You feel that tingling in your mind? That feeling that you forgotten something, yet this sense of nostalgia tingles inside you and never goes away? That is the feeling of games from your past, games that are now obscure from the public eye. Some are herald classics, others are better left in the landfill, but while they are no longer in the public eye, they still live on in some way. Each week, I plan on embracing that nostalgia, so to speak, and review one of these forgotten games in a series I like to call “From The Well.” This week, we look at Ready 2 Rumble Boxing.
Everyone who has owned a Nintendo has most likely played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Punch-Out had it all in its hay-day, quirky characters, great music, and one of the toughest final bosses ever. Since then, many boxing games have attempted to emulate the arcade style that Punch-Out began, with little success. Ready 2 Rumble boxing is one of those games, a quirky 3-D fighting game that tries to relive the glory days of archaic arcade style, and unfortunately has little success in doing so, mainly thanks to the schizophrenic gameplay.
The game seems to have weird bouts of identity crisis with itself. At the time it was released, the only other boxing game it could be compared to is Knockout Kings, which was a straight boxing game with real characters. Ready 2 Rumble though was easily the harder of the two games, both in controls and in difficulty. You control your cartoonish pugilist and fight through the games main championship mode with as much fervor as you can muster. After each win, you get to participate into some training mini-games to enhance attributes like your power and stamina.
These mini-games seem like a bad idea at first, but they actually prove to be quite fun. You need go through normal training routines, from the speed bags to the aerobic exercises. Most of them are really simple by today’s standards, but the mini-games actually out-perform the core gameplay almost. It also is counter-intuitive to the arcade style the game tries to emulate. Putting strategy and stat increasing elements into a game that has finisher moves when you spell the word RUMBLE with each punch to the noggin is an odd pairing indeed, and it almost doesn’t work.
The added depth adds some longevity, but the problem is that the controls are extremely loose, and the characters are heavily off kilter in terms of balance. The bigger, slower fighters do more damage then a bull in a china shop, while the wily fighters go down quicker than Apollo Creed against Ivan Drago. This almost kills the game right here, especially in the genre of fighting games, where imbalance would cause players not to participate, even if they know every combo, every special move, every inch of their favorite character.
Fortunately, the games characters make up for this somewhat. They range from the bizarre, such as the aptly named Afro Thunder, to the downright absurd, such as Willy, the time traveling prizefighter from the 1880’s. The characters are outlandish yet varied, and it makes the game somewhat enjoyable, and is really a breath of fresh air over the real-life counterparts in the boxing realm today, who have no differences between them except for names and statistics. It adds a sense of nostalgia, like your playing as the boss characters in Punch-Out, and here the game is very successful.
Graphically the game was never too strong, but it did have one of the better soundtracks in the day. The music was a funky hip hop/jazz hybrid that was never annoying and always amusing, and the voice acting was downright hilarious, in the good way. Plus Michael Buffer, the famous voice in boxing, uses his trademarked phrase at the start of every fight. While it does get old after a while, it adds to the silliness in a way, kind of like a knowing smile that you shouldn’t be enjoying it too much, but you are.
All in all, Ready 2 Rumble is more of a forgotten distraction then a hidden gem, but that doesn’t mean much in a genre that basically has Fight Night and Punch-Out into it. In the end, the fun from the game was apparent, despite being mired with imbalance and mediocre controls. Hell, a third one is in the works for the Nintendo Wii, so something has to be said about an elder series with arcade style roots. That being said, I doubt anyone will go looking for Ready 2 Rumble any time soon, but at the very least, the games style has proven that in the right hands, the Punch-Out style can still be enjoyable in some form.
Final Score- C+