Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Punch drunk love

Above: It's the rye or the Kaiser.

My review of Punch-Out!! is up at Updates, re-launches, and re-imaginings of old games are nothing new, but Punch-Out!! barely tinkers with the formula. Nintendo has been successful in translating Mario, Zelda, and Metroid into 3D, but in each case that has resulted in something new -- something that has fundamentally transformed each game, while still retaining the feel of the original. Punch-Out!!, though, is the same as it ever was. It plays exactly like Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! did, more than 20 years ago. What's surprising is how fresh it still feels.

I wish other game makers had the secret formula for difficulty that Nintendo alone seems to possess (even when they farm out development duties, as was the case here). Nintendo games always seem to live at the outer edge of my competence. They always seem difficult but not impossible. The difficulty ramps up so well in Punch-Out!!. No matter how hard an opponent may seem, it's also hard not to try again after losing. You always feel this close to getting it right.

I'm not even sure what's left in Nintendo's stable at this point, but if this is where the bar is going to be set, I say bring on the Kid Icarus remake.


Gary A. Lucero said...

Am I the only person who didn't grow up with an NES controller in their hands? I'm 48 and I do not like Nintendo games.

I actually did own some sort of NES in 1992 for 24 hours before trading it in for a Sega Genesis. I just couldn't find anything fun about Mario Bros, and in the last ten years I've repeatedly tried to jump on the band wagon, but I just don't fit!

I'm glad Nintendo has legions of faithful customers and that they will buy just about any remake the company puts out, but I do find some satisfaction in the fact that my daughter will grow up NOT loving Nintendo.

Simon Ferrari said...

@Gary: I loved this comment! My pops is a little bit older than you (55), and my parents did this thing where they worked 12-hr shifts (nurses) every other day when I was a baby. So my dad had 3-4 days a week to sit around the house with me and he'd just quit smoking and drinking. I was born in 1984, so a few months after I turned one the NES came to America (in October). By the time I was two, my dad had tricked my grandpa into buying an NES for me (for him).

Point being, you're a bit too old for it to have happened to you... but I literally grew up with an NES controller in your hand. My dad kind of "grew down" as a result of his Nintendo craze. My mother would wake up to find him not in bed with her, go to the living room, and catch him playing Zelda in his underpants. Unfortunately he stopped playing when I hit a certain age and started getting better than him (he did this with running too). The last game we played together was Zelda 2 (Adventure of Link).

In any case, Sega loyalists aren't the only people who aren't huge on Nintendo these days. I recognize that the Wii had a rocky start that they've largely made up for, but only this Punch Out game and a few others are even catching my interest (the retro ones, I guess?). If I had kids, they'd be growing up loving Microsoft.

Simon Ferrari said...

Blargh, correction:

"but I literally grew up with an NES controller in *my* hand."

Mitch Krpata said...

We had an Atari first, but the NES was such a leap that it was like something else entirely. For better or worse, the Nintendo formed millions of people's idea of what a video game is.

Gary A. Lucero said...

NO WAIT!! I am not a Sega loyalist!!!

I was a C-64/Amiga person before I bought the Genesis, and I spent the couple of years with that Genesis trying to play ports of Amiga games and being horribly disappointed. In 1994 I finaly bought a PC and then life resumed.

I was an avid PC gamer until the RPG market essentially died. Since then I've owned every console except the NGage, my favorites being the original Xbox, the PS2 (JRPG heaven -- though I'm pretty much over them now), and the Xbox 360.

I am a die hard 360 fan now. I still buy PC games but I have relatively low end machine and I never get around to playing them.

Simon Ferrari said...

@ Mitch: I'm really sad that I didn't grow up on the Atari. It's like there's a crucial understanding of the birth of games that I just can't connect to. Reading Racing the Beam was tough, and it's really confusing to try to go back and play mega-brilliant innovators like Yars' Revenge.

@ Gary: Hmm, I can't remember what year I gave up on consoles and went to the PC for awhile. I played text MUDs through most of my teens, so I guess that would be from '98 on. I quit playing games a year before college, and then my freshman year the XBOX came out and everybody in the dorms wasted the year away playing Halo over LAN.

Gary A. Lucero said...


I started on the Atari 2600. It was a fun console for a bunch of guys just out of highschool, but I wasn't a serious gamer until I bought the C-64 computer, then the Amiga after that.

I didn't become a REAL console gamer until I bought the Xbox. I only moved to the PS2 because of the dearth of RPGs on the Xbox.

One of the reasons the Xbox 360 is the perfect fit for me is because of the great RPGs on it. I know the DS has a ton, but the Gamecube, Wii, and PS3 are pretty barren. And the shooters and other action gamers are great tourist stops while I wait for new RPGs or DLC for RPGs.

Simon Ferrari said...

@Gary: Well since you're an RPG guys: I don't work for Amazon or Namco... but I just noticed that Tales of Vesperia (360) got a 50% price drop. I've been waiting for this day!

Gary A. Lucero said...

Thanks Simon. I'll check out Amazon.