Let’s face it; our Wiis have not exactly been getting a lot of action. Sure we have had some one night stands here and there with the likes of Mad World but no lasting love affair to keep us going. Next Level Games and Nintendo are out to remedy the situation by reacquainting us with our old fling… Punch-Out!!. This is a new and improved version of the cult classic, chocked full of familiar characters, difficult patterns, and a reliance on lightning quick reflexes.
Make no mistake; Punch-Out!! is in no way a boxing game. The series has always been about pattern recognition and timing. To that end the production team really did their homework with this game. Super Macho Man, King Hippo, Bear Hugger, and Glass Joe all make glorious returns to the ring complete with some of their original patterns and weaknesses. Bald Bull still goes down with a jab to the stomach during his Bull Charge and Piston Hondo can still be taken out in one hit prior to his Piston Rush. While generally playing it safe, the team introduces a new character, Disco Kid. His goofy attacks and awkward look fit in exceptionally well with the cast. There are also some choice Easter eggs thrown in for the Nintendo faithful.
The team also decided to add in a new feature never before seen in a Punch-Out!! game, VS mode. The mode relies on a momentum mechanic where the boxer who scores consecutive hits transforms into a large hulking creature with powerful special moves. The mode is not exactly stellar, but it’s a pretty fun diversion from the main modes that adds some needed longevity to the game.
As far as the control scheme is concerned, fans of the series will instantly feel right at home. Holding the Wiimote on its side allows jabs and dodges to be controlled easily with the buttons and d-pad respectively. Of course no Wii game would be complete without some sort of motion controls.
To that end Punch-Out!! has surprisingly fun and responsive control modes that utilize the nunchuk and wii-fit balance board. Skeptics beware, both work extremely well and newcomers to the series/casual players can have plenty of fun. That said, tougher opponents and harder game modes require precise timing that is hard to achieve with anything other than the tilted Wii mote.
The team also nailed the feeling and charm of the series while updating it with beautifully rendered cel-shaded graphics. Every enemy character moves seamlessly through their unique special moves as does Little Mac. It is truly a joy to behold. Every jab and hook feels extra satisfying knowing that damage done will show up on enemy character models. The only real problem is the crowd which, instead of featuring individually animated fans, consists of a mass of blurred out silhouettes. It’s a small problem when compared to the overall aesthetic of the game, but it’s still a little disappointing.
The real meat of the game is the Championship mode where players control Little Mac as he ascends the ladder challenging a variety of stereotypically themed boxers. The main championship mode is divided into three circuits, Minor, Major, and World, each of which is successively more difficult. For those worried about the longevity of the game there is also a title defense mode where each boxer improves themselves. Glass Joe, for example, comes to the ring with a sparring helmet to prevent any damage to his head. The added mode is a nice touch that increases the longevity of the game, not to mention it’s extremely difficult. Surviving against the boxers is hard enough but, completing all the optional challenges can take weeks.
In the past Nintendo’s reluctance to embrace new intellectual properties for release on the Wii has failed to produce new classics. However, their dedication to their established franchises has always seemed to result in fun games and Punch-Out!! for the Wii is no exception.
Version Reviewed: Wii