|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|
The greatest technical aspect of this revamped Punch-Out!! is just how solid the controls are. Whether playing the game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the Wii-mote on its side, or on top of the Balance Board, players of all ages will find a control scheme that is most appropriate for their skill and level of activity. I, of course, wanted to play the game strictly with the NES-like Wii-mote tilted horizontally, but I forced myself to try out the motion controls first.
Initially, I was dismayed, as I wildly punched into the ether like a child on Pixie Stix. But then I sat down, added the advanced jab option (which allows you to use B and Z instead of the control stick to go to the head), and started literally drumming away at my opponents. What I found was not a wonky, unresponsive mess, but rather a clean and tight setup. As it turns out, Punch-Out!! is nicely enhanced by motion detection; an added dimension of immersion that sacrifices only a modicum of control.
After an hour or so of game time, I made it all the way through to Soda Popinski, only to have to retire the motion controls in favor of the solo Wii-mote due to significant wrist strain - this is the only problem with the drumming technique. Consequently, I reverted to just the Wii Remote and instantly continued on my romp to becoming World Circuit Champion. Old-school players will be happy to know that issuing commands via the remote is every bit as responsive as it was with the NES controller; every input is immediately recognized, rewarding your years of game-forged skills with instantaneous onscreen response.
For the casual crowd, Punch-Out!! will even let you hop up on the Balance Board to bob and weave your way to glory. Naturally, the Balance Board is strictly used for footwork inputs, but it can be combined with either of the hand control schemes. However, if you're taking the time to float like a butterfly on the platform, messing around with just the Wii-mote feels totally unnatural. On the other hand, swinging away with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is a hoot while perched on the board!
Also outstanding is the presentation. The cartoonish, cel-shaded visuals are absolutely top-notch, lending a charming quality to the title rarely matched. The character designs - both new and old - are perfectly captured, and the smooth animations and silly antics will have you giggling throughout! I loved the character introduction boards, the training cutscenes were awesome, and the fruits, roses, and croissants that encircled stunned foes were a nice touch.
On the subject of great details, the voice over work in Punch-Out!! is marvelous. Each character speaks in their native tongue, which really adds to the feeling. Unfortunately, no subtitles were offered to help understand their comments. But, it was fun deciphering the taunts and jeers, nonetheless. Best of all, the Punch-Out!! theme music was tweaked to incorporate variations appropriate to each challenger's nationality. The resulting arrangement is extremely enjoyable.
The developers at Next Level Games have taken a cherished franchise and given it new life for a new generation. Moreover, they have somehow managed to do so without alienating gaming grognards and ultra-fans like myself. Though the game doesn't quite attain perfection, it remains the best arcade boxing franchise around. I can't wait for a sequel!
CCC Editor / News Director