Punch-Out!! review
Available for
Nintendo Wii
Publisher
Nintendo
Punch-Out!!

Reviewed by Rich DeWester

P

unch-Out!!!" (Yeah, I threw an extra exclamation mark in there. What are you gonna do about it?) is one of Nintendo's most anticipated Wii titles of the year, and while that says nothing about the game’s quality (case in point: "Wii Music"), it does mean that the beloved arcade boxer will finally make its return after a 15-year hiatus. Many of you might be thinking that the motion controls will probably suck, just as with every other boxing game on the Wii – and you're right, but mainly because after four fights, you'll be tired as hell. Luckily, the game allows you to flip that Wiimote sideways, like the true gangsta you are, and go to town. If you have inhuman durability and really like the interactive feel of the motion controls, you can get your robot ass on a Wii balance board and really get into it.

The gameplay is extremely responsive and can be quite difficult at times. You should be able to beat the first circuit with little challenge (especially if you've played "Punch-Out!!" before), but from there, the game’s difficulty begins to increase pretty quickly, and by the third circuit you should be swearing at your TV, just like the good old days. You begin by creating your profile by selecting your Mii (similar to "Mario Kart") and then you jump into the mighty shoes of the legendary rookie boxer from New York, Little Mac. The game is heavy on arcade style play, far from the technical "Fight Night" series. "Punch-Out!!" instead focuses on your ability to remember patterns and react and counter your opponent quickly. If you counter your opponent at key points in the match, you will be awarded a star; these stars, three of which can be stored at a time, are used to unleash a strong uppercut which will deal massive damage. (The more stars you have when you do it, the more damage it does. Getting hit yourself, however, will make you lose all the stars you have saved.)

Nintendo did a good job enhancing the graphics, so it fits right in on the Wii and boxers translate well even without having HD support. You’ll face off against some of the most stereotypical, borderline racist boxers you’ll ever see in a video game. Therein lies a double standard: if this was anyone else's game, these characterizations would bother me, but since it's Nintendo, it’s cute and charming. Perhaps they’ve just done this so well it doesn't offend, or maybe it's because I grew up playing the series. Seeing Bear Hugger, a Canadian boxer, depicted as a backwater lumberjack chugging down bottles of maple syrup may remind you of when even Disney cartoons didn't give a fuck about being politically correct. Either way, you get my point.

“Punch-Out!!” features three modes for you to test your mettle. There is Career Mode (the heart and soul of the game) where you fight your way through the various circuits. Exhibition Mode is where you can train against the boxer you're about to face in Career Mode and help develop a pattern to help you defeat him. After you have defeated an opponent in Career Mode, you can face them again in Exhibition Mode and try to complete the three challenges they give you for each boxer. Von Kaiser's, for instance, are as follows: Win the fight and land every punch thrown, TKO him in under a minute, and KO him throwing only five punches, also acting as a time trial mode of sorts. Finally, there’s Head-to-Head Mode, where you can beat the hell out of any fool who steps to you, as long as they're in your house. Sadly, Nintendo hates your Wi-Fi.

"Punch-Out!!," while frustratingly challenging at times, is still a lot of fun to play. With its addictive play style and the reemergence of time trial bragging rights among your friends and family, it should give you plenty of reasons to come back. Plus, if you choose to use the motion control and balance board combo, it pretty much means you don't need other workout games like "EA Active" or "Gold's Gym."

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