Immersion Software brings the Mexican based wrestling magic of the Luchador to the gaming world in Lucha Libre: AAA: Heroes del Ring.
'Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring' will only appeal to a small selection of gamers. However, this section of gamers are hungry, and will eat anything up that has to do with spectacle of wrestling. How do I know this? Because I am one of them. I bashfully love my wrestling games and have hitting the virtual squared-circle before they even existed on the consoles. Yes, arcade wrestling, you couldn't beat it. Well, in retrospect, some of those games were pretty bad, but heck, they were fun and that is what the "sport" is all about. So if you love wrestling games you will find something to love in Lucha Libre. But, be warned, this isn't the most technical piece of software we've seen.
The Lucha Spin on Wrastlin'
Compared to the WWE, the AAA promotion might not be as popular, but like anything, there will be fans of the promotion playing the game. I have only viewed a few AAA matches, so the whole AAA Luchador experience was fresh. Although, AAA is based on the same drama and action that I have come to love from other promotions, there are some differences. The first difference is the most obvious one, the six-sided ring that takes place over the "normal" four-sided ring that is used in most brands. Secondly, the characters (the majority who wear masks) have an interesting back story that usually gets pretty outlandish. The whole Kane, Undertaker, Paul Bearer seems like Family Ties in comparison. Lastly, the emphasis on crowd interaction makes a bigger difference on the outcome of the matches and has been turned into a game mechanic that is used to build up power to activate your special finishing move. Undoubtedly an important feature, as hitting your finisher usually accounts for the 1-2-3.
Feels like Old School
Controlling your Luchador borrows from the retro "face-button," strong/weak grapple approach of classic console based wrestling games. Overall the move-set is limited, but you will see some cool moves that you typically don't see. Lucha Libre can feel sluggish, especially with the one button reversal system they put into the game. You really have to learn the timing of the game and not base your reactions off the on-screen action. This is a big negative when dealing with fighting style game. Although once you get the timing of the grappling down, Lucha Libre becomes more pleasurable. Lucha also uses a lot of repetitive button mashing to get out of holds and pinning attempts, which becomes tiresome after a few matches. The only positive about this system is that I liked how it switched buttons while you tap, but common man, there is way too much tapping.
Hair vs. Mask, You Bring the Clippers
Match variations are kept to the standards (1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. 3 and 2 vs. 2, triple threat, fatal facing of 4, submission, elimination) with a few extras including the 8 man 'King of Kings Tournament' and a 'Hair vs. Mask' match for extra dose of humiliation. These modes are also available to play online, but I never found anyone online over the few days I reviewed the product. Giving the timing of the release, Lucha might get buried, so expect a weak online community.
From the main menu you will have a few options; 'Pride Battle,' which is your standard exhibition match. 'Story Mode,' that one's obvious. The 'King of Kings' tournament, an 'Online Mode' and a 'Training Mode,' where you can practice your skills with the Luchador 'Apache.' You can also craft your own banners and Luchador, which is mandatory to access the 'Story Mode.' The 'Luchador Editor' is more normal stuff except for the outstanding mask editor, which is one of the best I have seen. Not surprising in a Luchador game. Lastly there are some 'Extras' where you can view the bios of the AAA cast and watch a few videos. The 'Historia' video will give you a rundown of the Luchadors that has existed since 1930.
The production values in Lucha Libre score some points with its Lucha flair, but besides the spiced up theme, these Heroes of the ring are plagued with troublesome collision jams, weak animations, graphical glitches, and awful commentary. The announcing is the worst out of the bunch, which borders on dreadful. More then the repetitive lines and un-synchronized comments is the delivery that makes paint drying on a wall seem more exciting. I think I would rather listen to the WWE's Hornswoggle with lines like “He's about to DIE. This is high risk!” or “My god, is he a wrestler or a dancer?” Sorry, Immersion, I'm sure it sounds better in Spanish. Scraping some good out of the project, the cut-scenes are favorable, which is funny because the low grade visual effects and voice-overs really work during these sections and not in the others. This helps redeem Lucha's production qualities. However, it's in the in-ring action that matters the most, and sadly Lucha Libre under performs.
Tecnicos vs. Rudos
The story mode is split into too sections, the Tecnicos (face/good guys) scenario and Rudos (heels/bad guys), although each side is a variation on the same tale. This Lucha drama revolves around the icon La Parka having his title stolen as a quest to reveal the culprit ensues. Gangs of gothic and evil clown luchadors will get wrapped up in the landsliding plot while you travel around the countryside. The Tecnicos mainly focus on defeating the Rudos and the Rudos, well its all out chaos as they do battle with anyone who will step into the eight-sided ring. Eventually as you battle it out in the ring you will fight all 31 Luchadors from the AAA promotion.
One cool twist in the story mode is that matches won't always involve your created Luchador. During the story you will often to asked to fill the boots of another Lucha, which helps break up the monotony of using one character, while giving you some extra ring time with the rest of the roster. Unlike the WWE game, the Luchador's here perform basically the same, but at least the aesthetics help shake things up.
Lucha Libre isn't going to be crowned the king of the ring anytime soon. This Mexican flavoured grappler has the ambition and look, but in the rings things fail to come together. The in-ring action is just too sluggish with controls that match. That's not to say there isn't any promise in Lucha Libre becoming a viable alternative to the other wrestling games, its just going to some work. Back to the basics.
Similar Games: TNA Impact (6.6) | WWE SVR 2009 (8.0) | WWE SVR 2010 (8.8)
Feature Articles: Lucha Libre AAA Developer Interview