While Nintendo has been spacing Wii releases out quite a bit, the next first party Wii release will be Punch-Out!!, an update of the classic franchise with Wii motion controls and the classic NES-era gameplay you know and love. Unfortunately, it’s mainly just the classic NES-era gameplay you know and love. What I mean is this: remember the days before AI? Feel like memorizing enemy attack patterns? Because that is what it boils down to in Punch-Out!!
Maybe I’ve grown cynical in my years, but when a fight amounts to dodging a single punch and throwing six counter-punches in a row until the opponent stumbles out of range, I’m not interested anymore. Furthermore, when the game ups the difficulty by modifying the enemy’s attack pattern mid-match, it comes off as an annoying game mechanic: an excuse to have the player take damage and an attempt to cover up the complete lack of enemy AI.
Sure, that’s fine for 1987, but 22 years later, it’s time to spend some time evolving the gameplay. This is a game for a new audience. An audience that has never played Punch-Out!! and doesn’t already know what to expect. Hell, I knew most of the attack patterns before I picked up the game only because they are the same as the NES version. You’re probably better off picking up the original or SNES version on the Virtual Console.
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Additionally, the Wii motion controls don’t add that much. In fact, they make the game more complicated than it needs to be. The game will not use MotionPlus and shaking your hand to punch isn’t all that immersive. You can also control the game with the sideways Wiimote, which gives you the same controls as the NES version. When you stop shacking your hands, you realize how little you’re actually doing in this game.
As for replayability, Nintendo did add challenges to the exhibition mode. These add a layer on top of the fights. You could be asked to defeat Glass Joe without dodging or finding his hidden one-punch knockdown (hint: it’s the same as the NES version). There are three of these challenges per fighter and they get increasingly more difficult. More additions like this would have been welcome.
The art style is fun and the game looks great in motion. It’s cool to see updated versions of classic characters like King Hippo, Von Kaiser, and Glass Joe. The sound is good and the music will hit your nostalgia button. Fighters deliver dialogue in their native language, but unfortunately the lines aren’t subtitled.
There are several features and modes in the game that make it better than I’ve described, but Nintendo is not allowing coverage of these elements at this time. I don’t know why they are holding out information, but that’s the case for now.
As I said, I feel that this is Punch-Out!! for the new generation: the gamers that are growing up with the Wii and aren’t familiar with the gameplay formula of the original. Nintendo is known for sticking to their old franchises, but this is basically the same game. At least Mario gets a new world (or galaxy) to explore…