Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Punch Out!! at the time was a somewhat niche title when it was first released on the NES. It was a boxing game all right, but not the type where just mercilessly beating the crap out of your opponents was the way you played. Players had to figure out how each boxer fought and when was a good time to attack. You could say this is a mix of boxing plus the puzzles in Resident Evil. In act, the developers, Next Level Games, proudly presents the Wii installment of Punch Out!! as a puzzle game. Will it win over you?
Controls are fairly simple and there are a variety of styles you can try. You have your basic left and right hooks, left and right jabs to the face, special Star Punches to unleash a powerful uppercut, dodge, duck, and block. Players can use either the Wii Remote sideways, remote plus nunchuck to use motions for punching and it can be added with the Wii Balance board to dodge with motions. The motion controls are not broken, but they feel too sluggish and will be more of a hindrance for the much tougher boxers, so the sideways remote style is more precise and practical for most of the boxers you fight.
You take the role of Little Mac (who is not so tiny now compared to his NES incarnation) who dreams of becoming the champion of the WVBA and his trainer, Doc Louis (who now has a strange affinity with chocolate bars), aims to help him along the way. To rise up in the ranks of boxing, Little Mac has to defeat a variety of boxers that stand in his way in Career Mode, all being the incarnation of old or mildly offensive stereotypes of their nationality. You don’t need to worry if you lose to a boxer in this mode since you can retry as many times as you want without dropping in ranks. Just like the NES and SNES Punch Out games, every boxer fights in a different way and you need to figure out how they roll so you can wait for a good time to strike. If you just wildly wail on an opponent, you will not get very far. Because you need to “read” your opponents, you will either learn quickly or swear louder than an angry drunk man as you try to figure out what you have to do.
Exhibition Mode is pretty much a free play mode where you can fight any boxer you fought previously, or fight a hologram version of a boxer you have yet to beat in order to get practice. When you fight someone you fought before in this mode, they have 3 challenges for you try and complete, such as beating a boxer in the first round or not being hit. Some of the challenges are either insanely hard or insanely stupid, but no matter which ones you take, beating all the challenges for a boxer unlocks music and sound clips for that boxer, which is not that great of a reward, especially for some of the challenges that will make you yank your hair out.
Defeated everyone in career mode? Fight them all over again in Title Defense mode and retain your belt as you discover that they all learned some new tricks and won’t be defeated the same way previously. The first opponent, Glass Joe, is the first boxer that is so easy that even a non gamer could beat him. Glass Joe in Title Defense? Many people including myself have no idea how to get him to stay down and the rest of the guys after him only get harder. Sometimes, you may have just no idea on what to do in order to get past their defenses (which could be the case in any round you fight them in) and might have to resort to the internet to find the solution. Veterans of Punch Out!! will find Title Defense to be a whole new game.
This game also comes with multiplayer (local only, no online) mode where you have both players using Little Mac to beat the crap out of each other. The game still plays out regularly like in the single player mode, except that punching your friend at certain times earns you Giga Mac juice and filling the meter to the max transforms you to Giga Mac, which makes your attacks stronger. The game even cuts out the split screen to the single player view behind the player who has to defend themselves from Giga Mac. The mode can be fun, but it feels like boxing from Wii Sports where you just randomly punch and hope you don’t go down. It feels like a lazy tack on addition like Metroid Prime 2 with its multiplayer.
All the boxers from the NES game (except Mike Tyson/Mr. Dream) return to this game plus two boxers from the SNES game. A new boxer was also made for the Wii version. They all have languages based on what their nationality is and it is surprisingly really good. Of course, since some of the boxers don’t speak English, you won’t know what they are saying and no subtitles is a big minus. All the boxers fight almost the exact same way as their older incarnations did from the NES and SNES games, though some of them have been slightly tweaked. Since the boxers’ fighting styles have not changed (except for Title Defense mode), veterans of the series will know exactly what to do. Newbies will have a harder time and may quit in frustration if they can’t figure out how to beat each guy. There is only 13 boxers, making the game feel a bit small and asking for too much at a $50 price tag.
So is the game worth buying? I suggest renting or buying it a reduced price. Not enough boxers or modes to play on, tacked on multiplayer, plus dodgy motion controls makes the game feel iffy at times as you ask yourself if it was worth spending money on this game. The cel shaded graphics plus the excellent voice acting do make up for some of the flaws, but in the end, it’s a love it or hate it type of game.