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The original Punch-Out Game was an arcade release and Nintendo later developed versions for their consoles. The first one for the NES was Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Needless to say his name is unlikely to ever grace another game and he is absent from the Wii version. It was followed by Super Punch-Out!! for the SNES and then there was a break of fifteen years until now. Get ready for a beating down memory lane as Little Mac comes out of retirement to undertake his bid for the title under your control.
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The gameplay in Punch-Out!! is like a caricatured version of what you may remember from the original. Each boxer you face represents a distinct challenge. They each have their own timing, special moves and a unique rhythm that you have to discern in order to beat them. Keep a vigilant eye out for the opening and make sure you strike when you get the chance. You’ll need to defeat each opponent by knock out or decision if you want to go the distance.
The basic progression in Punch-Out!! is still there but developers, Next Level Games, have added more content. You start out on the Minor Circuit and have to fight your way through the Majors to the World Title. Things don’t end there though and you’ll be expected to defend your crown from various challengers. The Title Defense mode kicks things into overdrive just when you thought you’d made it and previously defeated opponents return faster and stronger than before.
The attempt to introduce special Wii controls is there and you can throw punches and use the Balance Board for ducking and dodging. There is no doubt that the original NES style controls are easier to handle and you may prefer to switch to them. You’ll also get knackered throwing punches and dodging around your living room. The controls are simple and very easy to pick up but they offer satisfying gameplay with some depth.
There is also an Exhibition mode in Punch-Out!! and defeated fighters are unlocked in here. You can take on various challenges which give a specific focus. You may have to get a knock down three times or defeat an opponent in under a minute. These additional challenges add replay value and successfully completing them unlocks more content.
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Punch-Out!! looks absolutely fantastic. The 2D cartoon style is beautifully realised and loads of the faces you’ll remember from earlier entries in the series are here including Glass Joe, Disco Kid, Bald Bull, King Hippo, Mr Sandman and many others. The character design is great and they all have a wide range of animations and their own way of moving and punching. They also have their own taunting animations which are sure to raise a chuckle. The visual effects include tweeting birds revolving around their heads when they get punched, and sometimes they glow red when they are about to unleash an attack showing you the opening. In fact each boxer has a tell which serves as a warning that he is due to attack. Figuring these tells out is key to your success. The intro cut scenes are comical and the game has great production values which build on your Punch-Out!! nostalgia to create a really charming visual style.
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The sound effects, music and voiceover work all add to the comedy. The sound effects are very useful and accompany every move in the ring to give you a great range of feedback. Your opponents will laugh and taunt and their voiceover dialogue gives them more character. The unobtrusive comedy music and crowd cheering sounds give Punch-Out!! some background atmosphere.
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There is a split screen multiplayer mode in Punch-Out!! which offers you the option of 1 on 1 battles. Both players are Little Mac which is a bit disappointing and the ability to choose from the roster would have been nice. The mode offers a blast of fun but the real action is to be found in the single player game. You are more likely to play the Career Mode turn about if you have friends round rather than the multiplayer. Taking it in turns to fight opponents is a good way to get a rest between bouts and defeat the game.
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Punch-Out!! is a rare must have title for the Wii. It manages to walk that fine line between casual accessibility and real depth for hardcore gamers. There is something here for everyone and the excellent gameplay is wrapped in a terrific visual package which can hardly fail to charm you. Fans of the original series will love this but even if you have never heard of Punch-Out!! you should still buy it.
- All references, cover art and screenshots from Punch Out!! for the Nintendo Wii.