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Nintendo Wii Review: Punch-Out!!

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Last week on Multiplayer Chat I gave my first impressions of Punch-Out!! and for the most part they were pretty "meh", but having had a little more time to fool around with the game this week I've been able to develop a deeper opinion. I still have one very big complaint though, your first run through Career mode is the same as your first run through Career mode, 20 years ago.

Fighting a roster of familiar boxers with the essentially same move sets, fans of the original will find little has changed on the road to the WVBA World Title. Despite having over 30 boxers to choose from, Next Level Games decided to focus primarily on the NES original, including 11 characters from that game while only utilizing Bear Hugger and Aran Ryan from Super Punch-Out!!. A curious choice considering fan favorites like Dragon Chan were over looked and no characters exclusive to the arcade versions made the cut. Disco Kid, the sole new character, could've been a bright spot but unfortunately is a real let down. Appearing in the minor circuit, he has few moves, offers little challenge and is, on the whole, forgettable. Something a Punch-Out!! character should never be.

If you're not a Punch-Out!! alum and are having trouble with a particular boxer you may want to check out Exhibition mode. Here you'll be able to practice against a hologram of your current opponent with out taking any damage so you can learn their pattern or try out new strategies without hurting your win-loss record. You can also face-off against previous opponents with tasks like “Win without dodging” to add to the challenge; probably not an area where you'll spend a lot off time, but certainly a nice addition.

Rounding out the game modes is Head-to-Head where players can compete against each other using Little Mac. To be honest I'm rather perplexed by this concept because Punch-Out!! is not a boxing game, it's a puzzle game, so having an actual boxing mode just doesn't make sense. Perhaps if you were allowed to use the different boxers from the game it would've had some novelty appeal, but because you can only be Little Mac, it just feels like a really pretty version of Wii Sports Boxing. Granted –  they did try to spice it up by allowing you to power up and become Giga Mac a.k.a. The Hulk, but this just causes unfair balance issues and spoils the fun.

Controls remain the same as in the original, though you now have the option to play with motion controls. If you take this route you'll probably find gameplay begins to resemble real boxing and this is very bad because as I stated earlier Punch-Out!! is not a boxing game. Bring boxing into the equation only throws the game's flow off and with split second reactions being an absolute must, the sluggish and unresponsive Wii Remote punches and Balance Board dodges will never lead you to the title. Classic is the only way to play.

Until today this was all I had to say on the matter of Punch-Out!! and I was ready to give it a 3/5 for mediocrity in design, but then something magical happened, I won the WVBA title and everything changed. You see, once you beat Career mode you unlock a new mode called Title Defense where Little Mac must defend his title from all challengers and boy is it fun. Sure it's basically just another run through the career ladder, but this time the boxers have drastically different move sets and weak points, completely changing the game and causing evening the most seasoned player to once again take notes. If you want a perfect example of how different the game is than let me put it to you this way, I was TKO'd by Glass Joe. That's right, Glass “whipping boy” Joe.

Title Defense is just so exciting, fun and original there's no good reason why it wasn't the starting career mode. It's got a good difficulty for new players, tricks old players by switching up patterns and hooks you right away. The classic fighters were a nice touch, but they really should have been the extra you unlock, not the main game – still even as a second mode it's enough fun to squeeze an extra point out of me. Play it if you can.

Punch-Out!! is rated E10+ (Everyone 10+) (ages 10 and older) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief.

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About Jason Westhaver

  • James Wiley

    I hate reading reviews where you get the feeling the reviewer has a dictionary and thesaurus in front of them, trying out word combinations for the first time. Zero flow to every article this author writes.
    Oh, and “having a boxing mode doesn’t actually make sense?” Are you serious? Would you rather us just buy a rubix cube?

  • do you mean a Rubik’s Cube?

  • Tony

    Yeah that was kind of a nasty comment. It was a thorough and informative review, and after renting the game, I agreed with the author on most points. Punchout isn’t a boxing game — as the author states. It is a puzzle game and is most fun when focused on that intent.

    To the author; any chance you’ll review this new tennis game that has come out, with the camera behind the players? I believe its called something like Virtual Tennis 2009?

    Also, I’m sure you’ve covered this as you made mention of it in this review, but is the motion plus worth picking up? I’ve been happy with every Wii accessory I’ve purchased and yet I also at one time owned a power glove and a Sega CD, so I maintain a certain level of skepticism to all things new in the video game sphere.