Despite the fact that while growing up we were fans of professional wrestling, our knowledge of lucha libre is somewhere approaching zero. It is not that we actively avoided Mexican professional wrestling in our fanboy days, it is much more that we didn’t search it out, especially with the WWF and Hulkamania running wild (and we’ve just dated ourselves). In recent years, lucha libre has grown in popularity and, as we saw at Konami’s Gamers’ Day, there are now videogames devoted to the sport. Well, there is one game anyway – Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring. The game is a licensed product, using wrestlers from the AAA lucha libre league, and we took it for a little test drive.
Now, while the sport is expanding in this country there is certainly a large possibility that you’re like us and don’t really know your lucha libre from your Nacho Libre. Well, one of the things that we liked best about this new title is that it repeatedly provides you with a little bit of the history of the sport complete with footage of old battles. Of course, while the history is nice, this is a wrestling game and consequently that’s where the truly good stuff needs to lie, right?
Starting off, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring allows you to make a character – a luchador if you will – and then decide whether he is going to follow the path of the técnicos or rudos (that would be good guys or bad guys, respectively). There are several matches of increasing difficulty and you’re given little hints in advance about how to proceed. Those hints aren’t hugely helpful while you’re in the midst of a two-on-one handicap match, but it’s nice to think that they’ll be able to help before a match begins.
Opting to try the técnicos side, we were quickly lulled into a false sense of security in our first match as we repeatedly bashed our opponent with punches, kicks, and even the occasional steel chair (use it twice though and you’re disqualified). As the match progressed, the poor rudo was dreadfully hurt – we could tell this because his little icon in the corner of the screen had turned red on all of his various body parts indicating a high level of damage. The rudo, we like to think, had no idea where he was or what he was doing, what we know for certain is that our pounding of him was much loved by the fans. In fact, the fans play a crucial part in the game – the more fan love you get (and you get it by pummeling your opponent and showboating), the stronger the moves you can perform. Once your popularity meter is full, you can perform your signature move and really clobber your enemy.
Attacks outside of basic kicks, punches, and high-flying acrobatics are done by initiating a grapple with your opponent. Once you’ve started a grapple (either strong or weak depending on how much popularity you have), varying combinations of buttons perform suplexes, submission holds, and all other manner of punishment-inflicting brutality. The system seemed very well thought out, but that didn’t make it any easier to execute some of the moves as we progressed to harder and harder matches (it felt as though the tougher the opponent, the more hurt they have to be in order to successfully execute moves).
Despite the nice grappling method, luchadores being able to – literally – dance in the ring in order to gain popularity, and the ability to inflict copious amounts of damage on an enemy, we were slightly concerned by the lethargic pace at which the luchadores walked around both inside and outside the ring. It was simple enough to get the characters to run, but covering any amount of space walking took far too long. It was almost as though the luchadores forgot that they were fighting for their honor and not just out for a stroll around the park. As we were seeing an incomplete version of the title, it remains to be seen if they’ll pick up the pace for the final release, but we definitely have our fingers crossed.
One of the other big aspects of the game was not available for use – online multiplayer. We were told that in online multiplayer not only will you be able to compete against others but that you will also be able to select whether or not the match will be for your mask. And, once your character loses their mask, that’s it, there’s no getting it back. Progress far enough in the game and you’ll be able to make a new one, but the mask you lost will be gone forever.
Right now, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring looks like it’s coming together quite nicely. The title is due to be released October 12, and we’ll have more news about it as it comes in.