Lucha Tributes: Lucha Libre AAA (Heroes del Ring)
I’m bored girls and boys. And when I’m bored I’m prone to writing about weird things, like the identities of Paul London’s pals in the Rabbit Tribe or Valiente needing to wear something other than a Speedo I wouldn’t want Kate Upton wearing (I kid, I kid). Thus I’m thinking of doing the same today; but what weird thing should I cover? Would a write up on whatever Lucha Underground’s “Battle of the Bulls” tournament be fun? Or how about a look into the history of the one lucha libre video game to ever exist? Ah yes, that last one does sound like a winner. So put down your controller, save your status in Final Fantasy XV and holy Grodd I’m pretty sure I just described exactly what my Rudo Can’t Fail editor Wayne is doing just now. This is the latest Lucha Tribute to lucha libre’s lone foray into video games and inexplicably one of the ten best things AAA has been involved with in the past six years, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring.
What You Already Know
In the words of Dark Helmet, absolutely nothing. Seriously, Heroes del Ring is a wrestling video game not associated with WWE made after the year 2001; those things are rarer that a Porygon in Pokémon’s Red, Blue and Yellow. The only way you knew this game existed is if you were a) in the game yourself, b) someone who worked for AAA or the developer/publishing companies behind the game and c) if the only thing you live for is lucha libre. And even then you may not know it. I’d bet a sizeable amount of money Dorian Roldan is reading this right now and just realizing his company has a video game out there. And yes, he’s foolishly going to try to promote it years too late, only this time with Imposter La Parka on the cover. It’s the AAA way after all.
What You Didn’t Know
If you’re a wrestling fan and a gamer you’ve probably figured out by now that wrestling games not under the WWE banner are pretty slim. With the rise of the WWE Smackdown series and the fall of WCW, wrestling fans who wanted to play games that didn’t involve WWE were either forced to buy an N64 and relive the days of WCW vs. nWo World Tour, WCW/nWo Revenge, WCW Mayhem (I like it. Come at me bros!) and Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 or attempt to brave the Legends of Wrestling series, a group of games that made you question the existence of wrestling games AND video games in general (it’s that bad). It was dire straits people, especially if you were into lucha libre. Lucha had never been properly represented in video games anyway, but at least there was hope of using a Mil Máscaras, Psicosis, La Parka, Juventud Guerrera or Konnan in one of those games. With those old WCW games now a thing of the past the best you could hope for was to play as Rey Mysterio or Eddie Guerrero in the WWE games and create as many luchadors as you could. That is until the prospect of Heroes del Ring came along.
So how did AAA manage to get into the video game business? I’ll be honest; I’m not entirely sure how they were able to put this together. All I know is that sometime between 2007 and 2008 the idea for a lucha libre video game was thought up by a company named Slang, which then designated the game to Immersion Games. This made sense on several fronts; Immersion was a developer based in Mexico (making the connection to lucha easy) and was a startup company, having only been around for a couple years. Back then they were more PC based, best known for the science fiction first person shooter series CellFactor and something called Monster Madness: Battle of Suburbia. Thus the match between AAA and Immersion was perfect; Immersion could use the lucha game to serve as their big break while AAA could use them to break into the wrestling business. A win win if there ever was one.
To the credit of both, it appears they had the makings of the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Heroes del Ring does have some pretty cool features, most notably the option of doing mask vs. mask, mask vs. hair and hair vs. hair matches, something that is thoroughly missed in all wrestling video games ever. Even better was the roster. Heroes del Ring featured the most in depth lucha libre roster of all time, consisting of 31 luchadors from AAA and only two luchadors (Konnan and Marco Corleone) who had ever appeared in a game before (Konnan had been a staple in the late 90s WCW games while Marco made an appearance in Smackdown vs. RAW 05 as Mark Jindrak). Not only was this the first time players could live vicariously through some of the best luchadors of the present time but these guys would actually get to be in a video game, which is a pretty cool experience. So who were some of these guys? It ranged from lucha legends like Abismo Negro (who sadly died a year before the game was released), Vampiro, El Brazo, Imposter La Parka, Octagón, Apache and Dr. Wagner Jr. to former WWE stars like Marco and Kenzo Suzuki to contemporary and future stars like Charly Manson, Chessman, Cibernetico, Psycho Clown and Lucha Underground stars Super Fly and Jack Evans. Yes, that Jack Evans. I’m not sure if I’m more amused by the thought of Evans vigorously playing this game and owning people as himself (all while trash talking) or more disappointed that his good pal Teddy Hart wasn’t in the game, likely due to the fact that he’s Teddy Hart.
Regardless the lack of Teddy, that’s a pretty dope roster and it would’ve been more so if Immersion had gone through with their DLC roster, which included Alex Koslov, Joe Lider, the original Psicosis (under his Nicho el Millonario gimmick), Rocky Romero, Pimpinela Escarlata and even Aerostar. Yes, we could’ve been able to play as Aerostar. Sadly that DLC was shelved, alongside a planned release of the game on the Nintendo DS and PSP systems. And there in lied the problem with this game. Both AAA and Immersion may have had the right intentions, but in the end they were two entities way in over the heard to be in the video game business. The inability to launch on different systems and get a DLC roster out is proof of this, alongside them taking too long to release the full roster of the game (AAA and Immersion did manage to get a few things right, such as hiring esteemed video game publisher/developer Konami to distribute the game in the US and Canada and deciding the cover star via a fatal four way match won by Dr. Wagner Jr.).
Thus when Heroes del Ring was released in October of 2010 it wasn’t surprising that it was received as well as AAA’s recent TV tapings. In fairness (and as I pointed out earlier) I haven’t gotten to play the game myself so whether critics are right or not is a mystery to me. I can only tell you what they’ve said and what I’ve seen from clips. And the short gist of that is this; the game looks great (it does), the roster is great (it mostly is), some of the modes are cool and everything else about the game is poop, primarily the control systems and the fact that fast paced lucha libre action has been reduced to looking like a slow, plodding affair. Even worse is that it doesn’t appear Konami did a good job distributing the game; the only places I could find it available on in the US was on Amazon, until today when I found out GameStop was actually selling the game (previous searches for the game on their site had turned up nothing). The mixed reviews, lack of promotion, lack of caring from the North American wrestling fan base and poorly planned roll out was all that was needed to nip this potential series of games in the bud. Immersion Games has not made a game since Heroes del Ring and AAA has shown no desire to get back in the video game business (and, all things being real, a video game should be the least of their concerns right now). Thus Heroes del Ring, to this point, remains the only and last attempt at a true lucha libre video game, at least that I know of.
Can I Get a Better Feel for the Game?
You gotta love the internet; even the tiniest game/movie/promotion/celebrity/band has some sort of dirt on it somewhere. Because of that, even though it’s been near impossible to find Heroes del Ring anywhere for the longest time, you could still experience it somewhat due to the game play videos released on YouTube. I’ve posted three here. One is the trailer for the game, which is actually pretty cool even though it inexplicably highlights Dark Ozz alongside Dr. Wagner Jr. (was Konnan not available that day Dorian?). The other two are matches; a fatal four way featuring Wagner, Abismo Negro, Vampiro and Jack Evans and a singles match between Imposter Parka and a created El Santo (which, to the player’s credit looks a shit ton like El Santo). These will at least give you an idea of what the game is like and, if nothing else, should intrigue you somewhat to play the game due to the graphics and the locations. Pretty much, Heroes del Ring allows you to play in front of an ancient Aztec Temple and one of those clips shows that. Good to see AAA was thinking about Lucha Underground long before LU existed!
I’ve been curious about Heroes del Ring for years; how can you not be curious, as a lucha fan, about the lone true lucha libre game that exists? And yet despite my desire to play as Jack Evans or Vampiro I always stop myself from ordering it from Amazon because I’m pretty sure it’s going to leave me with the same feeling I always get when I get halfway through the Playstation 3 version of Turok. I think in the end that’s the problem with this game and why more people don’t know about it. It does appear that Heroes del Ring has some cool stuff, some good ideas and unlike a lot of things AAA does these days actually comes from a nice place. But in the end that wasn’t enough to overcome its deficiencies, leaving it as nothing more than a nice idea and, in my opinion, a warning sign. Let’s face it sports fans; another lucha libre game would be nice, whether it be from AAA, CMLL (I know; like Paco even knows what a video game is) or Lucha Underground. There’s only so much joy one can get from playing as created luchadors in a WWE game, no matter how good they are, and I’m at least encouraged that LU wants to eventually enter the video game business. If they do, then they should look at Heroes del Ring as a cautionary tale. If nothing else this game shows that good graphics, a good roster and one or two cool features are good, but finding an established distributor, following through on ideas and expanding on them is better. Perhaps my opinion will change on Heroes del Ring once I finally find a way to get my hands on it, but for now that’s its legacy to me; a glimpse at what a lucha libre video game could be and what it shouldn’t be.
That’s a wrap sports fans. I’m off to run errands so I can be ready for tonight’s CMLL show. Till we meet again, remember that time DUCHOVNY thought he was in one of them VR video games?