Victorious Boxers: Revolution
Get up. Come on, this isn’t the time to be lazy. You think mastering the Boxing game on Wii Sports gives you the right to start slacking off? You think you’re ready for this fight, don’t you? See that guy across the ring? That’s no Mii character. That’s Ichiro Miyata, and he will crush your face in if you don’t defend yourself. There are even stronger opponents waiting for their chance as well. You nervous? You should be. To be honest, you don’t have much of a chance here. Maybe your face will last a few minutes before it gets punched into raw hamburger. Or maybe you think your skills are actually good enough to earn you a victory. Ha. Good luck with that, kid. You’re not playing Wii Sports anymore. This is a Victorious Boxers game.
Wait, what’s that? You’ve never heard of the Victorious Boxers series?! Unfortunately, that’s not surprising. Considering the popularity of Fight Night and other mainstream boxing game titles, it’s little wonder that Victorious Boxers is utterly obscure. If anything, they’re better known as the video game adaptations of Fighting Spirit (that’s Hajime no Ippo to the Japanese), a popular anime and manga. Don’t worry about trying to memorize all the characters’ names and histories; Victorious Boxers: Revolution explains the basic story via cutscenes (which are thankfully skippable and feature voice acting, for once!) between each match. All you need to know is that you’re playing as Ippo Makunouchi, a teenaged boxing prodigy that has to work his way up through the ranks to earn as much fame and glory as possible. With tons of other boxers itching for their shot at greatness, Ippo’s got some work to do.
So do you, for that matter. If you think you can beat this game as easily as the Wii Sports version of boxing, you’re going to get your ass kicked when you get past the first few matches. These opponents are quick. They don’t just stand around and leave themselves open to your attacks (unless you’ve put the difficulty level on Easy), nor are they forgiving of any blunders that you might make. Missing a punch can leave you wide open for an onslaught of jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and whatever other combos our opponents can dish out. If you actually want to beat your opponent, you’ll have to spend time learning how to sway and duck to avoid attacks. There are subtler things to look for, like your foe’s body movements and his attack range. Don’t count yourself out, though; with each successful blow you land, your boxer’s energy gauge will fill up. Get it maxed out, and you can perform an assortment of match-ending supermoves. The trick is balancing out your offensive and defensive tactics; once you’ve gotten the basics down, all you’ll need to do use them to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.
Your most dangerous adversary, however, isn’t even a character. It’s the controls. Victorious Boxers: Revolution offers six controls schemes, and none of them are particularly impressive. Wii Sports veterans will likely choose the default Swing (WiiMote + Nunchuck) option, only to find that it leaves them with virtually no control over your character’s movements. Instead of allowing you to duck and sway, it basically turns your fighter into a target; all you can do is frantically punch and hope you get a knockout before your opponent does. The secondary Swing option rectifies this by allowing you control your character’s movements via the Control Stick on the Nunchuck, but that can be tricky when you’re trying use the attachment to throw jabs. Even if you somehow get used to the basics, you’ll find that the game has difficulty reading your movements. Crosses are fine, but the uppercuts, hooks, and even regular jabs can prove unwieldy. Finding your character’s range can be difficult as well; despite him turning translucent at the beginning of the fight, the occasionally jerky camera angles can make hitting your opponent awkward.
The Pointer control schemes eliminate the movement-based combat mechanics (arguably the biggest selling point of the game) entirely by making you trace lines across the screen for your punches to follow… Yeah, that plays about as ridiculously as it sounds. You know what? Just forget about the motion controls. If you’ve got a Gamecube controller stashed away, this is a good excuse to dig it out. The button layout can be a pain, but it’s a lot better than wildly swinging your WiiMote to no avail. But if you want something a bit more practical, you might want to invest in a Classic Controller. Since it uses the Control Stick and buttons for defending and attacking respectively, you’ll find that the attachment offers the most reliable controls available. Too bad you can’t alter the button mapping, though; that would have made things so much easier.
Speaking of missed chances, Victorious Boxers: Revolution doesn’t have much in the way of extras. Sure, you’ve got the Story Mode, but you’ll unlock every character and his special moves with only one playthrough. After that, you’ll likely spend the rest of your time in Sparring Mode, where you can alter the match length, the amount of allowed knockouts, and other minor details before letting the characters clash. You can further customize your character by tweaking his abilities; for example, increasing his attack power will reduce his speed and stamina. But if you’re really obsessive over your performance in the ring, you can view your stats in the Data Book. That little feature shows off graphs of minor details, like the amount of punches you’ve thrown or the percentage of matches you’ve won via knockout.
Where’s the replay incentive? Where are all the extra features? Couldn’t there have been at least a punching bag mini-game? How about unlockable artwork? Or how about (dare I even dream it) online multiplayer? It’s not like the extra stages and music tracks are worth looking into. The soundtrack is forgettable; the only emotionally stirring part of them matches is the utterly annoying commentator and their pre-recorded lines. You’ll can only take “MAKUNOUCHI!” and “Will he get up? Can he get up?!” so many times before you delve into the Options Menu and finally shut the guy up. The stages are just as bad. Some of them feature little details, like having the characters’ reflections show up in the wall-mounted mirrors or having training equipment stowed in the corners. The majority of them, however, are far below the standards of what you’d expect from the Wii. The rings themselves are fine, but the crowds are little more than cardboard cutouts with two frames of animation. The fighters end up stealing the show; all 25 characters are portrayed true to their manga counterparts, right down to their heavily outlined muscles, fluid movements, and the blood pouring out of their cel-shaded noses.
Sorry, boxing fans. This isn’t the follow-up to Wii Sports you’ve been waiting for. Sorry, Victorious Boxers veterans. This game is a step back from the titles you know and love. This was the series’ chance to shine, and it’s been doomed to obscurity yet again. The roster is impressive, and the story can be interesting. The combat is intense, fast-paced, and far more involved than any other boxing game on the system. The controls are just too unpolished; unless you’ve got a lot of patience or a Classic Controller handy, this game will get old quickly. The utter lack of extra content and bland graphics don’t help much either. Poor Ippo. The Victorious Boxers lost this round.