North American boxart featuring Little Mac in the foreground, with Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, King Hippo and Disco Kid in the background.
|Developer(s)||Next Level Games|
|Genre(s)||Boxing, fighting, sports|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, Two-player, Multiplayer|
|Distribution||Wii Optical Disc|
Punch-Out!! is a boxing video game developed by Next Level Games for the Wii and is the fifth main game in Nintendo's Punch-Out!! series following the SNES version of Super Punch-Out!!. Following an early release at the Nintendo World Store in New York City on May 16, 2009, the game was released on May 18, 2009 in North America, May 22, 2009 in Europe, July 23, 2009 in Japan and August 27, 2009 in Australia (exclusively at JB Hi-Fi stores). An additional WiiWare title, Doc Louis's Punch-Out!!, was released exclusively for North American Club Nintendo members on October 27, 2009. It was rebranded under the Nintendo Selects label in 2011 for North American audiences only.
Punch-Out!! features a boxer named Little Mac working his way up the professional boxing circuits, facing a series of colorful, fictional boxers. The game requires reflexes in reaction to the computer-controlled boxers' moves. Aside from a few new opponents, every other opponent is from a previous Punch-Out!! game. New opponents feature Disco Kid, Giga Mac and Donkey Kong, while the classic boxers are ten of the eleven boxers from the original game, as well as two from Super Punch-Out!!. The game allows three different control schemes. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk can be used together, a Wii Balance Board can be used along with Wii Remote and Nunchuk to duck or dodge, or the Wii Remote can be used by itself and held sideways in a traditional two-button control scheme.
In each stage, players must rely on quick reactions and identify various tells from their opponent in order to dodge or block their attacks, before returning with attacks to either the torso or the head with the left and right fists. Hitting certain weak points at the correct time, for example; when an opponent grins, earns stars, with the player able to store up to three stars, losing them if they are hit. When the player has one or more stars, they can perform a Star Punch which deals extra damage. Each fighter has a stamina gauge which must be depleted in order to knock an opponent down, with the player able to recover their stamina whilst their opponent is down. Additionally, the player has a heart counter that decreases if they are hit, or if their attacks are blocked. If it reaches zero, the player will be unable to attack and be vulnerable until they can successfully dodge an attack. The player wins a match by either successfully KO'ing their opponent (either by a ten count or simply because they are unable to recover), earning a T.K.O. by knocking them down three times in a single round, or winning by decision after three rounds have passed. If the player is hit by a knockout punch, it is possible to recover and regain stamina.
The single player campaign sees the player progress through three main modes; Career, Title Defense, and Last Stand. Career sees Little Mac climb the ranks of the World Video Boxing Association by proceeding through the Minor, Major, and World Circuits. Title Defense is a more challenging mode that sees Mac defend his championship belt against other fighters, who use new techniques and ways to protect their weakness (such as King Hippo protecting his stomach with a manhole cover). Finally, Last Stand is an endurance mode in which Mac faces off against random opponents with a high heart meter and a stamina bar that does not regenerate. Once Mac loses three times, he will retire and the Career mode will become disabled, requiring players to start from scratch on a new file. Exhibition allows players to fight against opponents they have previously fought in Career and Title Defense, where they can try and complete unique achievements, or practise against a holographic clone of their current opponent. If the player manages to win against ten fighters during Last Stand, an additional Champions Mode option is unlocked, in which a single hit will knock Mac down.
New to the series is a split-screen multiplayer mode between Little Mac and a recolored clone. When one of the players has gathered enough power by repeatedly dodging all moves unscathed, he can transform into "Giga Mac" and the game moves into its single-player view, as Little Mac tries to overcome the bigger and more powerful Giga Mac.
Doc Louis's Punch-Out!!
Doc Louis's Punch-Out!! is a standalone spin-off title, which was released on WiiWare as a Platinum reward for Club Nintendo members in North America on October 27, 2009. The game, which takes place prior to the main game, sees Little Mac sparring with his coach, Doc Louis, through three progressively difficult matches, which are each cleared by knocking him down once. This title is not compatible with the Wii Balance Board.
The game was revealed in 2008 at the Nintendo Media Summit, where a fifteen second trailer was shown. It was later announced that it was being developed by Next Level Games, which had partnered with Nintendo on games such as Super Mario Strikers. Nintendo wished to make a new iteration similar to the original Punch-Out!! for the NES, so they asked the studio to design the gameplay to be exactly like it and the characters to look like the original games. This led to the studio designing the game with classic NES-style controls by using the Wii Remote turned sideways. Pre-production started when the Wii was released. At the time, Nintendo was discussing the idea with the studio. Soon after that, the studio created a prototype of the game.
In an interview, the game's producer, Kensuke Tanabe, described the development as a collaborative effort between the people of Next Level Games and the people from Nintendo of Japan. As an example of this, Tanabe said that the roster of opponents that are in the game were chosen by people of both studios, Next Level wanting to include more NES characters. When asked about the challenges of bringing an old franchise to the current generation, the game's gameplay lead, Bryce Holiday, said that the most difficult thing to figure out was how to design the gameplay and where to locate the camera. The game has a cel shaded graphical style, which was a decision of Next Level. Both of the developers wanted to design the graphics in a way that would be immediately identifiable to any person who catches a glimpse of the game. They also wanted to invoke the style of the previous iterations while at the same time creating some new visuals. Holiday called the style "the logical choice".
The inclusion of Donkey Kong was a suggestion from an employee of Nintendo of America, and Tanabe also wished to include Princess Peach, but that idea was abandoned because of the issue of violence towards women. The reason that there were not many Nintendo characters in the game is because the studio wanted to solidify the game's universe. The Title Defense mode was designed to make the game more of a standalone game and not just a nostalgia title, and also to make the game's length longer. The developers liked this since it added more personality to the characters. The studio adjusted the difficulty level in order to make the game easier to pick up and play. The game's 2 player mechanic was difficult task to create, according to Tanabe, because the series didn't have a template to base it on.
There were various additions to the game that were cut from the final product. One of these was online multiplayer, while another feature was the ability to move around the ring in a 3D environment. This idea was scrapped so that the game would have the same feel as the older games in the series. Other features include character customization, other RPG elements, and mini-games.
The game received generally positive reviews, averaging an 86/100 and an 87.29% at Metacritic and Game Rankings respectively. Nintendo Power's Chris Slate scored the game an 8.5/10 in the magazine's June 2009 issue, praising its similarity to the NES title of the same name. Slate stated "The folks at Next Level Games have created an amazing title that has made the 15 years since Super Punch-Out!! quite worthwhile." However, he said that the new additions didn't affect the game. Game Informer gave Punch-Out!! a 9.0/10. IGN's Craig Harris gave this game an 8.8/10, citing its nostalgic gameplay. Sumantra Lahiri of The Escapist also praised its nostalgic value, but suggested that the stereotypes exhibited by the characters that seemed harmless in the 1980s version had not aged well when early 21st century attitudes towards cultural and racial sensitivity were taken into account.
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