Returning to Punch-Out!!

Next Level Games’ knockout Wii hit comes to the Wii U eShop! Is it still worth your time?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 01/29/2015 12:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

I was as surprised as anyone when Nintendo announced that Punch-Out!! was coming to Wii in 2009. The last entry in the series, Super Punch-Out!!, was released on SNES in 1994. A fifteen year gap is long for any franchise, but for one as niche as Punch-Out!!, it had long ago been assumed that the series was residing in a cemetery plot somewhere in Kyoto. As it turned out, Nintendo’s boxing game was far from dead, and when developer Next Level Games brought a revived Little Mac and Doc Louis to fans, it felt as though the duo had never left. Nearly six years later, Punch-Out!! remains engaging and fun, and well worth a look by Wii U owners.

Next Level Games really made a splash with Punch-Out!! It would be easy to mistake the game as an in-house development effort by Nintendo. With production values and play control of the highest quality, Next Level Games’ Punch-Out!! met the lofty standards that Nintendo is known for, quickly cementing itself in the minds of fans. It’s not a stretch to say that Punch-Out!! firmly positioned the developer in Nintendo’s crosshairs, as it was subsequently brought on for the revival of Luigi’s Mansion, which in turn led to Next Level Games working exclusively with the House of Mario. Outside of Rare and Retro Studios, not many developers are capable of courting such positive attention from Nintendo. Again, with the quality of Punch-Out!!, it’s not hard to see why that would be the case.

The game is gorgeously rendered in a cell shaded style that perfectly captures the over-the-top personalities of its different fighters. The redesigns of everyone from Little Mac to Glass Joe are perfect balances between the old and new. Mac in particular was made a more iconic figure with his visual overhaul, with his signature green boxing gloves and trunks complimented by a more square-jawed, aggressive, and youthful face. Mac is a cool looking dude, and stands out amongst Nintendo’s pantheon of anthropomorphic and fantasy-tinged characters. At the same time, he doesn’t feel apart from Nintendo’s other franchises, either. Anyone who’s read DC Comics New 52 relaunch can attest to how difficult it can be to redesign characters and make them fit cohesively together while retaining the qualities that made them unique to begin with. Next Level Games did exactly that with Little Mac and Punch-Out!!

From the outset, Punch-Out!! has never been about simulating boxing. Punches are thrown, jabs are blocked, but anyone expecting Andre Ward or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. levels of vigorous fighting take notice; this is a boxing game, but it’s more about pattern recognition and timing than simply landing blows. Punch-Out!! supports a number of different control styles (including one that incorporates the Wii Balance Board), but I’ve always favored the Wii Remote-only setup, mainly because the game plays almost identically to the NES original with that particular controller configuration. In Punch-Out!!, it’s all about learning the quirks and patterns of the opposing fighters in order to succeed. Learning when to duck or dodge versus when to take a swing, players have to carefully ferret out the right approach to overcoming a variety of foes.

That might sound easy, and at first it sort of is. Fighters like Glass Joe and Von Kaiser present little challenge at the beginning of Punch-Out!!, simply serving to acclimate players to the game’s idiosyncrasies. As Mac racks up more wins and moves up the ranks and into new circuits, things start to get wickedly tricky. Like the best Nintendo games, players learn by doing. No matter what controller setup a player chooses, the controls are simple and intuitive. Punching and dodging are smooth and easy to master, but it’s timing that really takes effort to perfect. Along with timing, though, players are also encouraged to discover an opponent’s tell move, an indicator when their defenses will be down for just a moment. Hitting a foe at that precise instant will reward the player with a valuable star punch, which delivers a devastating blow to opponents (which can be handy in a pinch). All of this coalesces to form a very solid and fun gameplay experience.

Playing Punch-Out!! again, I’ve been thrilled to experience its unique style of play once more. Nintendo is so skilled at making games that feel like they just wouldn’t exist anywhere but on its consoles. Punch-Out!! appeals to a different part of my gaming sensibilities than Mario or Zelda do, and it makes me thankful to see Nintendo keeping the series’ profile up, if only through a re-release. It’s frustrating when Nintendo allows any of its franchises to languish (looking at you, Metroid), as titles like Punch-Out!! are reminders of just how timeless and compelling the majority of Nintendo’s series are. The Punch-Out!! formula is one that is accessible to players of all skill levels, and definitely worth a look for anyone who’s been craving something different to play on their Wii U. Just be warned; that final, hidden boxer is one heck of a doozy!

2 Responses to “Returning to Punch-Out!!

  • 760 points
    Marc Deschamps says...

    Robert, I love your articles, but you could have answered the question in the byline with a simple “Yes.” That’s all this article could have been. “Is Punch-Out worth it?” “Are you insane? Yes, go download this game!”

    :)

    Thumb up 2

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