With a 15 year long absence from Nintendo’s consoles, many gamers completely wrote Punch Out!! off as an oldschool game. The series was a hit during the NES era remembered by virtually any owner, spawned a well received sequel during the SNES era — then it just disappeared. It missed out on the N64’s time in homes, and also called in sick for Gamecube duty.
Thankfully, with Nitnendo’s desire to revive old franchises, Punch Out!! was finally set to rise from the ashes. While nothing much has changed in the core gameplay since the 1987 original, the game does its job blending the nostalgia from over a decade ago with mainstream gaming to entertain you. It’s a good game and does the name justice-even if it’s for a short while.
Neither a remake, or a sequel, Punch-Out places you back in the boots of Little Mac, a boxer with a small stature and enormous goals-to be the WVBA champion. While the game seems to have moments of Mac training, and also shows a great deal of distinct personality with all the boxers Mac faces, there isn’t much of a story to go on. You are out to be the champion and when that’s accomplished, it’s over. Punch-Out doesn’t throw you a story on line with “Rocky” movies or just about every video game coming out at the moment. Then again, it really doesn’t have to. The game is entirely focused on being old school.
Mac’s job is to progress from three circuits, increasing the rank and eventually defeating the champion from each circuit. 13 boxers round out the roster-and it’s a pretty light load. The SNES Punch-Out, while recycling several characters and color pallets, had you going through four circuits, facing 13 boxers. Granted, after you finish the game you get to defend your title against the 13 again-whom have new attack patterns and circumstances to deal with, but it still feels light. The boxers that show up are mostly comprised of NES Punch-Out favorites, with only one new character showing up early on.
The choice of characters seems questionable as well. SNES favorites like Hoy Quarlow or Masked Muscle are strangely absent and in their place are characters like Bear Hugger and Aran Ryan-two characters that were easily forgettable. The claim of new characters is only in the singular. There is only one brand new character in the game with the exception of a cameo appearance. While Disco Kid fits the rest of the Punch-Out group, a few more new innovative characters to pad out the roster would have been nice. The nostalgia’s great, but this isn’t the NES version of Punch Out, some creativity could be in order.
The game animates nicely. Each boxer’s personality just eschews onto the screen, and the game is gorgeous to look at. If anything truly was updated in this franchise, the graphics have to be the winner. The game also offers several still shots before fights of your opponent doing something. This is usually to give you an idea of what fool your up against, but seems half done.
Then again, if they had no stills at all and just the boxers, I wouldn’t have complained in the beginning as the boxers themselves in game offer enough personality that the stills are completely unneeded. While in the ring, the boxers dance, taunt and do whatever they need to do to get you jacked up to beating their ass.
While this is a “boxing game” if you’re looking for the next “Fight Night” you may be disappointed. At it’s core, Punch Out!! is an action game and nothing more. There is no strategy involved, the game is about learning your opponents moves and knowing when to get the hell out of the way at the right moment. It sounds simple and that’s because it is, but it’s a tried and true formula. When you start on Glass Joe, you very well could escape without getting touched. Later on, things get more hectic. Your window to dodge or block decreases the further you get up till it’s basic reflex and watching your opponent just make an animation. Once they attack you and you’ve successfully gotten out of the way, you then have a chance to return the favor by knocking them senseless.
While the previous games followed this mechanic, the game has one small problem with it’s fighters animations. Several will have a few variations for each attack. One may quickly club you and then do the same animation, but delay the hit until you dash and come back in to give you a more devastating attack. The animations are stupid and make you wonder what the developers were thinking. The idea is to look and watch closely what your opponent does and not over-estimate, but watching them lets you get clubbed by those quick attacks, if you dodge in time to get out of the weak attacks you are gonna get nailed by the strong attack.
The varied animations are stupid, a little more response time would have been nice. Luckily they don’t detract from the overall experience besides annoying the hell out of you. The developers could use hops, taunts or whatever to throw you off. Identical animations with little response time for a quick maneuver is just bad game design plain and simple.