Release Date: 03/30/2007
I love the Virtual Console. Some of the games available were mainstays of my childhood days. Others were fantasies of mine that stayed unattainable because it is quite hard to amass enough money to ensure a steady flow of video games when you’re not even old enough to work in Bangladesh. Fortunately, with the Wii’s Virtual Console, I can finally spend my money on games that did not have the distinction of being a part of my collection before. I know that a lot of people are in the same situation as me, so I think that actual reviews of the downloadable titles will be useful because God knows that what looked attractive when you were twelve might not look as good when you are all grown up. This is why we decided to review retro titles from Nintendo’s download service. Let’s see how yesterday’s games fare with today’s standards, and if they are actually worth the 5/8/10 dollars.
First up is a game that was only recently added, but that still manages to be one of the best boxing games available despite its primitive look: Punch-Out!!
Story? What story? Your name is Little Mac, you’re 17 and you’re from the Bronx. You have a trainer named Doc Louis, and you try to make your way through the different leagues with the hope of facing the hard-as-hell Mr. Dream at the end. It’s not even really a season mode per say, because as soon as your press “start”, you’re catapulted from one fight to the next until you reach the end or you lose enough times. However, it does have “dialogues”, which are nothing more than quotes from your trainer and your opponents. Although some of them are humorous, there’s nothing to split your sides here. On the other hand, if you count the main (and only) game mode as the game’s season mode, it is effective despite giving you limited options. VERY limited options. As in none.
“Join the Nintendo Fun Club!”
Story/Season Mode: 3/10
The sprites are big and colourful. Each boxer is drawn with enough details to convincingly show the appropriate stereotype that the development team was trying to depict. Not much changes from one fight to the other except for the colour of the ring, and the crowd is small and lacks detail. I guess you expected that from an NES game. However, there’s a pretty scene at the end of each title bout where Little Mac and Doc Louis are training in front of New York City’s skyline. I wouldn’t say it’s gorgeous, but it’s good enough.
The sound effects are distinguishable enough, with punches sounding as good as they possibly can in 8-bits. The background music is catchy as hell, and I’m sure that a lot of you can hum it by heart. It’s all quality stuff for a NES game.
This is where Punch-Out!! really shines. The controls are tight and responsive. There’s no delay between the time when you press the button and Little Mac’s reaction, so you know that I you get knocked-out, it’s your own damn fault. Everything is intuitive and easy to learn. You can’t ask for anything else from a game based on pattern and reflexes.
Once you have beaten everybody within the game, there’s nothing left to do but to try to do it faster. Sure, you’ll go back to the game every once in a while to go through it again because it never feels tedious and it doesn’t take long anyway, but there’s no extra and no other mode than the standard single-player game. Multiplayer Punch-Out, now that would be a great idea.
Punch-Out!! does a nice job of making you feel comfortable by starting with easy fights that act like tutorials before sending you against the tougher fighters. If you lose against Glass Joe, it’s because you wanted it, or because you forgot to pause the game to answer the phone. However, when you get in the last series of fights, it gets annoyingly hard, until the game culminates with Mr. Dream, who can knock you out with one punch. There’s still a nice and steady progression, at least until you reach the last bunch of boxers.
When Punch-Out!! came out, there was nothing like it. About two decades later, there’s still nothing else like it. Other than for its SNES sequel and the Ready 2 Rumble series, nobody else has even tried to make a fun, arcade-style boxing game. Recently, it has been all about realism with Knockout Kings and Fight Night, so even now, the game manages to feel fresh and fun.
This is a game that is really hard to put down. Even when I get stuck against an opponent, I never feel like giving up, and I keep coming back even after beatdown #10. However, some of the characters you are going to face just feel cheap, like Mr. Dream, and after being sent to the floor for the hundredth time, you really do feel like throwing the controller at the wall and never coming back, but you refrain yourself from doing so because those damn Wii remotes are worth forty dollars.
Boxing is pretty popular in America, and the big cartoony characters do have their appeal. If someone has extra Wii points and is browsing through the available games, there’s a good chance that Punch-Out!! might catch that person’s eye. Other than that, I don’t think that this game screams “BUY ME!” in the same way that a classic Tetris does to casual gamers, or the way a Castlevania game would for a hardcore gamer.
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Should you get this game, I guarantee that you will get your money’s worth. I spent a lot of time playing this in the past two weeks, and it more than justifies the 5 bucks. The game is fun enough, so you will probably come back to it frequently in the future, and the challenge is good enough to make the whole experience pretty satisfying. I have played other boxing games since Punch-Out!!, and while they were good and provided a better overall boxing experience than this game did, nothing beats this classic for sheer fun and enjoyment.
Overall Score: 5.9/10
Final Score: 6.0 (Fair)
Short Attention Span Summary
Despite the game’s age, which quite frankly is beginning to show, Punch-Out!! is still one of the finest boxing titles available at the moment. The game only flunks when it comes to technical categories, and even then, the fact that some of the graphics do not feel as good as they used to just adds to the humour of the game. Sure, it might not have been intended this way when it was conceptualized about 20 years ago, but seeing Piston Honda’s exaggerated Asian traits really cracks me up. It might not be the prettiest game on the block, but it’s one of the most effective when it comes to delivering a decent challenge for your reflexes.