Where's Bald Bull?
"Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, lllllllllet's get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!!!" The words echo through boxing rings every time a title is on the line. Michael Buffer is the ultimate ring announcer. No one has more job security that that man. Heck, he even copyrighted his own voice!
In an era where sports icons sell out left and right to be on McDonalds's cups or to play rapping genies on the big screen, it comes as little surprise that Buffer has entered the video game ring. Via his patented style and voice, Buffer and Midway bring you Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, an arcade boxer that's tons of fun.
The graphics are impressive and easily stand toe to toe with the two dominating Dreamcast games, NFL 2K and Soul Calibur. Though the characters don't move as smoothly and fluidly as in Soul Calibur, their facial features are just amazing. The boxers smile, grimace, yell, blow kisses, raise eyebrows, and show numerous other facial expressions. On top of that, the boxers continually get beat up during a match. Most victory poses are complete with broken-tooth smiles and black eyes. And you thought hockey players had it bad.
The music, while annoying, fits the game perfectly. The sound is also really well done. Each boxer has a 15-second introduction done by Michael Buffer, complete with little comments. The only problem is that you hear Buffer's patented "Ready to Rumble" line at the beginning of every single bout. As much as I like the man, I honestly never want to hear that line again.
The gameplay is the hardest part of the game to understand. Ready 2 Rumble is, very obviously, an arcade boxer. Taking goofy characters and wacky moves over realistic boxers, Ready 2 Rumble chooses to walk the trail blazed by games like Punch Out. Or so one would think . . .
As it turns out, Ready 2 Rumble has a number of very sim-like aspects to it. First off, it's really hard. This isn't a game where you just run in and beat the enemy down. Instead, you have to bob and weave, choosing when to strike the opponent and when the back away (Gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...).
Even the Career mode is vastly more complicated than the recent "authentic" boxing game Knockout Kings. In order to go for the championship bout, you not only have to defeat a number of opponents, but you need to enhance your character along the way. Training your boxer involves a series of mini-games, each improving your boxer in different ways. There are a total of five mini-games: Rumble Aerobics, Sway Bag, Speed Bag, Heavy Bag, and Weight Lifting. These neat little games add a depth to Ready 2 Rumble that's not seen in most other boxing games.
All notions that this game is sim-like, however, get tossed out the window by the hilarious character design. From the big-haired Afro Thunder to the big-breasted Lulu Valentine, the different boxers give new meaning to the term "over the top." And I didn't even mention the boxer from the 1800's or the demon-spawn from another dimension. . . (Pssst...you just did - Ed.)
Unfortunately, the neat character design doesn't help the character balance, which needs a lot of work. Some of the boxers are just plain better than others, regardless of your skill level. This means that as you and your friends get better and better at the game, you have to declare some of the characters "off-limits" in order to keep things fair.
Another strange addition is the use of the RUMBLE technique. When characters land certain blows on the opponent, they gain letters to spell out the word RUMBLE. When that occurs, you simply press the two trigger buttons and your boxer freaks out. Then, by pressing A and B, you execute a number of fast moves on your opponent. While this is all well and good, it's absolutely useless during the game. Most CPU opponents simply block the entire exchange, leaving you open for a quick jab to your jaw after you're done.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing is a strange, mixed bag of fun. While it does have some identity problems with what kind of game it's trying to be, the result is great for any fans of this genre. Packed with lots of action, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing is a good boxing game. And what more can you ask for?