Giant Bomb Review

44 Comments

Punch-Out!! Review

5
  • Wii

Punch-Out!! builds on the strengths of the NES original in some smart, simple ways that, when combined with a stylish, playful presentation, makes for a terrific experience.

Knock him out!
At face value, the idea of trying to remake Punch-Out!! in the year 2009 seems like a dicey proposition at best. The original Punch-Out!! holds incredible nostalgic value for a lot of people, myself included, but the simple pattern-recognition gameplay doesn't seem like it would hold up today. On the other hand, trying to modernize Punch-Out!! with more complicated controls or a more realistic approach to boxing could very easily undermine the game's accessible appeal. Somehow, Nintendo manages to avoid both of these pitfalls with Punch-Out!! for the Wii, a game that capitalizes on the game's nostalgic legacy without feeling pandering or rehashed.

The biggest strength that Punch-Out!! has is that it recognizes the things that make Punch-Out!! such a fondly remembered game in the first place. First and foremost it's the larger-than-life, caricatured fighters you face off against as the plucky and diminutive Little Mac. The game features the full roster from the original Punch-Out!! To be clear, this means you'll sadly be squaring off against Mr. Sandman, and not Mike Tyson, for your title belt. Mr. Sandman is a fine opponent, and Nintendo has a fistful of good reasons to want to steer clear of Tyson, but for me, it's one of the few improvements that could have been made.

There are a couple of new fighters, as well as one from Super Punch-Out!!, and while many of the fighters are based on cultural or ethnic caricatures that might be borderline insensitive in 2009, it's all presented with a tone that's too easy-going and absurd to take that seriously. You'd have to have a pretty sour disposition to take offense at croissants falling out of Glass Joe when you knock him down, or the pieces of sushi that circle Piston Hondo's head when you've got him dazed. It's perfectly fine, though, to be offended by the fact that they changed Piston Honda's name, presumably for legal reasons.

The game pays a loving amount of attention to the way the fighters look, move, and sound, which is good, because they take up most of the screen and supply the game with its personality. Considering this is the first Punch-Out!! game since polygonal graphics and voice acting became the norm, it's a novelty in and of itself to see and hear these characters rendered this way, but they're also just really well executed. The cel-shaded graphics compliment the fighters' cartoonishly exaggerated physiques, and there's an expressiveness to the characters that, even when they're speaking a foreign language, let you know what's on their mind. Little Mac remains the silent protagonist, though his trainer Doc is eager to spout misremembered boxing platitudes, helpful advice, or whatever errant thought might be sauntering through his head in between rounds. The game mines the classic Punch-Out!! music quite successfully, and it really benefits from the energetic instrumentation.

Don't let his size fool you, Little Mac packs a punch.
Also key to the Punch-Out!! experience is the gameplay, which boils boxing down to a simple-yet-effective combination of pattern recognition and crackerjack timing. This isn't Fight Night, so you don't have to sweat ring position or, really, anything remotely resembling actual boxing, but this game does make some appreciable modifications to the core Punch-Out!! formula. Taking a page from Super Punch-Out!!, you can duck as well as dodge incoming punches, and a lot of attacks require you to move in a specific way to avoid taking damage. The other fighters have a bizarre tendency to telegraph their different punches and combos in really obvious, flamboyant ways, and it doesn't help their cause when they flash red right before they come for you. You might recognize a lot of the fighters, and maybe even some of their specific moves and weaknesses, but they've all got a few new tricks up their sleeves. The game takes its time ramping up the difficulty, though there comes a point where your timing and your reflexes are just as paramount to success as your ability to memorize a fighter's patterns. 

Structurally, the game initially might seem identical to the original. You work your way up through 13 fighters in three different circuits before you can call the WVBA championship yours. Once you get the belt, though, you unlock a second stage to your career, where you have to defend your title against the same fighters you just bested. This time, though, they've been training for you, and everyone is tougher, faster, and craftier in the ring. Many of them have changed their look dramatically, sometimes in ways that effect their core characteristics. 

Glass Joe, for example, enters the ring wearing headgear that keeps his glass jaw from being such a liability. Similarly, King Hippo rolls in with a manhole cover taped over his usually tender belly button. In both of these cases, it adds a second layer of figuring out how to overcome these fighters' new defenses, though everyone comes with a number of devastating new attacks. It's a clever design choice that addresses the issue of brevity when it comes to Punch-Out!!, even if it's not massive. For me, this is where Punch-Out!! really started getting tough in the way that I remember Punch-Out!! being tough, though it doesn't punish you for a loss by starting you back at square one. You can take as many runs at a fighter as you need, and there's a training mode where you can take on a fighter without the admittedly minor penalty of ruining your win/loss record.

The game also offers a two-player split-screen mode, pitting two Little Macs against each other. The action feels decidedly different here, and not just because of the fact that you're going up against someone who, at least to start, is the same size as you. The timing is much tighter, and if you take too long to throw a punch, or your opponent blocks or dodges your punch, you turn blue, which temporarily prevents you from throwing any punches. The best part about the multiplayer is the ability to transform into Giga Mac when you land enough punches. In addition to turning you into a monstrous, wild-haired freak, it switches from split-screen to a perspective that mimics the single-player game, essentially letting you play the game as one of the outsized fighters you're always going up against. Without any options to speak of, the multiplayer feels slight, but it's got some brief appeal.

A familiar face with a new trick.
You can play Punch-Out!! a couple of different ways on the Wii. You can go with just the Wii remote held sideways, providing control that's nearly identical to the NES classic, or you can go with a remote-and-nunchuk combo that you can swing at the screen to throw punches. There's also support for the Wii Balance Board, which you can use to duck and dodge incoming attacks. Personally, I found that the experience suffered with the motion controls and the optional balance board, particularly as the game gets harder. The gameplay in Punch-Out!! is very digital in nature, and the remote-only setup plays to that fact. With the motion controls, I felt like I was getting something that was more complicated without being tangibly better.

Not to harp on this point too much, but save for the inclusion of Mike Tyson, I'm not sure you could expect much better from a Punch-Out!! remake. That's not to say you couldn't make an arcade-style boxing game that was deeper and longer-lasting, but then it just wouldn't be Punch-Out!!
44 Comments
Posted by VWGTI

Whoa, picking this up on my lunch break for sure!

Posted by Bulby33

Wow, 5 stars? I did NOT expect that. Good review Davis!

Posted by Willy105

Neat!

Posted by Venatio

NO, this is not worth 5 stars, Im gonna have to strongly disagree with you Ryan

Posted by Hairydutchman

Awesome. I will definitely buy it.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

I think the defending-the-title thing is a great touch :)

Edited by Marzy
Venatio said:
NO, this is not worth 5 stars, Im gonna have to strongly disagree with you Ryan
Have you actually played it?

I'm going to preorder it tonight, I can't wait to play it!

Excellent review Ryan.
Posted by DukeTogo

The "second quest" mode is what sold me on the game.  I was hesitant to pay $50 for a game that was essentially the old game with a facelift, especially when it's on the Virtual Console for $5.  But adding a new and logical layer of depth to fight the same guys again with new strategies and looks is what I always wanted from the NES game.

Posted by troyx

great review ryan

Posted by RenegadeSaint

Just a heads up for everyone looking to buy:  Amazon has this for $40 shipped right now. 

GB STAFF: Please feel free to edit this link so it gives GiantBomb the referral and some extra cash for penny candy and such.

Posted by Picksnapper

Sweet 5 stars. It was the purple pixelated running little mac loading screen, wasn't it? Yeah I bet it was.

Posted by JJOR64

Holy crap, I thought that this game was going to get a 4.  Damn.  Now I need to get it.

Posted by Claude

Hellz Yeah!!

Little Mac is Back!

Edited by duderdude2
Heh, seems Ryan corrected his mistake that Mr. Dream was in the game. However...

"Taking a page from Super Punch-Out!!, you can duck as well as dodge incoming punches, and a lot of attacks require you to move in a specific way to avoid taking damage. "

Umm, you could duck and dodge in the NES version too...
Posted by Crono

5 Stars?  That is a bit of a shocker.  The review doesn't have me convinced either.

Posted by chililili
Crono said:
5 Stars?  That is a bit of a shocker.  The review doesn't have me convinced either.
Yeah, this is quite possibly the most fanboy review in the site. It really reads through nostalgia goggles, as I skipped this game in the NES and it holds no nostalgic power over me, I can honestly say it is not worth 50  dollars and its heavily overrated (not in this review, it is generally grounded in reality but skips over the game's shortcomings and simple mechanic)
Posted by TheGreatGuero

Okay then. Punch-Out!! might be the game that single-handedly prevents me from selling my Wii. I can't wait to play it.

Posted by trophyhunter

I'd say its more of a three star game there is only 13 guys in it and 12 of them are old

Posted by gamer4life

Yea, ryan is def a little biased because he loved the original punch-out so much but thats why this site is different.  if they love a game, whether they are biased or not, they will give it 5 stars cause they would easily recommend it to anyone.  thats why i love this site tho.

i never cared for the original punch-out and after playing this one, i can see why people who like the original would love it but to me, the game is just to plain and it should at least have more fighters since there have been a lot more then 13 in previous punch-outs.

Posted by trophyhunter

yeah if it had like 40 dudes in it then yes 5 stars

Posted by Metal_Mills

Even if he did love the original if it was a shitty squeal he'd probably review it harsher. Not everyone will like it the same. Some people in here don't understand what an opinion is and might be better suited to sites like Gamerankings that has an average rather than opinion and reason.

Posted by JackSukeru

I never played the original back in the day but I did pick it up on VC after hearing so much good about it. I really liked it and was planning to pick this up, now I'm fully convinced that it's a good idea.

Posted by artofwar420

Hello new Wii game, I shall buy you.

Online
Posted by Lemonhead

For some reason the 17 minute quick play session video that was up on the site a few days ago, sold me more to this game than any review ever has, video or not.


But I do agree that if you're not a cult fan of the original, you're probably not going to understand what the fuzz is about on this one.

And yes,  you could duck in the 1987 original as well
Online
Posted by Jared

Great review Ryan, I'll probably pick this up down the road.

Posted by Hairydutchman
chililili said:
Crono said: 5 Stars?  That is a bit of a shocker.  The review doesn't have me convinced either. Yeah, this ... [more]
Apparantly it's overrated by everyone that has actually played the game.

http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/punchout
Posted by theMcNasty

Can't wait to buy this one.

Edited by theMcNasty

Can't wait to buy this one.  Great review, Ryan.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Wow that is a great review, and I did not really expect the score. Cool, now I NEED to get this!

Posted by Kohe321

Brilliant review! I'm getting this for sure!

Posted by Asurastrike

Maybe it's because I've never played the original, but I really don't get the hype.

Posted by TomA

thats surprising

Posted by Gizmo

This has a higher review score then Left 4 Dead? What?!

Posted by Renegade

Everyone who thinks that the game isn't 5 stars, thats great! You can go post your own reviews of the game if you like.

Ryan's opinion of the game is 5 stars, and that's what reviews are, opinions.

Just deal with it. Enough with the 'WHAT? 5 STARS?!?!?' comments. You should be happy they even have a rating system for all you people that don't want to actually read.  It's pretty worthless to put a number on anything that is opinion based, but I won't get into that.

Regardless, good review, and I will be picking up the game.

Posted by woolgatherlather

i remember ducking in the nes punchout!! double tap down right?

Posted by Media_Master

Great!

Posted by Apathylad
Staff said:
Has been deleted..
Oh, so I wasn't the only one who noticed it? lol. For shame, Ryan Davis.
Posted by TripMasterMunky

The first 5 star Wii game!

Posted by Kazona

Punch! Punch! Punch!

Posted by Linkyshinks

Thanks Ryan.

I <3 PunchOut!!, I cannot wait to get the Heavyweight Contenders Kit with my copy. King Hippos soiled shorts ftw!.

Posted by KimFidler

This looks great.  Seems like a total must-have for all of the Wii owners out there looking for stuff to play.

Edited by MasterChiefLopez

I've been waiting for this title since it was announced and was keeping my Wii around and trying desperately not to trade it in.  I must say that it was worth the wait. 
My only complaint is that I sorta liked the "attacks" of Super Punch Out!!  A little bit more.  You dont get a whole lot of stars unless you've practiced and memorized their attack patterns.  In SPO!!  You got a bar that you could fill up a bar and you had an option of a rapid fire left, right or a deadly uppercut.  And until you got hit you never ran out of "star power".  I wish they could of made more "attacks" for Little Mac.  but other than that I hope this game is super successful and Nintendo realizes that they should make more frequent sequels.  15 years is way too long for a great franchise like this.  This is THE BEST game for the Wii in my opinion and quite possibly Sports Title of the Year on any system. 

Posted by nolecol

They said it in the bombcast and he shows it here. Disco Kid is the only new fighter. Aran Ryan was in Super-punchout just like Bear hugger

Posted by Mushir

Actually everyone, Ryan is right. There are more than 1 new fighter.