Date Released: VC: April 16, 2007 (USA)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
The latest Punch-Out!! for the Wii releases today into North American stores. To celebrate this we have my review of Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream on the Virtual Console. The original NES Punch-Out!! frequents Top 10 NES lists and generally is the most popular and remembered of the games in the series. And for good reason: the gameplay's excellent, the puzzles are difficult, and the stereotypical humor is hilarious.
Punch-Out!! may be all about boxing, but it varies considerably from other regular boxing games. It'd be more suitable to call it a puzzle-action game than a boxing title. You play as Little Mac and are rooted in the middle of the rink. You have a decent amount of punches and dodges in your arsenal. Where the challenge and strategy comes in is with the various boxers of different speeds and skills. Learning exactly when to dodge and then deliver uppercuts and jabs becomes crucial when the boxers begin to only give you split second warnings. It'll take a lot of pattern memorization and multiple playthroughs of each stage.
Additional elements to the Punch-Out!! formula are hearts and stars. You'll have a set number of hearts at the beginning of each round. You'll lose one each time you're punched and if you lose all of these your fighter becomes exhausted and unable to fight back. To gain back hearts, you will have to dodge a certain number of punches. Stars on the other hand are obtained by delivering blows to your opponents at certain times, usually when they're about to attack you. When you have a star you can unleash a devastating Star Punch on your foes for some big damage with the Start button (+ on a Wii remote held sideways).
The rest of the controls in Punch-Out!! are intuitive and mapped wonderfully. Left, right, and down on the d-pad are for dodges and blocks while B (1 on the Wii remote) and A (2) combined with pressing up on the directional pad make up your offense. It all controls great, and you'll be surprised with all that you can pull off with just a d-pad and two face buttons.
Punch-Out!! is all about Little Mac and his rise to overcome the odds and become the champ. He'll face foes like the weakling Glass Joe, the humongous King Hippo, and the insanely difficult Mr. Dream (Mike Tyson in the original version) along the way. The story's nothing to get excited over, but at least the character each have distinct personalities that's brought to life via animations and in between round verbal taunts. A drink (is it soda or alcohol?) swigging Russian named Soda Popinski? A Japanese fighter named Piston Honda that'll deliver a "TKO from Tokyo"? Yep, someone's bound to get offended.
The game's definitely a NES game as the graphics show. Even with the two frame animations and basic colors, the game has a whole lot of style. Each of the characters has a wide range of expressions when getting punched, winding up for a punch, or delivering a KO inducing uppercut. The various animations when fighting and getting knocked out are done really well, even with the limited capabilities of the NES hardware. As far as audio goes, the various sound effects are fitting and add to the experience, but the Punch-Out!! theme is where it's all at. There's a reason the song's known to Nintendo fans and revered as a classic: it's good.
Punch-Out!! is a fantastic game and really holds up in this day and age. The pattern memorization and timing mechanics are just as entertaining and brutal as the were 20 years ago. A definite download for Nintendo fans and is a great buy for those interested in the Wii version.