Game Reviews
Same fight...different console.
Punch-Out!! Review

In the mid ’80’s, consumers were introduced to a new generation of home consoles (and one of my favorite systems of all time)…the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  Upon release, the most popular games were 2-D side-scrollers and top-down action titles, like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.  However, in 1987, this home console was introduced to one of the greatest underdog’s of our time…Little Mac.  Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was a port of an arcade title that was released a few years prior, but I really think that the NES is what gave the game such a cult following.  In this game, Little Mac had to rise the ranks of the circuits to fight Mike Tyson, with a slew of interesting characters along the way. It has been 15 years since we saw Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES, but was it worth the wait?  Is Punch-Out!! for the Wii, a true heavyweight?

I want to start off by saying that if you are a long-time fan of the series or a retro gaming fan in general, then this title is a complete love letter to the original.  They have literally not messed with the formula at all, and while many may gripe that it needs change, I say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Of course, they had to add optional Wii controls for casual players (You can move with the analog stick, punch by swinging remote).  Luckily, you can still control Mac the good old-fashioned way, by tilting the controller and playing it NES-style.  I really suggest not playing with the motion controls or balance board, because it just does not give you the quick response you need for dodging.

This is NOT the Wii version.

For people new to the series, Punch-Out!! shows that defense is your best offense.  The game is very strategic, and new players may start by just throwing wild punches; later on they will see that dodging is key.  It is simple, dodge left, right, and duck with the d-pad, and throw jabs with the 1 and 2 buttons.  The characters have a certain animation they will do before they swing, which lets you know what is coming so you can dodge accordingly.  Hit an enemy during one of their taunt animations, and you will earn stars (Hit A and you can unleash up to a 3-star punch).  Now that I have explained the main mechanics of the game, lets get to the real meat of the game…the circuits.  You start out fighting in the Minor circuits, where you are introduced to your old pal, Glass Joe…and yes, he’s just as pathetic as you remember.  After fighting through a few more boxers, you enlist in the Major Circuit, and the difficulty is ramped up a little bit.  However, it really heats up when you move up to the World Circuit and fight the likes of Mr. Sandman.  I think the learning curve on this game is great, because it is tough, but it ramps up the difficulty just a bit each fight.

So you finish the Career Mode…then what?   Well, there is another mode entitled the Title Defense Mode, in which all the boxers are harder and have new move sets.  Tired of fighting in the career?  Head on over to Exhibition Mode, and try and achieve 3 trophies per boxer.  The trophies are mainly for completists like myself, and they range from “KO opponent in 150 seconds or less” to “Find their one-hit KO weak spot”.  Have friends that say they are masters at the game?  Well now, you can challenge them to a Mac vs. Mac 2-player battle and see who is the heavyweight of your neighborhood. The multiplayer mode will probably not hold the attention of most gamers, but will be fun when you just want to see who is best out of your group of friends.  In multiplayer you must always play as Little Mac, but as you play this gauge fills up which turns you into Giga Mac.  This behemoth of a character is fun to play as since you become a brutal powerhouse, but with all of that extra weight behind your punches, you slow down considerably.  Casual players may grow tired of the game, while more hardcore players will have enough replayability to last them for months.

Same fight...different console.

Last, but certainly not least we have the wonderful boxers you love to hate.  Many favorites from the NES version are present, including Great Tiger, Bald Bull, and the lovable, King Hippo.  From the SNES we are reintroduced to opponents like Bear Hugger and Aran Ryan.  Each character walks into the ring with a funny animation and they just ooze style.  I think the fluid animation in the game really helps capture these boxers with such character and I actually found myself laughing out loud to some of the things they say;  nothing is funnier than hearing Aran Ryan yell at you in a strong, Irish accent as he hops around the ring.  Doc Luis is back as Mac’s trainer and he gives you useless–yet sometimes funny– tips in between rounds.  What would a  Nintendo game be without secret characters?  Well, be prepared to fight Donkey Kong if you are strong enough to play through the Title Defense mode; it’s a riot hearing Doc talk about him during a fight.

If you grew up playing the NES and SNES then this title is a no-brainer purchase.  It has everything you loved about the originals, with just enough additions to keep it fresh, yet familiar.  The only gripe I have is that we don’t see Mario as the referee…that would of been the icing on top of this already sweet cake. Also, You don’t have to know the series to enjoy the game, in fact this may be a great place to start and get introduced to all of the great characters.  With Punch-Out!! having the fun-factor cranked to maximum, this title has KO’d the competition this summer.