Anyone who knows me or has witnessed my yearly quest to defeat Mike Tyson is no doubt aware of my undying love for the Punch-Out!! series. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (I'm not typing !! after the name anymore) was, and still is, an awesome game. Its sequel, Super Punch-Out was enjoyable in its own right, but lacked the personality of the original. Now, after a 15-year layoff Nintendo is bringing Punch-Out back. When I heard the news I was excited, but that excitement quickly changed to fear as I thought of the many ways in which Nintendo might screw things up. The game was playable at this year's GDC, and I'm happy to report that things are looking good.
Dude, you haven't beaten me since I was in 4th grade.
Punch-Out has always been known for precise controls, and the Wii's motion controls are known for being anything but precise. You can throw a left with the Nunchuk and a right with the Wii Remote and they seem to work just fine here. There's even a yet-to-be-detailed control scheme that involves the balance board that can't possibly be fun. I don't care about any of that-I want my Punch-Out to involve a D-pad and two buttons thank you very much. Thankfully, Nintendo has delivered that as well. I stepped up to the kiosk, unplugged the Nunchuk, turned the remote sideways, and immediately began pummeling my old punching bag, Glass Joe.
Once I put Glass Joe to bed, it was time for Von Kaiser's nap. Of the game's 13 boxers, only one of them is new, and that's the third boxer, Disco Kid. Here's one thing you should know about me: I will never, ever lose to somebody named "Disco Kid" in anything; not horseshoes, Monopoly, speed dating...nothing. Both Kaiser and Joe had a few new moves in their arsenal that slowed me down a bit, but nothing too troublesome. The real challenge came in learning the moves and timing of a new boxer. I'll admit, Disco Kid did put me on the mat once, but once I learned to always dodge right, I was able to knock him out in the second round.
Now that I was 3-0 it was time for a title fight. Wait, what? There's a line of people behind me that want to play? Here's an idea for you: No! I had a date with destiny and destiny came in the form a 400-pound islander named King Hippo. There was no way in the world I was going to lose to King Hippo-even my sister can pummel King Hippo. All I had to do was dodge his slow punches, punch him in the face, and then punch him in his big belly when he tried to pull up his shorts. This worked out great until Hippo decided to smash by head with both of his hands at the same time-kind of like how Bear Hugger used to do it in Super Punch-Out. This took off a huge chunk of Little Mac's energy and threw off my timing, which caused me to get hit a few more times. Thankfully the round ended before I hit the mat.
When you see this move coming, it's time to duck.
Between rounds Doc gave me indispensable advice; something along the lines of "Don't get hit by that super-powerful punch, Mac!" I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention. I asked the QA tester who was standing next to me if I could get energy back, and he just smiled and said "That's something you'll need to find out for yourself." I hit a button in hopes that I could regain some energy, but it just skipped me ahead to the next round. I guess that wasn't the right button.
It turns out that I didn't need no stinkin' extra health because I came out and dominated the "King" in the second round. I learned his tell for the double-punch, figured out exactly when I needed to duck, and then promptly whooped him. Just like in the original, once he goes down he's not getting back up. I walked away before the referee (Sadly, it's not Mario) counted to 10. It wasn't until I was out of the Moscone Center that I realized I had forgotten to stick around to see if Little Mac jogs behind a bike-riding Doc after he wins the belt. I guess I'll have to be surprised when the game comes out.
As you can see in the trailer, Punch-Out looks great. I don't even have to qualify that with "for a Wii game." The artists have done a nice job making sure the boxers meet modern standards, while at the same time keeping them recognizable. Animation is top-notch, as well. Punches look and feel appropriately powerful, but despite the violence, the game maintains a lighthearted feel thanks to some over-the-top scenes. For example, when Disco Kid gets knocked out, he bounces around the ring like pinball and you even hear pinball sound effects in the background.
The game's animation is quite impressive.
Most everything about the new Punch-Out seems to be fantastic, but I do have one concern. I'm worried that the game is going to be a bit shallow and too easy. Granted, I'm a freak that can still beat the original Punch-Out, but I beat over 20% of the game (assuming that none of the 13 boxers appear twice, which is probably a bad assumption) the first time I played it on a crowded convention floor. I also have no idea if there are different difficulty settings (neither of the two previous games had the feature). There's also the multiplayer mode, which I didn't get to check out. I have a hard time envisioning that it's as fun as single-player, but I can't knock it until I try it.
There's a lot I still don't know about Punch-Out, but I know enough to do something that I rarely do for a game: I'll be pre-ordering it. Punch-Out hasn't let me down in the past and I don't think it's going to let me down now.