It’s been 15 years since the Punch-Out!! franchise first hit local arcades. Not many people knew of Punch-Out!! until it was brought onto the NES 3 years later in 1987 with Mike Tyson as the cover athlete and the final opponent. Then Super Punch-Out!! came out in 1994, giving the franchise slick 16-bit graphics, an updated roster of fighters, and a new look for Little Mac.
A new Punch-Out!! was released recently for a new generation of gamers on the Nintendo Wii. Will the game live up to its predecessors?
In Punch-Out, you play as boxing underdog, Little Mac. You once again need to fight your way through a number of boxers to become the W.V.B.A. champion of the world. Your opponents come from all over the world and are often satirical stereotypes such as the carpet-riding Indian ‘Great Tiger’, or the syrup-loving, bass fishing ‘Bear Hugger’. The characters have their own personalities and unique fighting styles that will certainly challenge players.
One concern I had with a Wii Punch-Out was the possibility of it being a watered down version in terms of difficulty as Nintendo has been known to make most of their games easily accessible to casual gamers. While casual gamers can certainly pick up and play Punch-Out, hardcore gamers should be relieved to know the brutal challenge is still there. The degree of difficulty in Punch-Out rises gradually with each match. After you complete all of the circuits, you are then required to defend your title against the same boxers you played before, with just a small modification to their fighting style and a raise in their difficulty.
Players can control the action three different ways: Wii Remote & Nunchuck, Wii Remote / Nunchuck & Wii Balance Board, and holding the Wii Remote sideways to mimic the more classic controls. I personally felt the best form of control was the Wii Remote sideways as the game requires you to be pinpoint accurate with your movements and I had difficulty moving my body in reaction to the game. Moving my thumbs allowed me to be more precise with my input commands than attempting.
Graphically, Punch-Out!! does a fantastic job with it’s original art style to show what the Wii is capable of. Adding wide-screen support also made my experience that much more enjoyable. Punch-Out!! also supports surround sound, so those of you who have it will be able to enjoy a rich experience by hearing crowd reactions behind you. The characters speak in their native languages, but it seemed a little strange to not include subtitles so we can understand what they’re saying. This is a minor complaint, but it really would have added to the experience as I was dying to know what kind of loser talk Glass Joe was babbling about between rounds.
One major update Punch-Out!! received was the inclusion of a multiplayer mode. Both players will control a different colored Little Mac on their own side of a split-screen. Players will inflict damage to one another in order to gain enough power to become ‘Giga Mac’. When one player becomes Giga Mac, the spit-screen is removed and the other Little Mac fends off the attacks of Giga Mac. This mode was actually very fun as there is a constant tug-of-war going on between the two players to see who becomes Giga Mac first.
My only gripe with Punch-Out!! are the number of boxers and circuits. Previous home versions of Punch-Out!! always had around the same number as Wii Punch-Out!!, but I think in 2009, we can advance the game past 12 characters within 3 boxing circuits. With the amount of characters that have graced both the NES Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!!, you would think this version of Punch-Out!! would be the ultimate version. What the game lacks in enemies, it makes up for with the versions of those same enemies in title defense mode. Punch-Out!! also gives players the option of fighting in an exhibition mode which challenges players to defeat their opponent with specific rules to follow in order to unlock bonuses, such as voice tracks & music for the corresponding character.
FINAL THOUGHT: Punch-Out!! is another fine product from Nintendo that no one should miss. The game is both accessible to casual & hardcore gamers alike. The number of enemies are rather low, but it will still entertain players for hours with it’s challenging single-player and simple, yet addictive multiplayer mode.