The Boxing Day Bloodshed

So, Christmas is finally over, we’ve enjoyed the turkey and stuffing, tried out all the great gifts we’ve received, and are now counting the days down until work starts again. We got to get past boxing day first though, that day of the year when we feel obliged to punch the living daylights out of our own family members. But let’s not forget, it’s not SERIOUS… we’re not REALLY trying to beat the living crap out of eachother. We’re having fun while we do it! And I think we gamers have found over the years that boxing is at its absolute best when you don’t take it seriously. The Knockout Kings series didn’t do it for me. Neither did Fight Night. Or ANY boxing game that has ever been endorsed over the years by any famous participant in the sport… except for one, but we’ll come back to that.

No, we like our boxing FUN, COLOURFUL, CRAZY, we like to squeeze in a few minutes while going crazy on our pads, whether it’s beating up the AI or taking out our best buddies. It’s just not worth the hassle seeing all that hugging, having to take your time over 3 minutes so your stamina doesn’t deplete too quickly, it’s just too boring!

                                         ************************************BORING***************************************

Although not the best game I’ll be discussing here today, Wii Fit is probably the one that made the biggest impact most recently. It was part of the launch game Wii Sports which to date has sold over 80’000’000 copies. It’s the 4th best selling game in video game history. I’d wager that most people played Wii Sports for the baseball and bowling, probably a bit of tennis too. The golf sucked, and the boxing was more of a novelty than something you could invest much time into.

It felt really innovative though. Using the Wii Remotes to control your fists was pretty cool for the first time you tried it. You were no doubt playing this when the Wii was new, and the motion gameplay felt so original and out of this world! The boxing felt so cool to try. Your on-screen fighter actually moved his arms however you moved yours! You swung your arm holding the nunchuck, your on-screen avatar swung his arm. It wasn’t always precise, but the novelty was high with this one, and for a good 15 – 30 minutes, you’d probably get all the fun out this one that you’d ever need.

If we head further back in time to the late 90s, Ready 2 Rumble was a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast and it was a hell of a good looking one at that. Featuring characters with exaggerated physical attributes, the game punch-em-up was a popular one, subsequently seeing releases on PS1, N64, and even the Game Boy Colour. The Dreamcast version was what most fans of the series will remember it for however, it being the best looking version that was released.

The game was a straight up arcade boxer, simple enough controls to learn with basic punch and block commands, and a ‘RUMBLE’ feature in which you build up a lettered RUMBLE meter which when full, allows you to unleash the full power of your boxer. The game featured unisex matches, and the roster was unique enough to feel memorable. Despite the fact that Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’ Neal popped up in the sequel, I will still always remember the game more for the distinctive looks of Afro Thunder and Salua. Not a bad series of games, but lacking the depth needed to be considered classics of the genre.

10 years later, and Facebreaker is released for the Xbox 360 and honestly? It didn’t look much better than Ready 2 Rumble. Well, the in-ring action looks very close, the background exteriors were very detailed however and looked great with trailer parks and zoos among the areas included. The game is even more exaggerated than R2RB as well, with extremely over-the-top gimmicked characters and punches being thrown at ludicrous speeds. R2RB looks serious in comparison.

Overall, the story was different in regard to the enjoyment you’d get from the game. it has a ridiculously steep learning curve which will see you getting your face broken (in-game, quite literally) very early on, and leaving you wondering if it’s worth the hassle to try and continue further in its career mode. Customization options are cool, and allow you to use the same face-capture technology which could be found in other EA games of the time. It’s just not that good a game though, and it’s very telling that EA closed the online services only 15 months after its release.

Let’s go back nearly 25 years ago now, to the sweaty arcade rooms filled with the classics. The year is 1985 and Ring King is doing the rounds, so to speak. With a very unique look in the grand scheme of boxing video games, the viewpoint takes the isometric stance, a little similar to the Fire Pro Wrestling series. The ring is HUGE though. I mean huge. I mean probably twice as big as a real boxing ring in every possible dimension. And it’s so fast, overly so for this particular kind of game. It’s a weird amalgamation of sorts really, it’s an arcade game which actually looks quite serious, but is also extremely basic in its execution. It could be largely forgotten in that case, but no, not this game…

This game has developed quite the infamy for itself, not so much for what goes on during rounds, but for what goes on in-between them. As all boxing fans know, the round ends and the fighters go to their respective corners for a bit of TLC to help ease any harsh cuts or bruises they have sustained. A bit of a pep-talk so to speak. Well in Ring King, we can’t beat about the bush, it simply looks like there’s yanking of chains going on if you will. See for yourself:

Away from the debauchery of 80s filth, and Black and Bruised enters the scene of our wonderful bevy of misfits. Now looking like a cross between R2RB and Facebreaker, it plays a lot more like the former, with power-ups and ridiculous antics afoot. With a fair range of modes to choose from, Boxer’s Life is a particularly welcome one, effectively a career mode with some entertaining scenarios to help you keep invested in its storyline. The storyline differs depending on the combatant you decide to take through it so it’s always a refreshing change next time you play it.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously like most of the games on our list, but it could have done with giving its animation some more time. There doesn’t seem to be any flow during the match so if your boxer isn’t swinging then they’re standing or moving robotically, press a button and a punch comes, press it again, same punch, press it very quickly a few times and again, it just looks very robotic. It never looks natural and I know it’s supposed to be a silly cartoony game, but cartoons look good. This doesn’t. The over-use of zany ‘arenas’ also doesn’t work, and you’ll be begging for the actual rings to come into play later. Not a bad game, but not a great one either.

Finally! The one we’ve all been waiting for… Victorious Boxers for the PS2! I LOVE the look of this game. The manga visuals actually work really well for a boxing game and it plays very well with a myriad of options to use in your battle for victory. Ducking, dodges, various jabs and uppercuts are all available depending on which combo of buttons you decide to use. You can strike upwards, downwards, throw quick punches depending on your lean, there’s a lot of strategy going on here which is intriguing considering the game looks very arcadey.

Featuring a story mode, the game allows you to progress through the usual rags to riches story in your aim to become a top boxer, but this one is a little more unique as it is actually based on a Japanese manga series, one that has been running now for nearly 30 years. That’s longevity folks. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll no doubt take a lot from this, otherwise it could feel like a bit of a slog to get through something not necessarily aimed at you. Again, graphically, the game looks awesome and the fighters will pick up bumps and bruises which indicate just how much of an ass-whooping you’re taking. The game moves at a realistic pace and the speed all-round just feels right. Plenty of sequels have abound over the years so if you enjoyed this first title, go give them a try.

I think that’s it, all non-serious boxing games taken care of…

Yep, not another one I can think of…

Yeah…

Right, OK, I’m not going to look at every Punch-Out!! game individually. You have the original arcade version and it’s sequel. The NES title followed (soonish), then Super Punch-Out!! for the SNES and finally the highly under-rated Wii version was the last title in the series, though there were also some spin-offs over the years as well. If I have to pick just one of the series to big up, it has to be the Super Nintendo version. With a wicked cast of 16 extremely original opponents all with their own distinct boxing styles, the game becomes more like a rhythm and memory game looking for the right cues to come out of hiding so you can take advantage of an opponents weakness.

It could be that Narcis Prince just took one from you to the face and he does NOT like getting hit in his beautiful chops. If you manage to hit him smack in the face, it pisses him off royally and throws him right off his game. Maybe Bald Bull came at you with his ‘Bull Charge’ but you figured out how to one-hit him depending on what step he has taken toward you. You know you can beat the Special Champion Rick Bruiser in just 8 seconds in this game? The techniques are all there to learn and sadly once you do, the game becomes a cinch to complete. If you’re like me however, the more casual fan who comes back to this every few months, you’ll struggle once you reach the Special Circuit and it’s at this time you need to really take your time, chill and ride out the storm. Get learning those moves.

Visually, the game looks fantastic even today and the boxers are all so distinct you’ll never forget them. My own personal favourite being Mad Clown or Dragon Chan, both ridiculous in their own right but just perfect for the Punch-Out!! series. If you’ve never played the game, go do it. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy this one, in fact, you can barely call it a sports game, and that’s a good thing.

So, crazy, fun, cartoony boxing games. So many different types which have their own little differences in their attempts to get under your skin and hook you for good. The Punch-Out!! series is by far the most successful at pulling off the arcade style of boxing that so many have grown to love and unless Nintendo decide to release a sequel on the Switch, we could be waiting another 15 years like we did for Punch-Out!! on the Wii. We don’t want to do this. Serious boxing games are boring (as is the real sport but let’s not go there), too serious to really enjoy. We want over-the-top style punchers with ridiculously exaggerated visuals. There is a reason why motion-captured fighting games have never been successful you know…

Oh and of course, that ONE boxing game endorsed by a big name was Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! I’ll let that one slide as it’s such a friggin’ classic.

Catch me wanting to wash Heike Kagero’s hair @auto2112