Punch-Out!! Review: Back In The Ring With A Vengeance
It’s always been amazing to me how some video game franchises can withstand the test of time, and others just fade away. It’s been 15 years since gamers have been able to get their hands on a new “Punch-Out!!” game from Nintendo, but with the release of the Wii everything old is new again (except “Kid Icarus” apparently). Whether it’s your first time stepping into the ring with Little Mac, or just your first time since Nintendo felt the need to put the word “super” in the title of all their games (even the not so super ones), “Punch-Out!!” on the Wii is a welcome experience.
“Punch-Out!!”’s story is familiar, since it is the exact same one from the original: you play as Little Mac, the perpetual underdog, trying to climb to the top of the World Video Boxing Association and take the championship belt home to Brooklyn. There’s nothing new here, and it should feel very familiar to fans of the franchise; it’s an arcade style boxing game after all, “plot” isn’t high on the list of things that need to be included to make it a good game.
There are 13 boxers that stand in your way on your road to becoming the champ, or the chump. If you’ve played the previous games then you’ll be familiar with just about every opponent in the game. Disco Kid is the game’s only all new fighter, and when you’re fighting him, it’s like you’re going toe-to-toe with Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bell Air. Take that as you will; while it is great to see some familiar faces, it would have been interesting to see more that one new character, after all, the game’s colorful opponants are what have always made the “Punch-Out!!” franchise stand well above the rest.
Fortunately for longtime “Punch-Out!!” fans that may be looking for something new; there are some new mode that include exhibition, and the long awaited multiplayer. The exhibition mode is basically a practice mode, that lets you spend time in the ring sparring with any fighter that you’ve unlocked, without taking damage, It may not be a mode for everybody, but it will definetly help you learn the right moves to take down Bald Bull if you need the help.
While the exhibition mode may come as a welcome addition, the multiplayer isn’t exactly what fans may have been hoping for’ on a few levels, and that makes it a bit of a tough sell. First of all, the mode only offers one fighter – Little Mac. That’s all well and good, but the game never lets players take control of King Hippo, Disco Kid, or any of the other fighters in the game. It’s also local multiplayer only, so if you’re playing against a friend, they need to be in the same room with you. It’s not perfect, but thats only really due to gamers’ expectations of what that mode should be. We’ve never had multiplayer in a “Punch-Out!!” game before’ and it comes as extra icing on the cake here, especially since it is well executed, and, for the most part, fun to play.
The Wii version of this longtime franchise also offers more replayability than its predecessors, which should come as a pleasant surpise to anyone that can take down the first five fighters in the original game blindfolded. In addition to the multiplayer and exhibition modes that you can jump into whenever you want, “Punch-Out!!” also includes a replay mode that is unlocked once you win the WVBA title. In it you’ll need to defend your belt against every pugilist a second time, but this time they change their moves and punch patters – think of it like the Second Quest in “Zelda,” the more of the same, but different.
One of the biggest things that the “Punch-Out!!” series has always had going for it is the game’s simple, and easy to pick-up-and-play, and the Wii version is no different. Sure, you can use the motion controls, ala “Wii Boxing,” or you can turn the Wiimote sideways and play NES style, you can even use the Balance Board to dodge punches. The motion controls have been improved since “Wii Boxing’” but for a game like this you need precise timing, and pinpoint acuracy, and they just aren’t as good as the NES style.
It’s really is great to see the return of the “Punch-Out!!,” even if the package isn’t completely new. Just the fact that gamers can take Little Mac back into the ring should give them a reason to fire up their Wii’s once again. “Punch-Out!!” has always been an enjoyable game for all gamers, not just the hardcore fans, or the casuals … everyone, and the Wii version keeps that tradition going. The updated art style, and timeless gameplay make it easy to overlook the few features that fans might find lacking in this release, and it’s still a must have for anyone that owns a Wii, and doesn’t hate fun.
“Punch-Out!!” was developed by Next Level Games, and published by Nintendo for release on May 18, 2009.