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Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Slang Games
Developer: Immersion Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Sports (Wrestling)/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring is Mexico's first foray into video game development. What better topic for a first game than Mexico's luchadores, legendary wrestlers with a national following. Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring isn't just a typical wrestling game re-skinned with Lucha Libres; it is an introduction to the cultural heritage of traditional Mexican wrestling. I like the fact that some of the dialogue is in Spanish (with English Subtitles) and that the game provides brief, yet informative historical information about the sport.

The rings and the wrestlers look very realistic, although there are some graphical issues that can be distracting. First, things tend to be a little shinier than they should be. This isn't that big a deal for some fabrics, but the wrestlers' skin probably shouldn't be so shiny. This isn't going to distract you while playing, but any casual observers are likely to notice it.

The only graphical glitches that were occasionally a bit distracting were clipping issues, often when one lucha was punching another. The move looks very realistic, that is, until one lucha's fist punches all the way through the other one and you see his fist come out of the guy's back. If it was done in a Mortal Kombat style and there was blood, guts and some sign that the lucha had taken massive amounts of damage, that would be different. As it is, the fist wasn't supposed to have gone through the lucha, so it just look weird and you have to try to ignore it.

You can jump into the action immediately by choosing a fight and selecting either one of the available Technicos or Rudos to fight as, or you can use the Lucha Creator to create your own fighter. There is a lot of variety in what your character will look like; you can choose what the face looks like, build up a mask (if you desire), choosing several things, from a basic style of the mask to the type of openings (a wide variety of eye, nose and/or mouth opening designs), as well as some different "add-on" pieces to the mask, either to the top or the sides. There are several different styles of shirts and pants to choose from, and you can choose the design, color and reflectiveness (from a dull cloth to a shiny plastic) of the material. In general, the lucha creation aspect is quite versatile. There were mainly two things l wish it had that it didn't. The first thing it's missing is the ability to choose unconventional skin tones. I don't see why a player should be disallowed from making a Lucha with orange skin, green skin or red skin, if desired... perhaps thanks to body paint. Is this really so unrealistic, given that there is a red demon character who obviously has a lot of red body paint? The second gripe is that you can't make up your own pattern or emblems for the costume. There are some cool patterns included which you can choose from, but a little bit of Forza-styled "vinyl" editing sort of costume modification would let me design a lucha that looks exactly like I want. Well, perhaps that's something for a sequel. Another thing to add to that list would be additional customized lucha slots; you can only keep up to four custom luchas at a given time.

In addition to creating your own luchadores, you can create your own banners for fans to display in the crowd, to cheer your luchador on. You simply select the style, enter your text and adjust the text size to taste. Like your luchadores, you can create up to four custom signs. You can only have one of these signs active at any time and this can easily be selected in the Sign Editor menu.

One area where Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring really excels is in the sound and music department. The audio during the menus is a classical guitar piece that I could listen to for hours. In the game, the music is more energetic (especially during the luchas' entrances), but maintains a Mexican flair. The color commentary is nicely done and is available in English or Spanish, which is nice. There are also optional subtitles, which are another nice touch.


Gameplay:

Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring lets you experience firsthand the world of Mexican wrestling; a world of valiant, honorable fighters (Technicos) who concentrate on the technical aspects of Lucha Libre and the rude, backstabbing, nasty fighters (Rudos) who ignore the rules and will stop at nothing to win. Both sides feed off of the crowd's response, which is reflected in the gameplay; each of your moves requires a certain amount of popularity with the audience. To build up popularity, you can either beat on your opponent or perform taunts to help whip up the crowd in your favor. There is a meter that reflects your popularity in the corner of the screen. When this meter is low, certain moves can't be performed, but when this meter is full, you can perform any of your moves and you can even hit both of your grapple buttons together and you'll be "on fire" for a short bit of time. During this time, you can perform your special (and devastating) move.

There are several modes of play in Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring. There is the Story Mode, in which your character makes his way through the ranks of either the Technicos or the Rudos (based on your character) and follows a storyline that takes you through a well varied series of different types of increasingly challenging bouts. There are Pride Battles, which is a quick match option where you can set up a fight against another player or an A.I.-controlled opponent in pretty much any match up you can imagine with up to four players: 1 lucha versus up to three others, two versus two or a three or four player free-for-all. King of Kings is a tournament mode which lets you quickly and easily set up a tournament for 1 - 8 local players. You select the number of human players, then the players select their characters and the 360 chooses the A.I. players. All A.I. vs. A.I. games are done instantly and only the results are shown, which is a shame; I would have liked the option to watch A.I. vs. A.I. matches to learn the characters a bit.

When you've played enough that you feel comfortable enough to try your luck online, there are online modes to play, but be warned - if you play a 1 vs. 1 match and you have the mask versus hair option selected, losing means you lose your mask or, if you don't have a mask, your hair gets shaved off by your opponent in a way that makes it clear why they didn't take up barbering professionally. And, you'll have to stay that way until you play and win three exhibition games online.


Difficulty:

The popularity aspect mentioned above plays a big part in how quickly a luchador can recover from an attack or break a pin. If you want to beat your opponent, try pins and submissions when your popularity is high and your opponent's popularity is low. If your opponent isn't where you can get at him, and you have time, you can use your taunts to build your popularity. Be warned, though, if you start a taunt while up on a corner post, you can't stop it prematurely, but an opponent can attack you and knock you down off the corner post, interrupting your taunt.

The Story mode ramps up in difficulty very quickly; you will need to learn to play strategically and learn to use your pins if you want to progress. I found that I would hit a match that I couldn't get past and would get frustrated, but if I left the Story mode and played some other matches for a while, I could return and progress some more. If your matches are close, just keep trying; you only have to win the match once to progress and then you'll at least have a new, different challenge.

If you try your hand at free-for-all matches, keep in mind that, while they're all out to get you, they're not only out to get you. If you can keep your distance, the other luchadores will happily wail on each other. You can use this to your advantage to get a pause for a breath from time to time, but if one of your opponents starts to pin another, be prepared to rush in and drop in on the party to break it up; in free-for-all matches, the first luchador to pin an opponent wins.

If you get stuck and need help, there is a Training mode available. You can use that to try out various moves, but I say the best training comes from time in the ring, in actual fights. Once you learn a new move in the Training mode, you'll want to try it out there.


Game Mechanics:

The clipping issue can be distracting, but if you can get past that, the graphics are pretty decent. Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring is the first of its kind, a truly Mexican wrestling game and, as such, it tries hard to stay true to its heritage. It's nice to see the mythology, the legend of the Lucha Libre presented in Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring. It's also nice that the voices can be in Spanish or English and that there are optional subtitles. For that matter, the classical guitar music in the menus is truly delightful, and it helps to set the tone and the feel of the game. It makes Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring feel like a Mexican game, with a generous dose of national pride.

While the mask design system was nice and offered a good deal of customization, I really wished that I could have selected any skin color I wanted or at least added skin paint of any color I wanted. I also wished that I could have created my own textures, such as rock, flames or ice. Of course, this would only have led to me creating versions of some of Marvel's greatest heroes. (Okay, and Batman, there, DC, you happy?) As it was, my closest approximation of "El Venom" and "El Batman" left something to be desired.

I'm not a big wrestling gamer, so I can't really make a claim as to how Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring compares to American wrestling games, but it's a good game, with a certain flair. If you're into Lucha Libre - even casually - I highly suggest giving Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring at least a rent.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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