(Note: for some reason, despite putting this in the right category (Wii), Dooyoo have added (DS) after the title of the game. Just to clarify: this game is not available on the DS and the Wii version reviewed here is the only one you can get)
This was the game that finally tipped me over the edge and made me buy a Nintendo Wii after months of drooling over them: a re-working of the old Nintendo classic Punchout and Super Punchout.
Punchout!! sees you stepping into the shoes of Little Mac. You're an upcoming boxer and have to fight 13 bizarre opponents from across the world to become champion. Let's Get Ready to RUMMMBBBLLLLEEEE!
The first thing that hits you (sorry!) about Punchout!! is that it is visually stunning. Right from the off it smacks you (sorry again) with gorgeous graphics and is one of the best looking Wii games I've seen. The background graphics are fairly static, but beautifully drawn, whilst each new fighter is introduced with a short series of superb static pictures showing each fighter in his homeland.
It's the boxers themselves who steal the show, though. They are drawn in stunning 3D cel-shaded animation. This gives Punchout!! an appealing, cartoony look perfectly suited to the gameplay. The attention to detail on the characters gives each of them a unique feel and sense of personality. You stop seeing them as computer graphics and see them as "real" people, who are standing in your way.
There are some nice little graphical touches too. If Little Mac is getting badly beaten, his face swells up. If you're doing well, there is no such damage. Such attention to detail really helps immerse you in the game.
Of the 13 computer opponents, 12 have appeared in earlier incarnations of Punchout!! and will be familiar to fans. Each has a distinctive look and style and their own way of fighting. They also have a highly damaging signature move which you need to work out how to avoid and a weakness which you can exploit to beat far bigger and stronger opponents.
If you were being hyper-critical, you could argue that these characters were slightly racist and stereotypical. The German fighter, Von Kaiser, is highly militaristic and disciplined; the French boxer, Glass Joe is a little bit of a coward. Yet it's all done with such tongue in cheek humour and style that, unless you are particularly sensitive it's impossible to take offence. For most people, the larger-than-life characters will simply add to the charm of the title.
Yet, no matter how pretty a game looks, it's gameplay that counts and Punchout!! doesn't disappoint, proving frustrating and addictive in equal measure.
A word of warning though: don't a "proper" boxing simulation - that's not what Punchout!! is about. You can only view the action from above and behind Little Mac and your movement is limited to punches, ducking and weaving from side to side. If you're expecting a "proper" boxing game, you will find this tremendously limiting.
Punchout!! is not meant to be a realistic simulation. Each fighter has a pattern the key to success lies in learning the pattern of your opponent, then hitting them when they are at their most vulnerable.
Inevitably, this can make Punchout!! a slightly frustrating and mechanistic game. The first time you come across a new fighter you will probably lose, as their special moves are devastating until you learn how to counter them. There is, however, a real sense of achievement when you finally spot the pattern and learn how to counter it. Even so, it's not always easy to win: precise timing is needed to avoid the special moves and launch your own successful counter attack. It's here Punchout!! becomes frustratingly addictive, rather than just plain frustrating. You become determined to beat the man in front of you and will keep playing until you do.
It does become a little frustrating if you keep losing to the same person. Mrs SWSt has heard many an anguished cry as I've been within a whisker of beating an opponent, only to fall victim to a devastating special move. True, there is a practice mode where you can fight any boxer you've already come across, but this isn't always helpful. Since you can't suffer any damage, you can't tell whether you would have beaten them in a "normal" fight.
With only 13 fighters, I did have some concerns over the long term challenge, but it's not as short as first seems. Once you have beaten all 13, you have to defend your title against the same opponents; except this time they have new moves and are far tougher to beat. Effectively, this gives 26 different opponents and, whilst the game will not offer much of a challenge to hardened gamers, it is still fun to play.
There is also a two player mode which is probably the most disappointing aspect of the game as both players can only play as Little Mac. Where's the fun in that? I wanted the option to play as any of the computer controlled players and learn the special moves of Bear Hugger or King Hippo. Whilst it's fun to scrap it out against a friend, the game has lost a real opportunity to offer something very new.
Control-wise, there are three different methods. You can use the Wii Balance Board, the wiimote with nunchuk attachment or the standard wiimote on its own. I haven't used the balance board, although other reviews suggest it is the weakest of the methods. The controller with nunchuk should be ideal for this type of game. You use the motion controller to actually "box", using them to throw punches and jabs. Sadly, it doesn't work as well as it should. The controls are just a little unresponsive and you find yourself getting caught by punches because the Wii didn't pick up on your movements in time.
Using the wiimote is really the only suitable option. It just feels slightly unsatisfactory. Given that Wii sports (admittedly a much simpler game) has shown the way in this regard, it's a shame they didn't get the wiimote/nunchuk combination right, as this would have drawn you into the game even more.
Anyone expecting a "proper" boxing simulation will steer well clear of this. The limited movements, combined with the reliance on spotting patterns boxing will prove annoying. For anyone else, though, this will provide a simple, yet hugely addictive game that will keep you playing until there's no-one else to beat. The lack of a proper two player mode with the ability to pick any character is a critical weakness which severely limits the long term replay value. In the short term, though, Punchout!! is a great looking, fun game.
© Copyright SWSt 2009
One of the biggest names in boxing returns after a 15-year hiatus. In Punch-Out!! you play as young up-and-coming fighter Little Mac who, with the help of his ringside trainer Doc Lewis, is working his way through the ranks of a wide variety of boxing caricatures, each with their own patterns of attacks. Grab a Wii Remote controller in one hand and a Nunchuk controller in the other and step back into the ring with a modern update of the classic Punch-Out!!