Wii Review: Punch-Out

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Glass Joe. Von Kaiser. Piston Honda. King Hippo. Super Macho Man.

That’s a small portion of the roster in the fourth Punch-Out title, this one coming after two skipped generations on the N64 and Gamecube. That wait has delivered a single new character, Disco Kid, tossed into the easiest circuit, with a meager two punches.

The original Nintendo NES Punch-Out (not the rather finicky arcade game it was based on) succeeded because it was able to work around the limitations of the hardware. Instead of creating a simulation boxing game, or even a remotely realistic representation, Nintendo crafted a slick game of memory and reflexes.

Super Punch-Out brought back enough characters to generate nostalgia, changed the matches to a single round, and focused on beating foes as quickly as possible.

Wii Punch-Out does nothing new or fresh. In fact, aside from visual upgrades, this is the same game it was back on the NES, although lacking the refinement. The 15-year wait has yielded nothing for series veterans, surely the core audience. Glass Joe and his buddies in the Minor Circuit use the same attacks, making the early fights a waste of time. The less said of newcomer Disco Kid the better.

Nintendo apparently believes the audience wants nothing more than to rekindle their youth. Yes, the remixes of the classic musical themes are superb, and seeing these characters in 3-D is wonderful. Why any fan of the original would find this worth $50 is a mystery.

Motion controls are a waste, as is the Balance Board. While these may get the player through the opening rounds, their inconsistency and minor delay are nothing more than a guaranteed knock out past the Minor Circuit. You have to use the d-pad anyway, so why not turn it sideways? Classic controller support is not included, a shame since the d-pad offers better control than the one on the Wii Remote.

With the Wii Remote turned sideways, Punch-Out controls fine, although it lacks the tightness of its predecessors. Also missing is the rapid rebound, which rewards the player for a perfectly timed dodge with additional shots to their opponent. Granted, Super Punch-Out eliminated this as well, but if this is a straight remake of the original, it should be here.

The combatants in Wii Punch-Out do vary their game slightly. There is higher level of reliance on which direction the player must dodge. Whereas the original was only concerned with dodges down or to the sides, certain punches in this update require a left or right movement specifically. It’s a small twist and does add to the intensity however slightly.

Tacked on multi-player is forgettable, more or less because Punch-Out’s mechanics were never meant to have a second player. Punch-Out is about reaction, not randomly throwing punches, and that is what versus matches degenerate into.

Games such as this new edition of Punch-Out do present a challenge for the critic. The Wii’s audience is comprised of new players, many of whom may have never even tried the previous games in the series. However, those people also are not likely reading reviews in the first place. This site, and any gaming site in general, exist for the people who know Punch-Out, and know that 007 373 5963 is the code to fight Mike Tyson in first NES title.

That crowd is the one who will find themselves lost as to why Nintendo wasted an opportunity to deliver both a great piece of nostalgia and a fresh experience to them. Including Glass Joe is fine. Including only one new character is not. The casual audience wouldn’t know the difference, so why not appease everybody in the process?

Wii Punch-Out is undeniable fun, but a drastic miscalculation that fails to appeal to audience waiting since the days of the Super Nintendo for a new game in this series.

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