It’s the year 1989. After a good report I got spoiled with a new game. A true joy for me, a hell for my parents as I could rarely choose from the many Nintendo titles. In the end my eye fell on Punch-Out!! feat. Mr. Dreams. The game kept me clustered to the screen for months thanks to the ingenious gameplay that was a combination between timing and recognising movements. 20 summers later this Wii remake from the old NES and SNES title arrives. Will it again give me a tan from the overload of TV radiance or be a cold shower?
A remake of Punch-Out wasn’t something Nintendo planned, but Next Level, devs of Mario Strikers Charged, came knocking on the console giant’s door with it themselves. Surprisingly enough Nintendo agreed with the Wii version after having forgotten about it for two console generations. Next Level therefore did their best to perfectly transfer the essence of the NES and SNES to the current generation. It’s clear as daylight that the developers are big fans of the original.
Those expecting a real boxing game will be disappointed, the formula rather looks like a puzzle game where timing is essential. Memorise the moves of your opponents, learn to avoid them and do a counterattack. The rules are still the same: three rounds in each fight and if you manage to knock your opponent out three times in one round you win by technical knockout (TKO). If you or your opponent meet the floor several times during multiple rounds you can get a KO. People that are very good in timing can exploit their opponent’s weaknesses to get a KO in one hit.
Quick learners will find openings in the opponent’s defense fast. Sometimes you’ll get rewarded with a star which is a strong attack but you’re not obliged to immediately use this. You can save up to three of them to combine them to make one super-hit, but beware that the other guy doesn’t hit you at this time as you’ll loose those stars immediately.
Before you start you can practise on holograms of your opponents and there’s three category titles that can be reached: minor, major and world. After getting all three the game still isn’t over is keeping the title is also important. You need to face all 13 opponents again but with new moves and a bit harder than before. Even Glass Joe, the easiest one in the first rounds, will be able to knock you down. Once having gone through all 13 again you can take on a secret 14th character.
Punch-Out!! is playable through two methods, with the movement sensor in the Wii-remote and Nunchuck, or through the classic way where you hold your Wii-mote sideways and play like with the classic NES controller with the 1 & 2 as buttons. Although the controls as Miyamoto wanted work well we definitely suggest to use the classical method. Especially towards the end the difficult becomes extremely high and you’ll notice you’re a lot faster with the controller method. The balance board can also be used to evade punches but you’ll quickly become aware that you’re too concentrated on moving correctly than actually hitting. Nice added value for a short time but you’ll certainly not be able to reach to the ending with it.
Those that prefer to play with two are in for a disappointment. The game has a simple head-to-head mode but you can only play this as Little Mac and not as one of those other nice fighters. A small twist was given to the game though, if you manage to throw some good punches in a row you change into Giga Mac, an inhumane creature with the power of a bulldozer. He’s a lot slower than Little Mac and easier to evade though. In the end the game remains button bashing or waving arms. The time you have to react seems too short to make it a truly balanced fight which is sad as a good two-player mode guarantees hours of fun after the single player.
Visually the game is a true masterpiece on the Wii. The choice to have a cartoony style perfectly hides the lesser power the Wii has. The characters seem perfectly transferred after their debut in the previous games. The characteristics from the nationalities are displayed funny without insulting people. What they’re shouting, however, remains a mystery as I don’t have such a head for languages.
The whole forms a pleasing game, people that enjoyed the old games will certainly be happy with the retro feeling. Those that haven’t played the originals will be surprised by the depth of the gameplay and the strongly rising difficulty degree. For younger kids this may be a bit too difficult despite the funny looks. Getting to know your opponents takes time and patience of an angel but the reward is all the more when you see him on the floor with his face down. We wonder why Punch-Out!! never managed to find its way to the Nintendo64 or the Gamecube…