Nintendo has a better track record than most at re-creating old games according to new standards. Mario, Metroid, and The Legend Of Zelda all enjoyed iconic rebirths in 3D. With Punch-Out!!, however, Nintendo skipped the redesign process in favor of glossing up the established formula. The remake adds unavoidable (and optional) motion controls, but otherwise is surprisingly similar to the last version of the game, which appeared on the Super Nintendo in 1994.
You play Little Mac, now more detailed and TV-ready, but still an upstart contender facing down a dozen exaggerated boxers. For those used to the wild flailing of boxing in Wii Sports, Punch-Out!! will feel as stately as chess. 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. 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.
Purists will play holding the Wii Remote on its side like the classic NES controller. The now-standard Wii-mote-and-nunchuk setup also works, and is just as responsive as good old analog buttons. But a Wii Fit Balance Board to control ducking and dodging just adds clutter. Punch-Out!! is happily a student of the old school. Overcomplicating it with newfangled controls is distracting.
Beyond the game: Single-player has always been Punch-Out!!’s mainstay, but this time, multiplayer lets players become antagonists. A pair of Little Mac clones duke it out, and when one lands enough blows, he becomes Giga Mac, so his player can enjoy being Goliath to Little Mac’s David. The mode is slight, yet cute and appropriate to the series as a whole.
Worth playing for: The direct, simple challenge of destroying every boxer in your path.
Frustration sets in when: Trainer Doc spits out another rote motivational entreaty instead of offering a hint you can actually use.
Final judgment: It’s a gussied-up throwback, but the old dog still has it.