Review: Punch-Out! (Wii)

By: Steve Zachmann, contributor

If you’re 25+ there is a decent chance that you had a love/hate relationship with the original Punch-Out! for the NES.  The original is an absolutely fabulous game by any standards; a classic for sure.  It’s also one of the most frustratingly difficult test of reflexive skill and memorization in all of gaming.  As much as I loved the original Punch Out! I never played Super Punch Out!  When it was announced that a Punch Out! game was coming to the Wii I got excited…and then I forgot about it.

Straight up nostalgia.

Flash forward to 2015 and I’ve just bought my Wii U.  One day the Wii U tablet controller starts flashing for some unknown reason so I turn it on and it’s an important notification.  Punch Out! for Wii is on sale!  Not only had I completely forgotten about that game’s existence, but I had no idea that the Wii U would so kindly notify me when freaking amazing sales were going on.  So I text Chris, ask him if it’s any good, to which he replies, “yes, but I own it and you can borrow it”.  I manage to hold out for about two hours before I think, ‘screw it, it’s $10 and I NEED this in my life’.

I’d like to talk about the Wii and it’s hardware for a second, but first, a quick story to help elaborate on my point.  After I had purchased Punch Out! and downloaded it, I was eager to play.  When I went to boot it up however, it required me to use a wiimote.  That’s fine, it is a Wii game after all.  The only problem is, the Wii U seems incapable of syncing and using either of my wiimotes I own.  It says it’s synced, it looks as though it’s working, but the little hand that moves around when you wave the controller is nowhere to be found.  I wrestled with this problem for a good 15 minutes before I realized that there was actually nothing wrong with any of the hardware accept that the Wii sensor bar had come unstuck from the top of my TV, tipped backwards, and was now pointing at the ceiling.  It was an awkward and stupid problem that probably only applies to the few television sets that have really thin bezels.  I’m guessing that about 80% of people wouldn’t have the problem I did.  But as televisions continue to get thinner, finding enough area to stick the bar to will become more of an issue.  I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just include some type of Velcro tape with the bar to help ensure that stupid stuff like this doesn’t happen.

Nintendo, this doesn’t work if your TV is like 2 millimeters thick.

Once I had defeated the sensor bar boss, I was finally able to actually play some Punch Out!  I have to say, it was glorious.  I often talk about how I feel very little nostalgia for most things, but Punch Out! is definitely one of the few things that I do.  The game plays exactly the way you would hope, giving you the option to use the wiimote’s motion controls, or to play NES style with the buttons.  This choice allows you to go full nostalgia or take advantage of the Wii’s most engaging feature.

The game is simple to jump into, especially if you’re familiar with the original.  The controls are largely the same as the original, but obviously the graphics have received a huge update.  Your first bout is against good ole’ Glass Joe, which continues to play into the nostalgia.  I keep mentioning the nostalgia factor with Punch Out! but it’s a great game in it’s own right.  Even if the original had never existed and Punch Out! was a brand new franchise, I would have still had a blast with it.

Glass Joe is looking good.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a bit of a gaming curmudgeon.  I often times find myself playing games I’ve already played simply because I don’t feel like spending the time to learn some new game’s mechanics.  What I love about Punch Out! and games like it is how simple the controls are.  Punch Out! is a game that you can play for 15 minutes, enjoy, and then put down.  It doesn’t require you to open a wiki page about the game, read the entire manual, or back track through some dungeon you can’t remember.  What I’ve come to appreciate about Nintendo games in general is how simple they are to pick up.  That’s not to say that there is no depth, or challenge,  but in most of Nintendo’s more recent products challenge and depth are doled out slowly as levels progress, so jumping into a game never feels overwhelming.  By the time a game is truly challenging, you’re already familiar enough with the controls that you don’t need a refresher.

Back to the topic at hand, I chose to play Punch Out! with the motion controls.  I’m glad that they included an NES-controller style mode, but I didn’t play nearly enough Wii when it was current gen, so I figured I’d give the motion controls a workout now.  Like most Wii games, the motion controls feel good, and give the game a bit of extra life because of the novelty of being more physically active.  I know that some games have gotten railed on for using the motion controls poorly, but Punch Out! makes solid, if simple use of them.  If I were going to sit down for a long play session of Punch Out! I’d probably use the NES-controllers, but in short bursts the motion is awesome.

I managed to clear the first tier of fighters, with Disco Kid being the last and toughest bout of my short career.  I wish I’d have spent more time with Punch Out!, and I’m sure I will over the coming months.  Again, it’s one of those games that’s really easy to pick up and play for a bit, so that makes it perfect for pre-bedtime play.  I haven’t experimented with whether or not I can play Punch Out with the Wii U tablet, but if I can, that would be yet another bonus.  Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Punch Out! and will almost certainly go back to it every week or so, for a couple of bouts.