Little Mac is back — the classic cartoon boxer has returned to the ring after a 15-year hiatus.
Nintendo's beloved brawler Punch-Out!! is now available for the Nintendo Wii console, offering you the same arcade boxing experience found in its popular predecessors, but now with updated graphics, new game modes and revised control schemes to take advantage of the Wii's motion-sensing peripherals.
You'll face off against a host of zany fighters — such as the feisty Von Kaiser, handsome Don Flamenco, beefy King Hippo and newcomer Disco Kid — using the wireless Wii remote in one hand and the nunchuk controller in the other. Or you can stand on the Wii Balance Board (included with "Wii Fit"), which resembles a bathroom scale, and shift your weight from side to side as you box. Alternatively, the game can also be played with classic Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)-style controls by turning the Wii remote sideways and mashing the buttons. The Wii remote and nunchuk controllers seemed to work the best out of all the options, but a word of warning: Expect sore arms after punching in the air for a few hours.
In case you've never played the original (1987's Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!), this modern update, which employs "cell-shaded" graphics that make the fighters appear as 3-D cartoons, stars a young and spunky underdog, Little Mac, who challenges hilarious boxers from around the world. Trainer Doc Louis will teach you how to throw a punch, use defensive maneuvers and dance about the ring with grace.
The best piece of advice is to watch for your opponent to briefly change color and raise an arm to punch, which is your cue to dodge in the same direction as the striking arm, so it'll miss you entirely. Master this skill and you'll KO opponents, take on tougher fighters and vie to wear the coveted championship belt.
Punch-Out!! is quite fun for both fans of the original as well as younger gamers, but it's not a knockout. You can't play against a friend online (two players can only duke it out on the same television via split-screen) and its $50 price seems too high for a game you could easily finish in a weekend. Another minor beef is the paltry 14 fighters when there are at least twice that many boxers in the 22-year-old original game. Perhaps Nintendo could release a new fighter each week over the Internet.
That said, it's hard to resist the game's retro charm. Punch-Out!! is a blast to play solo or with friends, regardless of your age or skill level.
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