I am El Asesino Terrible.
Americans generally view
Mexican wrestling lucha libre as they do rugby: that "other sport from that place over there which looks like our sport but is hardly as good of course". People who grew up with the WCW/WWF/WWE have probably only seen lucha libre while flipping through TV channels and catching Telemundo out of the corner of their eye, and quickly came to the conclusion that lucha libre is some frantically weird copycat. With the low production values and the blisteringly fast Mexican announcer, it looks like a local cable show. So it may seem a surprise that Konami has announced AAA Lucha Libre: Héroes del Ring (that’s not the car service, but Asistencia Asesoría y Administración) at their latest Konami Gamers Night.
[image1]But the popularity of lucha libre is on the rise, especially in Japan who has a love affair with masked luchadors in their video games: King from Tekken, Tizoc from Fatal Fury, El Blaze from Virtua Fighter, El Fuerte from Street Fighter, and Suda51’s self-professed fascination of the sport with luchador mask collectibles in No More Heroes and MASK de Smith in Killer 7. But this doesn’t mean that Americans are completely aloof, with the success Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero in the WWE and Jack Black in Nacho Libre, who is based off a real-life legendary Mexican priest named Fray Tormenta who became a
wrestler luchador to fund an orphanage for 23 years. (He still preaches with his mask on; how awesome is that?!)
Any fan of pro wrestling can follow lucha libre easily, since it’s still about grappling and brawling in a roped ring until the 3-count pinfall. Nonetheless, the differences are numerous and culturally significant, beyond the simple, nearly festive visual change of a hexagonal ring, blue ropes, yellow turnbuckles, and grandiose masks.
Not only do the masks allude to Mexican and Aztec mythical symbols, but they also represent the luchador’s honor and identity, to the point that most won’t even take them off unless it’s necessary. The removal of a mask can signify retirement, a death and rebirth, or the ultimate disgrace, in which luchadors bet their
masks máscaras or hair cabelleras against each other in luchas de apuestas. It’s this honor-bound and practically “sacred” tradition that has no precise equivalent in America.
[image2]That alone should show just how authentic AAA Lucha Libre needs to be for its core audience to accept it, a point which developers Immersion Software and Sabarasa Studios take care to note. Career mode should be filled with matches between classically trained
faces técnicos and heels rudos, and as many championships campeonatos as parejas increibles that pair técnicos and rudos in tag team matches. Cruiserweights Peso semicompletos should be given at least as much attention as heavyweights completos, since unlike in the WWE, they are the most popular weight class in lucha libre for their agility and high-flying stunts.
From the short demo build they showed, featuring a one-on-one match between La Parka and El Elegido, combat follows the model of the now-defunct Midway’s TNA iMPACT! Apart from some button prompts for reversals and submission holds, it might make you imagine popping in a quarter at an arcade. Executing grapples, irish whips, clotheslines, ring in/outs, and basic strikes like front kicks and hand slaps only requires simple button presses, foregoing the complexity of WWE titles.
Its influence, however, can be felt: Each body part – torso, legs, head, and arms – has a health meter of its own, and building crowd favor to its highest four-star rating unlocks a luchador’s finishing move. One twist is that the strength of a move depends much on their crowd favor, so to build the meter, taunting is no longer an optional flourish.
By virtue of its extensive roster and Mexican and Colombian developers, AAA Lucha Libre: Héroes del Ring looks to be the real deal. Even if it may not be able to translate the real impact of a luchas de apuestas match, for the sake of preserving the identity of the luchadors in real life. Look for it to whip into stores August 9th, 2010 on X360, PS3, Wii, PSP, and DS.