Uh oh, THQ... watch out; there is a new contender in the wrestilng game genre in town thanks to Konami. Next month, gamers across the world will finally get another option in the wrestling game genre courtesy of Lucha Libre: Heroes del Ring for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. I have been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with the Xbox 360 version of the game over the past few weeks and think that die-hard wrestling fans could be in for a treat.
First off, I think that it is very important for players of the game to know and understand the pedigree of the promotion from which Lucha Libre AAA gets its license. AAA is, arguably, the most popular wrestling promotion south of the border. The federation is based out of Mexico City and does shows throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. AAA has also been known to promote shows in Japan as well. The federation was started in 1992 by Antonio Pena and has been a major launching pad for many modern stars in the wrestling business including Rey Mysterio Jr., Eddie Guerrero, and K-Dog himself, Konnan. AAA has participated in numerous talent relation / trading programs with the top US wrestling promotions over the years, including WWF/WWE, WCW, ROH, and most currently TNA. Don't be fooled just because you don't know the name, the pedigree is strong with AAA.
One should also understand going into the game that the lucha libre style of professional wrestling is a little bit different than what we know as wrestling in the United States. In lucha libre promotions across the board, not just AAA, the fans are everything; careers are made and destroyed by fans and the reactions that the performers are able to draw from them. Technically, you could say the same thing for North American wrestling promotions, but lucha libre takes it to a whole new level. There are two classifications of wrestlers in the AAA promotion, the Tecnicos and the Rudos; in the US we often refer to them as faces and heals... or good guys and bad guys. The AAA promotion focuses heavily on these two factions and individual wrestlers are usually strongly aligned with one side or the other. The gameplay system of Heroes del Ring, which we will get into in more detail here shortly, is based heavily on this alignment system. It is important to you and your success that you play your "role" within each faction accordingly. If you are playing as a Tecnicos wrestler you will see a huge benefit from keeping your fighting style(s) clean and following the rules; on the other hand, as a member of the Rudos you will want to do everything in your power(s) to make sure that the fans despise your every move. You will need to do this through not only your techniques in (and out) of the ring but also by utilizing your various taunts to rally or infuriate the crowd as needed. It is this concept of fan support, or hatred for that matter, that fuels the gameplay system in AAA. The success of your characters moves and attacks is based on the amount of crowd reaction that you draw; the stronger the reaction that you have coming from the crowd, the more likely your character is to win a lockup / grapple with your opponent and to pull off stronger, more effective moves.
When it comes to the fine details of the gameplay system, you could describe the game as perhaps the closest thing to Aki system that gamers have seen in years. The Aki that was popular during the Nintendo 64 generation of wrestling games and is often credited for breathing a new life into the wrestling game genre. Perhaps I am just impartial because of my fond memories of the classic games from that period, but I absolutely love the Aki system over those that are utilized by other wrestling games now days. While the control systems that are being used in the Smackdown vs. Raw games have been improving dramatically over the past few years, I still dream of a day where a wrestling game with the same control scheme. It is hard to cite exactly what makes this control system preferable to me over other control schemes; it is a mix between its simplicity and its effectiveness that just adds a "fun factor" to games that use it those other games seem to lack. This isn't meant to discredit the Smackdown versus Raw games in any ways, as the recent improvements in their games are edging closer to the type of system I speak of, it is just a matter of my personal preference.
The Aki-style system of controls utilized by Lucha Libre AAA is built around the concept of weak and strong grapples. This premise, combined with the importance of fan reaction, requires gamers to gain momentum and support (or heat) from the crowd in order to widen your arsenal of moves. The right trigger initiates a weak grapple, which will allow you to then follow up with a face button of your choice that will trigger something along the lines of a short-armed clothesline or perhaps a bodyslam. It doesn't take much to successfully pull off weak grapple moves, unless your opponent has really got the crowd momentum swung in their direction. Strong grapples on the other hand, which are initiated with the left trigger, require some serious crowd reaction in order to successfully complete. You will want to both wear down your opponent with weak grapple-moves, strikes, and submission moves, as well as work on the crowd in order to build yourself up to completing the stronger, more complicated moves that are started with the strong grapple.
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