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Critical Reception: Nintendo/Next Level's Punch-Out!!

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Wii remake of the classic NES boxing title Punch-Out!!, which reviews describe as "a solid, addictive, finely polished game."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Wii remake of the classic NES boxing title Punch-Out!!, which reviews describe as "a solid, addictive, finely polished game." Punch-Out!! currently earns a score of 89 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. At 1UP.com, Scott Sharkey gives Punch-Out!! a grade of A+. "To come straight to the point, Punch-Out!! on Wii isn't as good as the original," he begins. "It is, in every aspect, far and away a much better game." Sharkey finds that Punch-Out!! succeeds because it builds on the strengths of the original title, rather than merely recreating it. "The best videogame remakes aren't the ones that slavishly recreate every aspect of their originals, nor are they wholly new creations dressed in the trappings of nostalgia," he explains. Sharkey continues: "They're more like what's been done with Punch-Out!!: a game that isn't so much a reincarnation of its 8-bit daddy, as it is an amplification. It's not what the old game actually was, but what we remember it being." The Wii edition's gameplay mechanics are also deftly executed. "The already tight controls are even more responsive, the tricks of timing and observation have more depth, and the physical consequences of success or failure are much clearer," Sharkey praises. "You always used to know when you screwed up a punch, but now it's even more obvious just how badly you're being punished for it -- without any need to glance at the life bar." "Not only is Punch-Out!! worth the 50 bucks, but lands on a very short list of Wii games I feel that way about," Sharkey notes. "Even better, while Punch-Out!! makes for an entertaining enough solitary experience, the back-seat driving aspect makes it positively shine as a party game." Wired's Chris Kohler rates Punch-Out!! at 9 out of 10. "One of the best, most talked-about videogames of the classic Nintendo era, [Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!] knocked out gamers with its perfect combination of addictive gameplay and technological impressiveness," he writes. "The big, colorful opponents were as close as games got to looking like a Saturday morning cartoon in 1987, and it was a lot of fun to smash them in the face." According to Kohler, he Wii version successfully translates the NES classic's appeal. "Punch-Out!! is some of the most fun I've ever had with Wii," he says, "and something that will appeal to both major types of Wii owners: Its gentle learning curve and laugh-out-loud funny characters will bring in the casual gamers, and hard-core players will be quite challenged by the brutal difficulty of the later fights." Kohler finds that Punch-Out!! remains faithful to its NES predecessor's gameplay. "Punch-Out!! has basically nothing to do with boxing," he notes. "Nintendo instead used the sport of boxing as a framework for a game that was a pure test of a gamer's reflexes. Throwing punches willy-nilly at your opponents would get you precisely nowhere. To beat the crazy characters like Piston Honda and King Hippo, you had to watch for their punches, dodge out of the way, then start landing jabs and hooks immediately after they missed their attacks." The result remains an accessible and enjoyable play. "It doesn't matter in the slightest if you have no nostalgic memories of finally figuring out how to dodge Mike Tyson's 'Dynamite Punch,'" Kohler assures. "It's just a solid, addictive, finely polished game that's easy enough for newbies and challenging enough for those who remember. Sometimes, they do make ‘em like they used to." Russ Fischer at The Onion's A.V. Club gives Punch-Out!! a B, noting that the default motion-sensing control setup is its biggest fault. "The remake adds unavoidable (and optional) motion controls," Fischer warns, "but otherwise is surprisingly similar to the last version of the game, which appeared on the Super Nintendo in 1994." Fischer also predicts that the title may not resonate with some members of the Wii's audience. "For those used to the wild flailing of boxing in Wii Sports, Punch-Out!! will feel as stately as chess," he writes. "Observation and timing are essential. Throwing a series of blows without calculating each opponent's attack patterns just leaves Mac winded." "The fighters are goofy, yes, but many can seem invulnerable to players who don't exploit their weaknesses," Fischer continues. "You'll have to work to miss the flashing red telltales that telegraph most big blows, but that doesn't make it easy to avoid and counter each one." Alternate control schemes make the gameplay more compelling, however. "Purists will play holding the Wii Remote on its side like the classic NES controller," Fischer says. The now-standard Wii-mote-and-nunchuk setup also works, and is just as responsive as good old analog buttons." "Punch-Out!! is happily a student of the old school," Fischer notes in conclusion. "It's a gussied-up throwback, but the old dog still has it."

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