Punch Out!!! Review
Written By Stephen Heller
Punch Out!! (Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! depending where and when you got the title) has often been cited as one of the elite games released on the NES console in the eighties. Its comical characters, challenging gameplay and continual reference in pop-culture of today has cemented it as an all time classic title. There was an equally praised sequel on the SNES back in 1994, but since then the series has lay dormant. This year we have been graced with Punch Out!! for our waggling wii-motes, but does it do the series justice?
To put it simply, Punch Out!! not only stays true to the series roots, but it excels in almost every avenue it attempts to explore. It has faithfully re-created the experience of the beloved NES title, while building on the existing gameplay mechanics and upping the ante. This isn’t a remake - this is a full blown sequel that is going to appeal to veterans and newcomers alike.
The single player experience puts you in the shoes of Little Mac, a hungry young fighter from the Bronx in New York City who is starting at the bottom in the Minor Circuit. You are joined by Doc, your corner man who is always there to offer some friendly advice. You will fight your way through three grueling circuits, all consisting of four opponents who are ready to knock you around the ring. Once you make it to the top circuit and you are crowned champion, you will then be off to defend your title against your previous opponents. They come back harder and faster, with new patterns that offer even more of a challenge. It’s not a cop-out way to extend game life - it actually is a challenge to retain your title time and time again. It keeps the game flowing and interesting, and provides a good enough reason to keep on playing.
Punch-Out excels at creating memorable and loveable characters. For veterans of the series prepare for a ultimate wave of nostalgia as you face up against favourites Glass-Joe, Piston Hondo (changed for obvious legal reasons) and the ever terrifying King Hippo. Fighters from the SNES version are also in the game, along with some interesting new characters that are just as crazy, loveable and deadly as the previous in the series. It’s the wave of nostalgia that will keeps fans happy, the same characters, bouts of the same music, the memorable pink jumpsuit as you run along the bank in training, it’s these moments that will have you remembering the good times, but thankfully the Wii version serves up enough of its own good moments for you to remember for years to come.
Multiplayer is present, however no online mode has been included. What we are served up with is a watered down, split-screen affair that will have Little Mac facing off against....well...Little Mac. It is less strategic as all punches are thrown at a faster speed, and through power-ups you can grown into a hulk-like Mac who throws death-delivering blows but is mega slow. This lasts until the power meter drains, and you cannot control him when it happens. It’s frustrating, as the ability to choose different fighters unlocked from the single player games seemed like the logical move, yet we are offered a mode that is lacking, feels tacked on and is overall a disappointment. It is the first attempt at a multiplayer in a Punch-Out!! title, and ultimately it’s an average experience.
The game features a few different control methods, which means there should be something that will suit everybody. Wiimote + Nunchuck will have you swinging one for each hand to perform hooks and jabs. By pressing up on the stick you will be aiming your shots to the head. Left and Right will let you evade punches, down will duck and up by itself will block. It’s a solid control method, and once you have the timing down pat you will be slogging away like a champ in no time. It’s surprisingly efficient and accurate, and offers a more accurate control scheme than Wii Sports' Boxing. The other control method will have you holding your remote sideways and using the 1 + 2 buttons for left and right punches; up for head shots, left, right and down for evasion. It’s accurate and for veterans of the series it will feel right at home as you remember those hours spent on the original title. If you have a Wii Balance Board collecting dust in the cupboard, now is the time to get it out. With Balance Board support turned on, learning left or right or back will control your evasion and it’s a nice touch that does add something to the gameplay, but isn’t necessary for the full experience.
Graphically the game is what you would expect it to be; characters are well defined and pop out of the screen, oozing with charm and sporting a cartoonish look that is very reminiscent of the SNES title. Facial expressions have never been better, and each character will have its quirks that will bring a smirk to your face. What little voice acting there is has been done with enough care to make it fit in with the title and not detract from the experience. The old eight-bit soundtrack has been re-written to suit the new technology and will be familiar to fans.
The Final Verdict
Punch-Out!! for Wii is a faithful sequel to one of the most beloved NES titles, and builds on the mechanics that has made Punch-Out!! such a memorable game. It has served up a fun yet challenging arcade boxing experience that simply oozes with charm and witty characters. If you own a Wii, Punch-Out!! will be a great title to add to your collection, despite the shortcomings in the multi-player department.