Wrestling is a form of entertainment that has essentially stood the test of time. No matter what sort of changes may transpire within our culture, the spectacle of two opponents stepping into the squared circle to settle some sort of dispute is one that is timeless. Though wrestling in itself may be timeless having stayed relevant and evolving over the decades, wrestling video games on the other hand are in a near constant state of purgatory.
With the only player in the game being the WWE games from Take Two Interactive subsidiary 2K Sports, there isn’t much variety or options for wrestling fans or video game players alike to step into the ring through an existing persona or one that’s entirely of their own making. But thanks to a new player entering the field there could be the potential of a simply awesome video game in the form of Lucha Underground.
WHAT IS IT
Debuting in 2014, Lucha Underground is the combination of the talents of cinematic auteur Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids, Sin City) and the amazing television know-how of the legendary producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice). Seeking to provide something different to the masses, Lucha Underground is a wrestling series with roots in the historic luchador wrestling found in Mexico, in particular that of the AAA promotion, but with a different spin. You see, instead of being a traditional wrestling program like what the WWE has been providing for the past thirty years, Lucha Underground is a stylized series which is just that – it’s a television series which features wrestling and not a wrestling series presented as a TV show.
Featuring stunning backstage vignettes with the diverse roster which includes familiar faces such as Rey Mysterio and Johnnie Mundo (John Morrison in WWE) and newer ones such as Pentagon Dark, Prince Puma, and Mil Muertes (think The Undertaker but with a hot valet that actually adds to the gimmick), Lucha Underground has evolved over the past two years to become one of the premier wrestling programs currently on the air. It’s the combination of slick production values, actual storytelling which have pay-offs, and one of the most diverse international rosters ever put together which has made Lucha Underground a must-see hit amongst both the core wrestling fans and those who may have only watched it during the heyday of Hogan, Macho Man, or the Monday Night Wars.
WHAT COULD IT BE
Simply put, Lucha Underground could be the wrestling game that fans of the genre have been hoping for since they last played the old school WWF Smackdown games, or the criminally underrated WWE All-Stars. There’s not much you can do which is revolutionary in the wrestling video game sub-genre other than putting out a game which is one key thing – fun; an element which has sadly been missing for quite some time.
With a fast arcade style focus which would perfectly match the speedy nature of a lucha match, in particular the hybrid of styles which exists in Lucha Underground, a game based on the series could more or less be the spiritual successor to the action developed by the old THQ team responsible for WWE All Stars. Perhaps taking things down a notch so as to not include twenty foot high leaps, the core action of a Lucha Underground game should be about constant movement, momentum control, and setting up crazy spots or scenarios as opposed to linking up and engaging in a mini-game or having to press a button to do a mili-second reversal. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m playing a wrestling game I basically want it to be an action centric experience with near constant movement rather than be a polygonal recreation of a sport, with pre-determined finishes, that for some reason is presented as a video game with a sim like basis like that found in the current WWE video games.
The best approach to take with a Lucha Underground game would be to almost pattern it after a proper fighting game. By having each wrestler feel distinct and have a series of pros and cons to them, battles would in turn feel more intense than compared to the almost toy like banality found in the current WWE video games. Adding this extra layer of player detail may in turn result in the roster being smaller as opposed to featuring the complete roster, which often fluctuates given talent departures, but it may be a sacrifice fans would be willing to accept if it means wrestlers such as Jack Evans and Pentagon Dark are properly portrayed and feel badass to play as.
As much a character as the many wrestlers in Lucha Underground is the actual temple itself. The location of which the action of the series takes place within, the Temple is the multi-layered, and slightly grungy in its urban aesthetic, location that Dario Cuerto has his thirst for violence satiated. Lucha Underground often has bouts which involves wrestlers jumping from one side of the Temple into the ring, doing a backflip off a staircase amidst the fans in attendance, or throwing someone through a glass office window to really get their point across.
While past wrestling games have allowed the action to be taken out of the ring, they’ve never really been as dynamic as what has been presented in a televised match. It certainly would entail a lot of work to figure out, but perhaps taking an almost sandbox like approach to the action, similar to what EA Chicago was doing with their sandbox Marvel Comics brawler they were developing prior to shutting down, a Lucha Underground game could, hypothetically speaking, provide unparalleled action variety in a wrestling video game since literally anything could happen. Want to do a drop kick off a nearby structure into a ring? Sure, why not. How about having a quick bout in the locker room after being jumped by two opponents wielding nunchucks? Sounds like a good time to me.
Matching the series like nature that made the show such a standout, a Lucha Underground game could also make itself stand out by being the first wrestling game to have a worthwhile story element. While most players enjoy being a fantasy booker as they create one-off matches or plan an entire season mode with the skill and finesse like that of legendary booker Kevin Sullivan, a Lucha Underground game with a Season Mode would be a unique offering within the genre. Perhaps taking a note from what NetherRealm Studios has established in their titles such as Injustice and Mortal Kombat, a Lucha Underground game could provide players with a Season Mode in which the player could assume the roles of different wrestlers, each perhaps with a chapter dedicated to them, as they try to become the king of the Temple and deal with whatever devious obstacles that Dario Cuerto, the fictional purveyor of Lucha Underground, throws their way.
While providing full length live-action cutscenes a Lucha Underground game may too cost prohibitive, a potential story mode could still be conveyed properly if presented with graphic novel style panels, similar to what was presented in the Lucha Underground comic series. Add some voice acting from the wrestlers and of course Dario Cuerto himself and I think fans would be happy with a different visual approach being made since it would ultimately still be authentic to what Lucha Underground is.
WILL IT EVER HAPPEN?
With Lucha Underground steadily growing in popularity as evident by viewership numbers going up, the property is certainly growing. However, Lucha Underground is still very much in it’s infancy more or less since the series doesn’t have the immediate deep pockets that the WWE has to spend money.on certain things, and its infrastructure is still growing for support elements such as merchandise and potentially touring. One thing that is certain though is if a Lucha Underground came ever came to fruition it would be the most badass wrestling video game ever created, much like how it’s TV counterpart is the best wrestling program on the air today.