Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes of the Ring Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 19, 2010
For those gamers out there who have been making petitions, staging rallies, and hosting weekly mixers to demand that someone, somewhere make a game based on the high-flying, uber-eccentric pageantry that is Mexican wrestling, aka lucha libre, then I have very good news; Konami has heard you, and the proof lies in the publisher’s upcoming fighting game, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes of the Ring.
Konami showed off the game at a recent Gamer’s Night event, and I had a chance to get a few rounds of smacking, grappling and pinning in (and then I got to play the game! Oh!), and despite some initial excitement about the idea of being able to pull off outrageously spectacular maneuvers with massive dudes in tiger masks, the execution ended up being rather disappointing.
Now, the only portion of the game I was allowed to see was a head-to-head fight, so I certainly can’t speak to the rest of the modes and the depth of the entire experience. In fact, during Konami’s presentation, and in our subsequent discussion with one of the game’s producers, there was a heavy emphasis on the character customization and online play, neither of which were on display.
The online matches sound particularly interesting since you can participate in “mask versus hair” (máscara contra cabellera) matches, in which the loser not only forfeits his mask, the ultimate shame in lucha libre, but he also has his head shaved right there in the ring. How this will play out in the actual game isn’t entirely clear, but any chance to utterly humiliate our own Jeffrey Kanjanapangka in a wrestling ring is worth careful consideration. The character customization sounds incredibly robust and fits perfectly with the overall mythos and attitude of lucha libre and its superhero-ish participants.
Heroes of the Ring certainly has style and plenty of creative channels feeding into it, but in practice, the game felt rather stiff and wasn’t nearly as satisfying I had hoped it would be. Your wrestler has all the standard moves you’d expect from a wrestling game (slap, kick, grab, etc.), in addition to special moves. In order to take advantage of your special moves though, you need the support of the crowd. To increase your popularity, you can taunt your opponent and/or dance around in a sexy, sexy fashion. Once you have enough popularity, you’re able to pull off your special move. When used at the right time, the specials can be devastating and many times lead to you winning the fight.
There are a number of button-specific sequences that occur during the course of bouts too. Should you find yourself pinned, a button will appear on screen and you have tap it as fast as you can before the ref counts you out. (A nice little detail: the refs will play favorites with the fighters, which can influence how fast or how slow they count down when someone is being pinned.) Also, when you get someone in a submission hold, you’ll be prompted to tap a button as well. Although, when I played, the button would come up at weird times, and I wouldn’t be able to tap fast enough to pull off the submission; and I’m a very fast tapper...
The atmosphere of the arena during a fight is definitely a high point for the game. The crowds hold up customizable signs, and their cheers and jeers nicely match the ebb and flow of fights. Sadly, from what I saw, the game is much less fun to play than it should be for a game about the amazing acrobatic and wildly high-flying madness of lucha libre. There’s still plenty of time for the game to work out these issues, and that’s good, because Heroes of the Ring definitely has the potential to create a niche for itself in the fighting game space.
Lucha LIbre AAA: Heroes of the Ring will be available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PSP in August.