Video Games owes Wrestling an apology.
If there is a form of entertainment that seems tailored to translate to video games, it’s modern day professional wrestling. Larger than life characters, endless rivalries, a different “favorite” for every fan? From Hulk Hogan to The Rock, there are just generations of wrestlers and wrestling plots to pull from for the ideal video game. Unfortunately, we’re more likely to see a video game based on Sonic the Hedgehog’s trigger happy doppelganger than a critically acclaimed wrestling game. What happened here?
Well, first of all, pretty much every wrestling game going back to the NES controls about as well as Andre the Giant’s ass. I often use Super Smash Bros. and its descendants as the standard for “competitive game with easy to learn controls”, and, if pressed, I would put nearly any wrestling game on the complete opposite side of the scale. The game that prompted this article, Lucha Libre Héroes del Ring, features fighters that have difficulty just running towards their opponents, coupled with a pathological fear of getting back in the ring. Can I get a gif of that nonsense?
Yeah, that’s the ticket. Keep in mind the opponent there is an AI, and it is having problems just keeping its avatar in the squared circle.
There’s two absolutely important things in any competitive video game: the ability to effectively and meaningfully control your team, and a clear, achievable victory condition. Most wrestling games completely fail in both objectives simultaneously, as I have yet to play a wrestling game where pinning your opponent (the most obvious, straight forward victory even your old granny understands) is anything but some weird combination of buttons, timing, and luck. Say what you will about button mashing and modern fighters, but you could win a game just by smushing the weakest attack button over and over, and, eventually, your opponent will succumb. In a wrestling game? Forget about it. You’ll spend half the match trying to properly identify the “hold” button, and failing to even realize you’ve found it because you did it too close to the turnbuckle and your athlete decided to climb the damn thing and stick his ear out for some reason. What does that even mean!?
And, to be clear, I’m not saying that games with complicated controls are inherently bad, quite the contrary, I’m ramping up to praise the franchise that introduced “rotate the controller 720 degrees and then hit three buttons at once”, but there’s a difference between “easy to learn, difficult to master” and “I’d love to play this game with you, but please read this complete FAQ first otherwise you have no hope of winning.” It is almost understandable in a two player game, but when a game asks for four people to grab controllers, well, if one player has difficulty understanding the exact methods to perform simple moves, forget about it when your fourth player is Ted’s visiting friend from the country. Mario Kart is right there, and everybody understands karts, right?
But, yes, aside from impenetrable controls and victory conditions, why haven’t wrestling games dominated the landscape like Smash Bros, Madden, or other successful franchises? Pretty simple answer: fighting games have stolen everything popular about wrestling without involving any of that messy “wrestling”. First of all, and most obviously, you have a huge cast of colorful characters all wailing on each other because they believe violence is literally going to solve all their problems. Chun-Li is investigating her father’s murder through street fighting, you know, as you do. Second, you’ve got endless rivalries and team ups based on the most tenuous of reasons. Scorpion and Sub-Zero are bitter rivals, except now they’re sworn to protect each other, no, wait, rivals again, and now they’re both gonna be solo acts as Sub-Zero dons Shredder armor and Scorpion gets a part time job with the gods. And, third, the face-heel/heel-face turns are myriad. Litchi Faye Ling is formerly with a shadow organization, oh, turns out that organization is good, and Litchi has decided to join a golden faced puppet master with the bad guys… but wait! She’s only doing it all to save her ex-boyfriend who accidentally turned himself in a blob. What was that? Point is, she’s tag teaming with The Undertaker now, don’t really need to know more than that.
Throw all these story-telling elements into a blender, hit the “forever” button, and you’ve got the makings of the WWF (… not the World Wide Fund for Nature… unless you include Alex the Boxing Raptor), or whatever we’re calling Big Wrestling this week. In a way, the main reason capital W Wrestling can’t get a foothold in the gaming market is because each and every fighting game released since Street Fighter 2 has created its own league, with its own stars and stories, and the mundane, “human” world of real professional wrestling can just never compare to worlds where a chubby blonde with mutant hair can battle a robo feline with a penchant for punnery.
And it stings most of all in a game like this. Lucha Libre Héroes del Ring is a wrestling game sponsored by a professional luchadore wrestling association straight out of Mexico. You could not get a more colorful collection of characters together in real life. The Ryu of this game is a fellow named Abismo Negro, who is a big dancing skeleton. Do you know how many games should feature dancing skeletons? The answer is: all of them. It is the entire reason Dry Bones was introduced to the Mario universe. And it gets even weirder from there: there is a character literally named Murder Clown. And he works with a guy named Zombie Clown! And Electroshock, which I’m sure conjures up images of a third rate Spider-Man villain, but, nope, he dresses like Inside-Out Boy for whatever inexplicable reason. There are pages of Wikipedia data on these guys, because, yeah, you need an explanation for why anyone would go by the alias of “Charly Manson”.
And the sad thing? No one gives a damn. It is… neat… to deal with a murder clown (sorry, should that be capitalized?), but Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe features a murder clown AND multiple guys who can shoot lasers from their eyes, sexy ninja assassins, and a former president in flying battle armor. Professional wrestling, no matter the country of origin, just can’t compete in the virtual world, where zombie clowns are usually the third enemy you blow to pieces before moving on to more interesting targets. It’s making the poor skeleman weep.
So Video Games stole everything that makes Professional Wrestling interesting, picked the bones clean, and left the corpse out in the rain to rot with its lame controls. Two generally violent mediums, and one destroys the other with nary a punch thrown. You don’t even have to wait to hear the three count.
FGC #11 Lucha Libre: Héroes del Ring
- System: PS3 in this case, but Xbox 360 is still available… somewhere. I’m sure.
- Number of Players: 4, and good luck getting three other people to play this game over anything else available.
- Best Wrestler: Clearly Extreme Tiger, as he appears to be horrifying and pettable all at the same time.
- Create-a-Character Any Good? It’s fairly limited, but you can also make an outrageous walking Christmas tree of a man to combat the likes of Super Fly, so it’s kind of a wash.
- Did You Know? This game was also intended for Wii (okay, makes sense) DS and PSP (whoa, what?). Unfortunately, I think I accounted for about 33% of the sales for the PS3 version, so no one bothered with the ports.
- Why did you buy this game, anyway? Dancing skeleton.
- Would I Play Again? The odds are really low. Maybe for a quick, “Hey guys, check out this nonsense.”
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Ha. If you can believe it, that stupid hunk of plastic chose Double Dragon again. I’m going to have to look at the odds of that actually happening… Second choice… Otomedius Excellent. Oh my, I suppose I have to admit I own this game…. Please look forward to it!