The original Punch-Out!! was available on the arcades in 1984 and was eventually released for the NES in 1987. The NES version was thought of as one of the consoles’ best games. It mixed intense accuracy with solid gameplay. The series hasn’t been updated in 15 years and I wasn’t sure if I was going to see another Punch-Out!! game again. Leave it to Next Level Games to resurrect Little Mac and bring back its popular classic to the Nintendo Wii. Does the modern update deliver a knockout? Read the review to find out.
Punch-Out!! for the Wii isn’t a boxing simulation that the Fight Night series is. It’s an arcade style boxing game with exaggerated gameplay and tons of fun. Little Mac is back and is looking to become the champion once again. The game features 13 fighters with a 14th unlockable fighter being Donkey Kong if you can successfully defeat the previous 13 challengers throughout the single player campaign. Of course you have to face those challengers again in order to defend the titles against them. Keep in mind that they have been training a lot harder and are going to be much tougher the second time around. They will also have new moves in their repertoire. There are three circuits to compete in: Minor, Major and World. The game’s difficulty ramps up pretty quick after the Minor circuit. You can even practice against your opponents which, allows you to fight holographic versions of the fighters so you can get a feel for their moves and tactics without taking any damage. After completing the single player campaign you can then face them in exhibition mode while meeting certain goals. Some of the goals are easy, while others are pretty demanding. It’s a fun diversion and gives the game some added replay value.
Of course simply button mashing won’t get the job done as it will lead to a quick defeat. There is a puzzle-like element to the game because you have to memorize attack patterns and tactics. If you hit your opponent while the flashing yellow color shows up you can earn yourself a star. Up to three stars can be stored at once. However, getting punches blocked and getting hit causes you to lose the stars that you earned. If you can manage to deliver the star punch it will result in an instant knockdown. Hitting an opponent while he taunts you earns you a star. Fighters turn red when they are going to deliver the special attack which deals a lot of damage.
The game can either be played with the Wii Remote held sideways or using the Wii Remote with the Nunchuck. Why there wasn’t support for the Classic Controller or even the Gamecube Controller is beyond me. The game even supports the Wii Balance Board, giving you the ability to dodge and duck. I really enjoyed using the Wii Remote with the Nunchuck. It makes you feel like your taking part in a boxing match. On top of that the game gives you a pretty good workout at the same time.
As far as the presentation goes the game looks really good on the Wii. The 3D cell-shaded graphics are really nice. All the characters in the game look really good and are very detailed. Animations and facial expressions are done well and are hilarious during and in between fights. There are impressive looking cutscenes that feature Little Mac in training with his trainer Doc Lewis. I was disappointed that the other characters didn’t have the same quality cutscenes as well because it would have made the fighters even more interesting. Instead, you get simplistic style panels with very little story added in. I would’ve at least liked to have seen some dialog during the panels with some story and background information.
The audio is pretty solid. It features some good voice work. It would have been nice to include some on-screen text since some of the fighters don’t speak English. Doc Lewis does a pretty good job of offering advice between rounds. Some of his dialog can be pretty fun as well. He constantly mentions how much he loves chocolate. I don’t know why Little Mac wasn’t given the option to speak since he’s the main character in the game. The punches sound good. The music during the main menu could’ve been better though but it’s ok.
Disco Kid is the only new fighter in the game. He fits in well with the rest of the roster. His flashy style makes him really fun to punch. I would’ve liked to have seen a larger roster of fighters especially considering all the fighters that have been around since the franchise has started. Favorites such as King Hippo, Bald Bull and Great Tiger make a return. A couple of fighters are brought over from the SNES version. Aran Ryan is a crazy Irishman who has no concern for delivering headbutts during fights. Bear Hugger is a 400 pound Canadian who loves Maple Syrup.
The game even features a multiplayer mode called Head to Head. Two players take control of a Little Mac in split screen mode. Attacks and dodges are done using Little Mac’s standard set of moves. There is a meter when filled will turn Little Mac into Giga Mac who is much bigger and much more powerful. Afterwards, the game switches to a single screen mode style like in the traditional Punch-Out!! style. It would’ve been nice to choose other fighters against each other instead of just using Little Mac. Having Bald Bull and Soda Popinski facing each other would have been epic. Head to Head is a fun mode but it could’ve been better.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of online support. Next Level Games is the same company that made Mario Strikers Charged which featured online support. A leaderboard with best times and achievements would have been a great addition. Online multiplayer would have fit really well with the game. The Wii is a system that I feel is designed for online support. It would’ve have been great to be able to create your own fighter as well.
Punch-Out!! for the Wii is another example of a remake done right. It’s a fun game. It has great graphics. The audio is solid. Multiplayer is good but could have been better. A roster of 13 fighters is good but a larger roster would have been really nice. Lack of online support is a huge disappointment. It’s a great game that oozes nostalgia. Overall it’s a great game and is one of the systems’ best titles. I heard there will be a 2nd Punch-Out!! game so hopefully it will include online support and a bigger roster the second time around.