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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Gamer Blog: Punch Out!! is Wii's latest champ


With a fresh new look, Punch Out!! hopes to bring back fans of the original NES title.

I had the chance to spend the day at Nintendo playing an advance copy of Punch Out!! for the Wii, and I just have to say that if you're a fan of the old school game and spent entire weekends trying to knockout Mike Tyson on your NES like I did, you're going to love what Nintendo did with the new title.

After squaring off against the likes of King Hippo and Disco Kid, I sat down with Nate Williams, the game's Senior Product Specialist, to get his thought on how this classic series is about to make another run at a championship.

The Mag: How is Punch Out!! Wii going to bring back all the old school fans to the glory days of the franchise? Williams: First of all, we have a few different control schemes. We have the exciting Wii Remote and Nunchuk option with motion controls, or you can unplug that, turn the Wii Remote and play it the old school way the core players are probably more used to. The whole concept of Punch Out!! for the Wii is a re-imagination of the entire older series. It's not a sequel, it's not a prequel, it's more of a reboot of the series. You're going to run into all types of Easter eggs and little secrets and fun things you were used to experiencing back with the old game.

And for gamers who aren't familiar with the series, the boxing isn't about throwing as many punches as possible. Isn't it more about figuring out each opponent's puzzle and punch pattern? We wouldn't go so far as to call it a puzzle game, but there is definitely a puzzle element involved in how you defeat the opponents. For example, when I was fighting King Hippo earlier, I needed to punch him in a certain area before I continued punching him in another area in order to get him down [Ed.: Punch Hippo in the head and his shorts fall. When he's holding up his shorts, punch him in the belly to score big points]. So that puzzle element holds true, and that's some of the core gameplay of Punch Out!! from the beginning.

This is also going to be the first Punch Out!! with multi-player. How is the mode going to work? It's two-player, head-to-head, local multi-player. At the beginning of the fight, you're both Little Macs so to speak, but then during the fight, depending on how your opponent is doing, you can build up something that is called Giga Mac juice. Once you get enough Giga Mac juice, you perform a metamorphosis and turn into Giga Mac. It's basically a large version of Little Mac with berserker-style attacks. And then your whole move-set changes up and the camera changes to single-screen to where it looks like you're playing the game in one-player mode.

I was always a big Bald Bull fan. Is he in the new game? What's the mix of new versus old characters? What you're going to have to do is pick up the game and make sure you can get past the first couple of circuits, then you'll find out who is in the game at that time [Ed.: Nintendo is very secretive about the character list in this game]. But basically, there are four fighters per circuit [Ed.: three circuits], including the new Disco Kid character who has his own attacks and is pretty unique in his own way [Ed.: Dances like Carlton from Fresh Prince]. Like I said, this is basically a reboot, and as we designed the game, we took into consideration all of the previous Punch Out!! games, not just Super Punch Out!! or the NES or the arcade. We tried to capture the spirit of all those games. We understand that the audience for this title has a lot of nostalgia over this project, and we feel confident that fans are not going to be disappointed by the character selection in this game.

It's cool how the game looks like a cartoon, but when you're punching opponents, you can lump them up pretty bad. Yeah, and that is all determined by where you punch them in the game. So if you decide to fight a character and throw a lot of body blows, you'll see his stomach getting welts. And if you hit someone in the head, you'll get those big lumps. Little Mac will get them too, and you'll see them in between rounds. If you haven't been doing so well, you're going to see Little Mac beat up.

Everybody has a weakness.

How much of a workout do you think people will get throwing punches with the motion control? Will you break a sweat? You definitely will break a sweat. I don't know if I'd call it a workout, but I guarantee you'll break a sweat if you go through a couple of these circuits, especially in some of the later fights because you're going to have to throw a lot more punches. And the rounds are going to last longer, because these characters won't go down as easy. There's a gradation of difficulty from the beginning to the end. Glass Joe is very easy and the last character is very difficult, but don't put down the controller once you finish the game. There's a lot more to do. For some people, they would even say that the game begins when the game ends.

How so? That's when Title Defense mode starts, where you fight evolved versions of each character. They're hungrier, they have a vendetta and they've figured out what their weaknesses were and how to overcome those weaknesses. For example, when you fought King Hippo the first time, you noticed that he was pretty weak around the belly. So, after defeat, King Hippo is walking around, and King Hippo has never been known as much of a thinker, but he's walking around looking for something to protect his exposed belly. He comes across a bowl and something else that's not appropriate, but then as he's walking, he comes across a manhole on the floor. Surprise, surprise, now when you fight him in the ring, he has a manhole taped over his stomach and you can no longer take advantage of his exposed belly. At that point, you need to figure out how to take out King Hippo because the only place to hit him is now covered by a manhole. We'll leave that decision up to you.

What's it like for you to work on a new version of Punch Out!! This is a game all of us were addicted to as kids. It brings back all those memories -- the memories of playing on the Super Nintendo and NES, that's why you get into a business like this. If you're lucky enough to work at a company that made products that you loved as a child, going to work every day is like dream. I played this game all the time as a kid, but we hope that beyond the nostalgia factor, that you enjoy the new things that we have to offer in Punch Out!! as well.

The buzz on Buzz! from King James

If it's good enough for LeBron, it's good enough for us.

Back during NBA All-Star Weekend, I had the chance to talk to LeBron James about his video game habit, but when I asked him what game really had him hooked, he told me he loved to play Buzz! on his PlayStation 3.

Not Madden, not Call of Duty, not some game he's being paid to endorse, but Buzz! a trivia game I always just kind of laughed off until that day.

But if it's good enough for King James, I figured I might as well dust off the game and give it a try.

Turns out, LeBron was right as Buzz! is a lot more fun than I could've expected. In fact, I've played the game for countless hours with my wife and son as the game has turned into a family night staple.

If you're not familiar with the title, Buzz! is a crazy game show where contestants buzz in with their custom controller (ships with game) to answer questions ranging in topics from sports and movies to music and lifestyle. There are over 5,000 questions in the initial game, but to keep things fresh, gamers are able to download new packs of quizzes online (including a new sports pack that debuted a few weeks ago).

There's even a segment of the game where the contestant that answers correctly gets to throw a pie at one of his opponents. Always makes me laugh to think that one of LeBron's boys is shoving a virtual pie into the face of the best player on the planet.

I just hope LeBron is the first to buzz in when there's a question about a certain MVP on the Cavs.