Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Arcade, Sports
Developer: Next Level Games
Wii Balance Board
Punch-Out is a sequel of the popular series that was originally released in the arcades and then released on the NES and Super NES systems. I remember playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out as a kid and I always enjoy trying out the sequels of games to see if they include any new and improved features. Hopefully this continuation of the Punch-Out series, developed by Vancouver based Next Level Games, creates a few new memories and less long nights of frustration that I remember quite well from the original game.
The graphics in Punch-Out are pretty good with the 3D characters stylized as cartoon characters. Little Mac looks like your typical boxer while your opponents have the characteristics of extreme caricatures of stereotypical countryman who originate from various locales across the globe. There is some good use of shadow to show detail on the characters as well as movement. Even though Little Mac is small as his name would suggest, I thought it was a little bizarre that the opponents were much larger in height and size in comparison but I chalk this up to the arcade nature of the game.
During my time playing the game I found that there was a lack of variety in regards to actual movement of the characters. They are confined to the center of the ring with some left and right lateral movement as they dodge punches. During the fighe characters will show signs of impact when a punch lands squarely such as their head flying back or to one side and some sweat spraying off as a result. You may even hit the opponent hard enough for “stars” to appear and ring around their head. These stars might vary depending on which character you are fighting against as you will see anything from salmon (Bear Hugger) to birds (Von Kaiser). The characters will also show some signs of damage on their bodies as the round progresses too but this tends to always be in the same spots. Even the special fighting moves and the opponent’s actions and reactions to Little Macs attacks lack variety and tend to be a bit predictable.
I found that there was also a lack of attention to detail and variety when it came to the background work. The arenas are always the same when fighting in the same circuit with a change to a bigger arena occurring only when you move on up to the next circuit. The ring is quite basic and the crowds are mostly shadowed shapes with some basic movements or effects such as clapping, cheering, and even some camera flashes. The very back figures are not even recognizable human shapes but large bobbing blobs.
Unlike other games there was less use of video to tell the story. I found this a really great feature and the opponent introductions were done via a series of four cartoon images that were humorous and really well done. During the rounds, mini cut scenes were also included and these were like watching a cartoon on television.
The audio work in the game is very well done. The characters have distinctive personality via their various grunts, voices (e.g. accents/languages) and witty banter. There are very simple sound effects and impact noises which reminded me of the sounds from early fighting games. All the typical sounds of a boxing match can be heard clearly from the ding of the bell, the cheers and whistles of the crowd to the sound of the opponent crashing down to the mat as a result of a knockout. A nice feature that made use of the sounds in the game were the audio clues during a fight that gave you a hint as to what your opponents next move would be. An example of this would be Bear Hugger’s “Need a Hug” line that would let you know that a dual arm frontal attack was coming your way.
I was pleased to find that during the matches the music was at a relatively good default volume in the background of the action as it was neither distracting nor overpowering. The music during the circuit matches is the same for each match within the circuit and will vary once you move on to the next arena. During exhibition mode, the music is tailored to the opponent’s style/personality. For example, there is a disco beat playing in the background if you are fighting against Disco Kid. Overall the music helps this arcade title do a pretty good job of setting the mood.
Punch-Out takes advantage of the Wii Remote, Nunchuk and Wii Balance Board (Optional) to provide four different control styles. The four styles are Wii Remote only, Wii Remote/Nunchuk Combo and either of these styles combined with the Wii Balance board. The following is a summation of each:
Wii Remote Style: This style is where you hold the Wii Remote horizontally and use the 1 & 2 buttons for your Left and Right hooks. If you hold down the 1 or 2 buttons you will be able to block. The ‘A’ button is used to activate your Star Punch (stars must be earned by performing special actions) while the control pad is used to dodge to the left or right as well as to duck.
Wii Remote & Nunchuk Style: The Wii Remote and Nunchuk are used like boxing gloves where you use either controller in a punching motion to perform a left or right hook. With this control style you jab by holding down the ‘B’ button on the Wii Remote and the ‘Z’ button on the Nunchuk while performing a punching motion with either controller. The ‘A’ and ‘C’ buttons are used to activate your Star Punch (stars must be earned by performing special actions). When using this control option the analog stick is used to dodge (left or right), duck (down) and block (up).
Wii Balance Board Styles: The two previous styles can be used in combination with Wii Balance Board replacing the control pad and control stick to dodge and duck. To duck just apply pressure on the balance board with both feet and to dodge you move to the right or left on the balance board. Blocking is still performed with the control stick and control pad.
The main mode in Punch-Out is the Career Mode. Here you will find most of your time taken up as the role of Little Mac who works his way through three separate modes known as Contender, Title Defence, and Mac’s Last Stand.
In Contender Mode Little Mac is an up and coming boxer who has to work his way through the Minor, Major and World Circuits to become the World Video Boxing Association (WVBA) Championship. Once you make it through all the circuits and are crowned the WVBA Champion you will have to defend your title against the opponents who you beat along the way. This makes up the Contender mode. Lastly, you can play in Mac’s Last Stand in which if you lose three times you will have to retire.
Each opponent you face in the game, regardless of mode, has their own unique fighting style and weaknesses which you will have to contend against. You can win a fight either by Knock-Out (opponent does not get back up during a count of ten), Technical Knock-Out (opponent is knocked-out three times during a round) or by Referee Decision (both opponents survive all three rounds and the referee makes the decision). During a match you have to make sure to keep your stamina up because if your stamina reaches zero you will be knocked out. You also have to be careful to keep your hearts up. You earn hearts by dodging or blocking punches but will lose hearts if your opponent blocks your punch or you are hit by a punch. If you lose all your hearts you are unable to fight or throw any punches. This adds a bit of strategy to the game given you need to really balance your offence with your defence. If you find the opponents are too difficult you can go and practice against a hologram version of the opponent in practice mode to learn how to take them down. Along the way you will also get some hints and tips from your trainer Doc Louis that will help you get an edge on your opponent.
Also available is a head-to-head gameplay option that allows you to play with friends and family. In a head-to-head match you and your opponent will play split screen with both of your characters being represented as Little Mac. During the fight you are able to gain Giga Mac Juice to transform into Giga Mac, giving Little Mac some more abilities, attacks, and a lot more power. To gain Giga Mac Juice you must dodge, duck and block your opponent’s punches until they turn blue. When they turn blue you have to quickly land a punch to store some Giga Mac Juice. Once you fill your meter you will transform into Giga Mac. Here your punches become much stronger and you are able to hold down your punch buttons and the control pads to perform super charged attacks. In the end it is probably the best strategy to get your Giga Mac Juice meter filled before your opponent so you can be the one hammering down the other Little Mac for the win. Head-to-head could have benefitted from a character selection screen of characters from the roster within the game, but when you’re having fun pounding your opponent as Giga Mac it is only a minor issue.
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