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[ Editor's Note: As Nick Olsen is a writer for Theory of Gaming, this won't be counted in the monthly Vox Pop prize. However, it is very much a worthy read. ]
By Nick Olsen
Co-founder, Theory of Gaming
In 1985 Nintendo started a revolution when it...
Back on the Nintendo, there was one game that I always felt challenged me like no other, and that was “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!”. Featuring a colorful cast of boxers, great controls, and awesome music, “Punch Out!” was one of the hallmarks on the system, albeit a lesser known one.
Fast forward nearly thirteen years, and Little Mac is finally getting back into the ring in “Punch Out!!” for the Wii. The pint sized pugilist was teased in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but finally makes an appearance in his first game since “Super Punch Out!” for the Super Nintendo. And the wait is well worth it, even if little has changed.
The game has a slew of new modes, including exhibition, practice, and a bare bones multi-player game. You start out under the guidance of your faithful trainer Doc as you fight your way through three championship circuits against some classic and new fighters, including the pathetic Glass Joe, the monstrous King Hippo, and the nefarious Bald Bull. Pushing through the fifteen fights will take some skill and precision, like any fighting game. What makes “Punch Out!!” works so well is the amazing fun factor in fighting these colorful characters.
The game can be played two ways, with the Wiimote and nunchuck combination or with the Wiimote by itself, classic style. The controls are fairly intuitive and work well, but I must admit I preferred the classic style when playing. Using the buttons to punch and uppercut while dodging and blocking oncoming blows is the crux of the gameplay, and that has remained relatively unchanged.
But even if it’s unchanged, it’s still fun. Using visual cues when fighting your opponents is the key to not only timing your punches, but your blocks and dodges. You also need to attempt the correct combination of punch/block/dodge to really leave your opponent on the floor. For example, dodging left when someone punches left will get you hit, while blocking would deflect the blow, exposing your opponent. There is a lot of depth in the simplicity of the game, and is what keeps you going for more rounds in the ring.
One of the best additions is the challenge modes, which are a list of certain pre-requisites that you can attempt to gain while fighting some opponents. Some of them border on impossible, such as knocking out an opponent in five punches, or knocking down Glass Joe three times and letting him win by decision. These challenges unlock extra modes of play and other little unlockables, giving the game some much needed depth and longevity.
Speaking of longevity, once the Circuit mode is complete, you unlock even harder modes of play, something the hardcore crowds would appreciate. The Title Defense mode is basically a hard mode where the opponents actually cover their weak spots and offer new tricks when fighting you. And losing one match here makes you forfeit your title. After this, you get another, more difficult mode which I would not recommend playing unless if you are the second coming of Muhammad Ali. The final mode of play is the multi-player mode, which pits you against a friend, offering some great fun that is reminiscent of “Wii Sports” boxing mode.
The game is graphically very colorful and vibrant. Each fighter is highly detailed, each has a distinct style and appearance and they even take facial damage, from bruised stomachs or black eyes, while the fight goes on. The graphical detail is really good, but I feel like there could have been more done to the game. For example, we get the training montage as a cut scene, but each rival fighter gets a tiny, still picture vignette that showcases their country of origin. It would have been nice to see more animation of the entire cast.
The game still sounds awesome though. The famous NES mix is re-mastered and still filled with power and is succinctly pleasing to listen too. Each fighter also has a voice, albeit it’s mostly minor gibberish in their language. Sound effects are also great, adding extra presence to the arcade style of the game. Ironically the only voice I’m annoyed by is Doc’s, since he sounds so stereotypically bad for some reason.
“Punch Out!!” is not the most complicated game ever made, and it’s not even the deepest, but it is certainly the most fun i’ve had in a while on the Wii. The game has classic all over it, and is proof that Nintendo still has the goods to revive an old franchise. I hope they take notice of the success of “Punch Out!!” and look at the other forgotten Nintendo heroes, but for now, we can relish in the fact that Little Mac is back in the saddle, and the Wii has a title that needs to be played.