Dancin' like a fly, bite like a mosquito.
It's been a while since a Punch-Out!! game has debuted. But in its latest rendition, everything that made the series great is still intact and more polished than ever. The stereotyped characters are given more personality, while the gameplay is relatively unchanged. Even though it is technically a boxing game, Punch-Out!! has always been more about figuring out patterns in order to defeat opponents and this game is no different. I played through the Minor Circuit, which included three classic characters, Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and King Hippo. It also included a new character, Disco Kid, who is a flamboyant, black, party-going fighter with a wide-open attack stance.
Punch-Out!! looks and feels great. Fighters are introduced through several colorful artistic drawings. The game itself is in cel-shaded 3D, and brings old characters to life. Characters also show injuries, and Little Mac can get pretty torn up. In standard Punch-Out!! form, fighters follow a particular pattern of attack in which it is easy to spot holes at the beginning, but timing becomes harder in later bouts. After figuring out the pattern, defeating your opponents is just a matter of timing and patience (and perhaps endurance with the new motion controls). If you remember how to beat King Hippo in the original game, you won't have too much trouble here since the same method is required. In between rounds, there is character dialog as in previous games, but this time the dialog is fully voiced. Doc Lewis is back as Little Mac's trainer. He not only offers advice between rounds, but he also lifts up Mac like a rag doll after the boxer has defeated his opponent. There are perhaps even more silly stereotypes throughout the game than were found in the old ones. For instance, when Glass Joe is knocked out, loaves of French bread fly out.
Control is an interesting fusion of classic Punch-Out!! control and motion control. As you might expect, punches are delivered by jabbing the Wii Remote for right hooks and the Nunchuk for left hooks. But rather than detecting direction or tilt, the analog stick and buttons are used. The B and Z buttons change the hooks to jabs, and the A and C buttons activate Star Punches (which are collected during well-timed attacks). Moving the Nunchuk's analog stick left or right makes Little Mac dodge in those directions. Pointing the stick down makes him duck, while pointing it up is used to jab or block opponent's punches. If knocked down, Mac can recover by rapidly shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Sometimes Mac can get a last ditch bit of energy even though it looks like he's done for. The combination control gives the cardio workout benefits of Wii Boxing, while allowing for the preciseness of traditional control. Punch-Out!! can also be controlled NES-style, though I did not get a chance to try this scheme.
This new Punch-Out!! feels very much like its old-school predecessors, yet brings a modern elegance. Players can experience the silliness of the classic franchise while burning off calories.