Lucha Fury is a terrible beat-'em up. That a terrible beat-'em-up can even exist in 2011 is almost inscrutable. The beat-'em-up is among the most heavily populated video game genres, replete with example after example of how to make an exceptionally fun game about walking around and punching bad guys into blinking submission. For examples, see: Double Dragon, Final Fight, Bad Dudes, Streets of Rage, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Golden Axe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, Final Fight, X-Men: The Arcade Game, The Simpsons, Final Fight, Castle Crashers, The Warriors, Final Fight, and so on and so forth.
Lucha Fury shows no reverence to these classics of the genre; it barely even seems aware of them. Imagine a game that makes every rookie mistake a beat-'em-up can make--lousy combat, braindead enemies, uninteresting characters, clunky cooperative play, miserable music--and then stop imagining it. Lucha Fury is all of that, and some other nonsense you wouldn't even normally think of.
Perhaps the developers at Punchers Impact were just so enamored with their concept of wacky luchadores beating up other wacky luchadores that nobody stopped to think about why they were doing any of this. The sheer allure of colorfully silly men and women in ludicrous wrestling masks running around and punching each other was more than enough to set this whole thing in motion. Too bad it wasn't enough to actually create an even remotely enjoyable game.
Lucha Fury grates right from the get-go, with a nonsensical opening cutscene that gives way to a combat system that immediately informs you that you've made a terrible purchase. Controls are sluggish, unresponsive, and further hobbled by sometimes glitchy animations that don't quite hit their mark. Not an issue, mind you, given that enemies are morons. The default dumbasses literally stand still and flail their arms at you. That's their on-purpose default attack. After that, yes, things become slightly more challenging, but it's usually easy enough to clear wide swaths of bad guys just by wandering up and hammering on the X button.
There is an upgradable combo system in the game, but its purpose is elusive. With the exception of a few enemies who are best dispatched via a grapple attack or two, there are few reasons to ever worry about any of the extra moves. More often, you'll be too busy taking your hands off the attack buttons to jiggle the right control stick when you're stunned. Yes, you can't recover from a heavy attack unless you flail the right stick for several seconds. That's precisely as awkward and unnecessary as it sounds.
Some beat-'em-ups can suffer troubled fighting mechanics if they offer up enough personality, or, at the very least, a few memorable boss fights. Lucha Fury has none of these things. There is a story of some fashion, and the characters are presumed to have personalities, but you will care none at all about these things. Despite colorful appearances and misshapen forms designed for maximum wacky factor, the on-screen action offers a shocking dearth of excitement. The bosses occasionally offer up a creative design or two, but the fights range between "over in a couple of seconds" and "laboriously long and drawn out."
You can't even play Lucha Fury with your friends online. Co-op play is limited to offline, and drop-in/drop-out play simply doesn't exist. If you're the sort to force your friends to suffer through terrible games alongside you, you'll have to do it in the same space, and they won't be able to leave the game. Unless they just get up and leave, I guess.
It's all quite a shame, because Punchers Impact at least made a game that looks pretty good. The graphics are sharp, bright, and full of nifty cartoonish scenery. Still, good graphics on an abysmal game are little more than a terrible waste. It's like painting a killer racing stripe on a rusted over Corvair... that's on fire.
Maybe as some kind of postmodern commentary on the nostalgia we, the longtime players of video games, hold for the admittedly simplistic and sometimes overly revered beat-'em-up genre, Lucha Fury is an effective tool. I know it certainly made me question whether I had simply been viewing these games through rose-colored glasses all these years, and that in truth, all beat-'em-ups are really this terrible. Then I went and played Final Fight again, and was reassured that no, old beat-'em-ups are fine. It's just Lucha Fury that's miserable garbage.