Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lucha Libre AAA: Héroes del Ring Review

When I first heard about a lucha libre wrestling/fighting game, with a Mexican publisher and Latin American developers, I was estatic. Growing up Latino in the US during the 1980s is a mirror of racial harmony and backlash. As a young kid, I wanted to fit in with the kids in school, but not made fun of the food I ate at lunch. Young latin kids, to this day, must find a balance between this dualness or veilness. Because of the aforementioned ideas, Lucha Libre AAA is a very important IP to the young latin kids the game will undoubtedly be marketed to.

The company, Slang, who is behind Lucha Libre AAA is based out of Mexico City and has been in the video game distribution business for countless of years in Latin America. An interview with myself and Federico Beyer of Slang, detailing their motivations is hosted on bitmob. Lucha Libre AAA has enough features to hold its targeted audience of adolescent boys and young men who are into the wrestling and fighting genre, but the game has key critical flaws.
One of the core features is the build your character. While other games like UFC and Fight Night, only feature certain subset of physique options. In Lucha Libre AAA having the option to build costumes and masks, hours could be spent alone in creating ones character. The options continued with a customizable ring-set of moves. While wrestling moves seem similiar, there are unique moves to Lucha Libre like La Hurucana and La Campana.

The story mode campaign, which must be played to unlock wrestlers, are actually two. One side you play as a technico or as rudo. As one progresses, the technicos are the heros and the rudos are the heels. The game awards players with star-points (move sets are based on reward points labeled as stars) all leading up to a finishing move. As a tecnico, fairness and highflying moves get extra points, whereas a rudo, gets awarded points for fighting dirty and outside the ring.

The culmination of winning matches, with your custom wrestler, is the historical/documentary style video of Lucha Libre. These vidoes show the beginning of Lucha Libre in Mexico, the Super Campeonato and the dynasties of Mexican luchador families. The hometown heroes, as my mother is from La Cormaca Lagunera, is the Wagner Family; Dr Wagner, Dr Wagner Jr and Silver King.

It is also interesting, but not relevant to the review, Silver King played as Ramses in Nacho Libre and recently, change his name to Silver Cain. Dr Wagner Jr, recently has a feud with his brother Silver Cain, with Cain showing a video of their deceased father claiming Cain is the better wrestler. Drama.

Lucha Libre AAA does indeed have its flaws. Besides the miniscule glitches; sound going off and on, long loading and multiple screens between fights. There are two issues that plagues the game. First, the difficulty level balance. Easy is too easy and Normal is ridicously hard. While playing on Normal, the AI countered every move, and while knocked down on the canvas, repeatedly pressing X to get up was tiring and frustrating. On Easy, the notch of difficulty was as simple as a few body slams, and then the finishing move all within a quick minute. For future iterations, there must be a better balance between the difficulty levels.

The second issue was the relaince on the counter move, where counters are super important in Dead or Alive and other fighting games, in Lucha Libre the counter relies on a time press of the L1 Button. Too early or too late, your wreslter gets hit. But when one becomes the master of the counter, the later stages of the story mode the game becomes a one button-fest. And with the later stages reling solely on countering, frustation starts to set in as the timing seem to be off at times. Forget in trying to attack the AI, as the computer controlled wrestler will counter every move.

Lucha Libre is a good game, even with ill timed game-breaking flaws, the highlights outweigh them. The wrestling and fighting genre is thick marketplace, but Lucha Libre AAA has enough quality attributes to give a chance on. For Latinos living in the US, with enough support, we may see Slang try for an encore American release in the near future.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Video Game Law, Manga, the Taliban and Nazis

As the November Supreme Court date looms, the video game law is much of a hot topic. As all of you may know, California State Senator Leland Lee Phd authored the controversial law with Attorney General Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarznegger appealing the a lower court's decision. While researching news articles, videogame and entertainment outlets have deemed the law an infringement of free spech. And giving the law no chance in winning its' appeal at the Supreme Court. We are wrong, very wrong.

First and foremost, a few Westernized countries have become more and more consevative over time. We all know about the Internet censorship in China, North Korea, Iran and Cuba, but did you know the US, Australia and the UK all partake in their form of censorship? From the creation of free speech zones in the US, a draconian Austrialian Classification Board and the UK's Coroners and Justice Act 2009 are examples of such means to protect its' citizens. The United States has a similiar law as the United Kingdom with the PROTECT Act. Ask American Manga collector Christopher Handley who was sentenced to 6 years of prison for importing lolicon and yaoi Manga from Japan.

My keen eye readers are to notice that there is a key difference between Leland Lee's Law and the PROTECT Act, one is set to protect children from violence rather child pornography. And I agree, the material is rather different, yet the process of censorship is the same, elected officials are dead set to protect America's children with the all for nothing blanket of protection.

Pornography (even if the material of under age sex as drawn a la The Lost Girls) came first and now violence is next. Where does it stop? Why dont we start to, in a effort to fight child obesity, fine fast food joints who offer a toy in their meal without offering a healthy food? That law exists in one county. Yet school yard bullying continues in the LBGT community, anchor babies are under fire and education in the US continues to be understaffed and underbudgeted. The hypocrasy is thick with American elected officials.

The law may be very well upheld, even after all the legal mumbo jumbo, in the eyes of the Supreme Court they will protect the children from violent images and content, just like they do with child pornography. They might argue brain maturation or how violence does indeed affect children after researching countless of medical studies that hardly make any sense. More mumbo jumbo. Or they might just upheld the previous rulings, striking down the law and say it is a Federal duty to protect the children or something to that effect.

Maybe the Supreme Court Justices will ammend the PROTECT Act and include violent images too. Especially if violent images are brutal, henious, atrocious or cruel, because anyone with a law degree can tell difference. Hopefully, we can start to protect our children from brutal violent movies too. Let's start with California Governor's Terminator movie. After watching the movie as a child, I was compelled to vote for him, too scared to think of the consenquences if I had voted democrat. When the video game law does get upheld, and lets just say it does, other entertainment mediums alike; film, music and comic books may come under fire.

The comic book industry has suffered these attacks as well. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (think the ACLU of comics) have come to aid of defendants when proscecutors have encroached into the First Amendment Rights of creators, retailers and consumers. CBLDF even filed a brief on behalf of the ESA, saying the law to the LA Times "would undermine more First Amendmeny principles in a single case that any decision in living memory." The line between art and a consumer good are being blurred.

There is much discussion on the definition of video-games, which are popular with all ages, a consumer product or have artistic merit like a novel or a movie. The argument is, video-games, in the creation and marketing process, have more in common with a bar of soap than a comic book.

Regardless, the decision may be handed to Americans by the Supreme Court in the the ruling of Scharznegger v ECA, which is a scary thought.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

A Halo History

When Halo: Reach begins, the sense of death and wonder becomes an ominous and lingering feeling from chapter to chapter as the player progresses on. The opening cinematics show a bullet-holed Spartan helmet lay on a war torn terrain. In previous Halo games, we have seen key characters die, Marines killed by Convenant and Flood forces, but never came across a dead Spartan.

Halo: Reach is not your fathers' Halo.

The story of the Reach and the trilogy of Halo reads as a Greek epic. (Please be warn, I have not dabbled in any of the Halo Novels, yet played all of the four Halos and ODST). And the Halo series is sprinkled with Greek and other popular epic-space fantasy references though the series. Spartans, Noble Team's last stand and Master Chief's sacrifice all read as Herodotus' Histories. The Halo series is faithful to the Greek War than the fantastical God of War series is to the mythology of the Greek Gods.

In Herodotus' work, he details the battle of Thermopylae and in larger extent, The Greco-Persian Wars. The Halo series may not go as expansive as Herodotus did in his writings, but the team at Bungie invoke a grand story for their Spartans, the fall and last stand on planet Reach, origin of Master Chief and the eventual triumph of the Convenant invasion. The Greeks, impartially told by Herodotus, went through similar situations.

The better fantasy stories relate to humanity and it's struggles. In Halo, with all its monsters, hiveminds and artificial intelligence the story of Noble Team, ODST and Master Chief share the human idea of hope. And it is with this idea—the Halo series is Bungie's greater works.
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