|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Next Level Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 18, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
April 24, 2009 - Back in 1984, my favorite arcade title was Punch-Out!! Whenever I'd go to the movies, I made sure to stop by Aladdin's Castle arcade and blow my two bucks worth of quarters playing as the green, grid-like contender featured in that earliest version. When the series came to the NES in 1987 and featured my favorite boxer, Mike Tyson, I was over at my cousin's house everyday playing that game in the summer of 1988.
Needless to say, the series holds a lot of great memories for me - I practically get teary-eyed just thinking about it. That's why when I first heard Punch-Out!! was getting remade for the Wii I was absolutely ecstatic. Then I began to think of Wii Sports boxing and just how bad those motion controls were implemented. This got me extremely nervous, because Punch-Out!! is a challenging arcade game that requires highly precise controls in order to be fun.
Thankfully, it looks as though developer Next Level Games fully understood this. Punch-Out!! for the Wii will make use of either standard or motion controls, leaving it up to the player to decide. Moreover, the motion controls will likely be a pleasure to use, because one-to-one detection was wholly abandoned in favor of a more streamlined scheme. Analogous to tapping the 1 or 2 buttons for body shots whilst holding the Wii Remote sideways in standard mode, players simply need to jab forward with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk - the game isn't going to try to reproduce your movements on the screen, it's simply going to initiate a preset animation. If you want to go to work on the head, all you have to do is hold up on the Nunchuk's analog stick and alternate waggles. If you need to dodge or block punches from your opponents, nudge the stick left, right, up, or down to evade. If you've got a Wii Balance Board, you'll be able to use it too for bobbing and weaving. This simplicity should make the motion controls in Punch-Out!! every bit as precise as standard controls, while still adding that heightened level of interactivity only the Wii can provide.
Once the control issue worries I had seemed to be taken care of, my excitement quickly returned. After seeing the beautiful, 3D cel-shaded graphics, I've been bouncing off the walls with anticipation! Punch-Out!! has always been known for expressive, engaging sprites in both the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Even though these characters were just an amalgam of pixels, they were utterly charming. The same holds true for the latest version. From the screen shots and gameplay videos we've seen thus far, Punch-Out!! for Wii is one gorgeous title.
As of right now, four opponents have been confirmed as well as Little Mac and Doc Louis. Four others, Bear Hugger, Don Flamenco, Piston Honda, and Soda Popinsky have also been rumored for inclusion. Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, King Hippo, and Disco Kid (a new character) all look great, harkening back to the old days yet exuding a crispness and polish heretofore unseen. Also, character animations are perfectly fluid - the addition of special effects like croissants and fruits exploding around your foe during slow-mo KO cinematics will heighten the satisfaction of sending your opponent to the mat. Plus, pre-bout illustrations depicting challenger backgrounds and between-round conversations with trainer Doc Louis should be hilarious and make the game even more endearing. Finally, great care has been taken to capture the over-the-top, series-defining facial expressions. When it's all put together, it looks like Punch-Out!! for the Wii should be a fresh yet authentic experience.
The only thing that has me still worried about the title is the ratio of old to new characters. Sure, I want to see a lot of my favorites, but if early confirmation is any indication, a 3:1 ratio of old to new fighters (or worse if you include the rumored fighters) may mean we're in for a preponderance of stale fights. I don't know about you guys, but when I first downloaded Punch-Out!! for the Virtual Console, I got all the way to Mr. Dream off muscle memory alone. If we are going to have mostly unoriginal characters, I hope their fighting patterns are significantly altered. If not, I'll probably blow through the game in a couple hours.
Unfortunately, very little else is known about additional features. There is local competitive option, but whether you can mix and match unlocked fighters is still anyone's guess. It's also unknown if the game will take advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection - lord knows I'd love to school some of the young punks that have been doming me in Call of Duty: World at War on the 360. Alas, we'll have to wait for Nintendo to give us confirmation on additional content and features.
Punch-Out!! is an amazing series that has not seen a new iteration on home consoles since the Super Nintendo. This storied franchise looks to be in good hands, as Next Level Games has done their best to stay true to the series' pedigree and satisfying arcade gameplay. However, the game must build on the franchise rather than resting on its illustrious laurels. Otherwise, we may be in for a pretty version of the exact same game available via Virtual Console. Stay tuned to CheatCC for the full review when the game launches on May 18th.
CCC Editor / News Director