"After 23 years of technological and gameplay advancements, it seems like we finally got a three-dimensional version of Punch-Out! Then again, you can always charge in like a schoolyard runt trying to fend off the bully with a torrent of girlish slaps. That seems to work half of the time."
As much as I like rooting for the little guy, real underdog stories rarely have happy endings. Victorious Boxers landed on the PS2 in 2001 and, by all rights, should have been a hit. It had an immersive control system that incorporated full-body movement, momentum, and strategic fighting. It simply couldn’t stand up to the graphical prowess and promotional backing of EA’s games, so the underdog and its sequel fell into the gutters of obscurity. With no Fight Night in sight, can Victorious Boxers: Revolution rise to become a contender?
Wii owners have been downright rabid for a full boxing game since Wii Sports gave them a taste of the future, but Victorious Boxers: Revolution may have to struggle to even get off the shelf. The series has close to no brand recognition and inspires little more than forced enthusiasm from everyone holding their breath for the next Fight Night. Also, Revolution is a dramatic retelling of the fictional protagonist’s rise to stardom. Fans will relish the chance to step back into Ippo’s shoes, but everyone else is more likely to scoff at Revolution’s lack of real-life fighters and character customization.
It will be their loss. Victorious Boxers will finally get the foothold it needs and word of mouth will turn Revolution into the sleeper hit of the year. At least that’s what I thought a week ago.
Training in the tutorial to get a handle on the two main control schemes is practically a necessity before jumping in the ring. The Swing controls, in which the remote and nunchuk meld with your fists, are exactly what everyone was hoping for. If you’re easily tired or lack the space to be throwing punches, Pointer controls replace realistic movements with a reticule that you swipe across the screen to create attacks. Each system also has variations for analog and motion-controlled movement, but unless you have the poise of a statue, go with the analog. With motion-sensing, even the slightest twitch or tilt sends Ippo prancing around when all you want to do is take a swing.
In the ring, Ippo becomes translucent and the camera drops to his back. It’s not a first-person view, but it’s personal enough that you can feel every nose-crunching blow as a disoriented Ippo flails helplessly about. The view is great for getting a beating, but makes it hard to give one since gauging distance is almost completely up to trial and error. Half of the jabs I tossed out with Ippo’s stumpy arms weren’t meant for combos or knockouts. They were probes to see if I was close enough to connect. It certainly explains why, fight after fight, the sage advice of Ippo’s trainer is to get in close and counter-punch.
Using Swing controls, with analog movement of course, I could launch a barrage of jabs and straights with amazing ease. After a few rounds, I was bobbing and weaving for real and my muscles burned with acid. I almost felt like a true boxer, except most boxers use more than jabs to the head. Body blows are unnecessarily difficult, hooks are an absolute crapshoot, and I quit trying uppercuts after the cord whipped me in the face ten times over. Frustrated, I switched to the Pointer controls. Half the reason for getting Victorious Boxers on the Wii flew out the window, but at least I gained a modicum of control.
I have fond memories of smooth dodges and brilliant counter-attacks in the original Victorious Boxers, but none of that carried over to Revolution. Each opponent is so fast it’s like he sucked down a bottle of Ritalin before the match. The safest strategy is to lean back out of reach, wait for a break in the onslaught, and take your best shot. After 23 years of technological and gameplay advancements, it seems like we finally got a three-dimensional version of Punch-Out! Then again, you can always charge in like a schoolyard runt trying to fend off the bully with a torrent of girlish slaps. That seems to work half of the time.
With no motivation for playing through the story-mode again, but still aching for a decent match, I called a friend over to spar a few rounds. The two-player, vertical split-screen is a tight fit, but it’s manageable. While fighting against a human opponent, who makes errors and doesn’t have the speed of a heavyweight champion, Revolution started to feel like the series I remembered. When my friend took a little break, I decided to get in a few cheap shots, for the sake of experimentation of course. He was standing motionless and unguarded, and yet I couldn’t get more than half of my blows to land. No wonder our matches were hitting five rounds and up.
I wasn’t expecting Revolution to be a full-on boxing simulator, and motion-controls weren’t even at the top of my list. All I wanted was the triumphant return of the Victorious Boxers series, the way I loved it. Perhaps the little-known Ippo was bound to fail, but at least he could have gone down swinging.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (October 29, 2007)
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