique era of professional wrestling and WrestleQuest is a part of that.”

“There are a few bugs in WrestleQuest because I’ve been skipping my due diligence of testing so I can follow the AEW official subreddit,” Deighan adds, “and there are some press interviews next week that we’ve asked to move to different days so we could be fully fan engaged for everything that’s happening with AEW leading up to that event.

“We have a real problem, we turned it into WrestleQuest.”

WrestleQuest launches August 8, 2023, on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.