Victorious Boxers Revolution ReviewJason Venter
Ippo Makunouchi is the son most expectant mothers dream of raising. He works hard, he's dedicated to what he does, and most of all he has the fighting spirit. As awesome as he is, though, he only weighs around 130 pounds. He's a lightweight, for sure. That makes him the target of bullies, but one day after some thugs corner him in the park and knock him around like usual, a jogger named Takamura comes to the rescue. While the hoodlums in training run, Ippo sticks around to learn more about the young man who saved him. That's how he learns about the Kamogawa Boxing Gym that will serve as the focal point in his life to come. That's how he becomes... a victorious boxer!
Victorious Boxers Revolution on the Nintendo Wii tells that story, which astute fans will be quick to point out is based heavily upon the anime, “Fighting Spirit” (now available in two separate 8-DVD sets, according to the advertisement on the back of the instruction manual). The game picks up just after Ippo joins the gym. From there, you'll witness around four hours of story sequences with around 24 fights sandwiched between them. That works out to about 20% gameplay, sure, but a little fan service never hurt anyone.
As it turns out, the people who buy the game for the story elements will probably be happier than those who pick it up because they're expecting a full retail release in the vein of Wii Sports. There's a lot of dialogue, all of it spoken, and there's a narrator who sounds incredibly amused with every line he speaks (think Truman Capote meets Santa Claus). There's hardly a stilted line of dialog throughout the whole production, even if most of it does come across as quite cheesy. Except for the fights, it feels almost like you're watching a full-fledged cartoon. There's a love interest, a rivalry or two, the comical protege with the big nose... everything you'd expect from a typical anime is here.
Because the drama between bouts plays such a large role in Victorious Boxers Revolution, a lot of work obviously went into the visual design. The character models look nothing short of fantastic, right down to the whiskers on their chins. As they talk, eyebrows raise and lower, sweat glistens on their cheeks and so forth. It's very convincing, but you might be too distracted by the background events to even notice. That's because the developers chose to mix the excellent hand-drawn art with fuzzy video footage. As Ippo (or in some cases, someone else entirely) walks to the ring, you'll see a few animations on loop. Maybe it's a Japanese lady in a short skirt, or perhaps it's some dude with long hair pumping his arm at the arena ceiling. Whatever the case, there are odd little clips like that all over the place. It's hard to decide if they're charming or disturbing, but they're definitely there and you will notice.
The actual fights are a more consistent affair. Whether because you're too busy watching your opponent dance around the ring or because it was easier for the artists to render something as simple as a square box with ropes on the side, the designers did a fantastic job. You really feel like you're going up against a variety of bruisers and you can definitely tell when they're about to do something devious. There's definitely not much call for complaints about the way fights look, just the way they play.
Picture a menu that offers six control schemes. That's what greets you when you begin a game of Victorious Boxers Revolution. Yes, there are six control schemes. Half of them, naturally, are totally useless.
Theoretically, you'd buy Victorious Boxers Revolution for the chance to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck like boxing gloves. That option is available. You hold the two together and tilt them to one side or another if you want your on-screen boxer to do the same, then you make quick jabs and swings to reproduce the same sort of activity in the game. It's not always dependable, but for the most part it's good fun and feels reasonably natural. If you would like, you can also choose a similar option wherein you swing just the Wii Remote and use the Nunchuck device to move, but that option proves frustrating and counter-intuitive.
The same might be said of two available options where the goal is to swipe the Wii Remote around the air while following an on-screen arrow that theoretically will allow you to manage brilliant uppercuts and quick jabs. The problem is that your boxer seems slow to actually use the moves, and the computer opponent is quick to hit you with a barrage of quick jabs that will send you to the mat long before you unleash your feeble flurry of punches.
Not surprisingly, there are tutorials available to acquaint you with each of the four options outlined above. The last two options—one being the Classic controller and the other being the GameCube controller—don't need such a thing because they're actually easy to use. Sure, you're basically just playing a PlayStation 2 game if you resort to one of those methods, but at least your boxer responds to your wishes and you can start handing out the beatings instead of receiving them. The analog stick controls your movement around the ring and you press the four face buttons to manage swings, uppercuts and jabs that you can actually manage. Taking the easy, natural way out feels a little bit like throwing in the towel, but at least it makes the game fun. Suddenly, you can actually win your matches. Imagine that!
If you piece the facts together, the writing is on the wall: Victorious Boxers Revolution is an interesting boxing game that might appeal to fans of the anime but does a poor job providing the certain something that Wii-owning boxing fans crave. Either group will quite likely be satisfied by a weekend rental, but a more substantial investment isn't warranted for any but the most serious “Fighting Spirit” fans unless they happen to find it in a bargain bin. If you've been looking for the next (or even the first) fantastic boxing experience on Nintendo's innovative system, keep looking. This isn't it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.