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North America

Boxing Fever

by Jonathan Metts - October 30, 2001, 4:25 pm EST


Nothin’ says lovin’ like my homemade biscuits! Err...rather, Boxing Fever is a really cool game.

I should make it clear that Boxing Fever is not the spiritual successor to Punch-Out!!; the two games simply play very differently. But that doesn’t mean BF isn’t a great game, and even hardcore fans of Nintendo’s classic boxing franchise should try Majesco’s new take on the sport, because there are a lot of great ideas here, not to mention fun.

The most striking thing about the action in Boxing Fever is that nothing is scripted. Each character has an arsenal of combos, but they’re difficult to spot without practice, and you never know when they’ll be used. Tiny (who, unsurprisingly, is so big you can’t even see his face from your perspective) doesn’t have some set pattern that you can learn and exploit to easily beat him; at all times, the keys to winning a match are observance and quick reflexes. If the opponent lowers his (or her!) gloves, you’d better block low real fast, and if you see them crouch down for an uppercut, you better dodge to the side...quickly. You’re always on the edge of your seat, high-strung and waiting for the perfect opportunity to sneak an attack or combo in.

This gameplay formula is perfectly complemented by the unique first-person view, since opponents literally fill the screen, giving attentive players no excuse not to see a punch coming. The animation is critical here, and it works very well...only a couple characters are so fast that it’s practically impossible to anticipate their actions, but they also do so little damage per punch that it’s okay to get hit a few extra times.

I’ll save the specifics for my graphics score explanation, but suffice it to say that BF is one of the most visually unique games yet released on GBA. The developers, Digital Fiction, have combined smooth parallax scrolling with absolutely gigantic, hand-drawn character sprites to create a highly interesting and very much functional look for the game. Graphics aficionados will eat up the clever use of technology, while everyone else will appreciate the unorthodox style and the how much the first-person view adds to the gameplay.

Boxing Fever has five levels of difficulty, all selectable right off the bat. It would have been cool to unlock the later ones, but it’s hard to complain when the AI is so good. Opponents pull no punches (ugh, bad pun alert!), and winning a championship on easy will make you want to jump right into something more challenging...a testament to the game’s playability and balance. There’s also a limited but quite useful training mode, plus a surprisingly fun “Endurance” test that rewards strategy and energy conservation even more than normal.

Last but not least, you can hook up with a friend’s GBA (you’ll need two cartridges) and go head-to-head...and this is one of the few games that just absolutely begs to be played with others. Unfortunately I didn’t get to test that feature out, but provided that it’s technically sound (no slowdown, etc.), multiplayer should be one of the most valuable and long-lasting modes in the game. Even matches against the computer often become veritable punching-chess-matches, and the ability to share that experience with a friend is enticing indeed.

Boxing Fever is a deep, cerebral game of pugilism; if you’re the type to jump in and start mashing on buttons, you’ll probably be frustrated very quickly. Those who can appreciate the strategic, seat-gripping gameplay and lush graphics are going to love this game. Highly recommended, especially if you’ve got a friend interested in two-player.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 7 8 9 9 9

Not everyone will like the hand-drawn art, but I sure do. Everything is sharp and fluid, backgrounds are impressively detailed and animated, and there are some snazzy blur effects for when you get pounded really bad. I wish there were a few more special effects, but then again, those might detract from the game’s more-or-less realistic style. Character animation is varied and detailed, and it actually becomes an essential part of the gameplay since you have to closely watch opponents to anticipate their actions.


The mostly decent music seems to play whenever it feels like it. The fight announcer is quite on-the-ball, usually naming the moves or announcing the combo, but sometimes he’ll also make some funny, snide remark about a boxer’s performance. I recommend turning his volume to “Very Loud” in the options menu. The only omission is smack-talk between boxers, but that’s pretty understandable given the cartridge format.


B punches with the left hand, A with the right, and the shoulder triggers dodge. Combine those simple commands with weight-shifting via the control pad, and you’ve got Boxing Fever’s control scheme – and it works great. All the moves are responsive and simple to use if you’ve practiced in the training mode. Different characters have individual combos, but each should’ve had a super move or something.


Boxing Fever throws away all pretenses and just concentrates on pure, solid boxing action. The learning curve may seem high at first, but it evens out pretty quickly, especially if you spend some time in the training room. The computer AI is smart and deadly, and your skills will have to be honed to a fine point if you want to compete in the upper difficulty levels.


The tight, encapsulated gameplay can be enjoyed over and over and over, and the significantly increasing levels of difficulty mean that you won’t blow through everything in a day. The multiplayer feature adds a ton to this score, as do the entertaining training and endurance modes (to a lesser extent).


An amazingly impressive debut for Digital Fiction, Boxing Fever is already one of my favorite sports games. It doesn’t have the character or charm of Punch-Out, but its gameplay is arguably superior...plus, it has the much-needed link cable support that handheld boxing and fighting games often lack. Definitely look into this game if you want to add something unique and innovative to your GBA library, or if you’re just a big fan of boxing games.


  • Boxing gameplay combines reflexes and strategy to go way beyond the typical pattern-based formula of this genre.
  • Eye-catching, unusual visuals that work with the gameplay, not against or in spite of it.
  • Perfectly suited for two-player matches; buy two copies and start converting your friends.
  • Music plays sporadically, and some of it is a bit disturbing.
  • There could have been more differentiation among the characters.
  • There’s nothing to unlock, and the password system is more or less useless.
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Fighting
Developer Digital Fiction
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Boxing Fever
Release Oct 11, 2001

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