Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Cavia Inc.
Release Date: October 23, 2007
When the Wii's unique control scheme was first announced, gamers' minds jumped to a number of ideas. Perhaps the most popular was a "Star Wars" game, in which the Wiimote would substitute for the lightsaber itself. Other gamers pondered what the Wii would mean for first-person shooters, baseball games or even role-playing titles. The first idea that occurred me, however, was Punchout. The idea of a next-generation boxing game that mixed the fun of the classic Punchout series with the unique and innovative Wii controls seemed like one that couldn't be beat. When the Wii was released, the pack-in title, Wii Sports, included a boxing game title, which, while simplistic, only solidified my desire to see Little Mac make his big return to the screen. Victorious Boxers Revolution, based on the long-running hit manga series Hajime no Ippo, seemed to shaping up to be exactly that … but instead of a first-round knockout, Victorious Boxers Revolution turns out to be a real featherweight of a game.
Victorious Boxers Revolution chronicles the adventures of Ippo Makunouchi, a timid high school student. When a group of bullies attacks him, he is rescued by a professional boxer, which sparked a desire in Ippo to become a boxer himself. Naturally, Ippo had quite a talent for the sport, and we get to witness his rise from nobody to champion and beyond. The trouble here is that without knowledge of Hajime no Ippo, the story line alternates between boring and incoherent. Most of the plot is taken up by summaries of the situations that occurred in the manga. The summaries give an OK idea of where the story is going, but they're so dry and boring that it's difficult to care without witnessing the personal interplay and drama that made the Hajime no Ippo plot interesting. While this may appeal to fans of the series, most gamers may find themselves bored stiff as the narrator drones on about off-screen adventures.
However, Victorious Boxers Revolution's plot doesn't stop once the fights start. Even as the two boxers are swinging at each other, various cut scenes will occur. They can be interesting and add an element of surprise and drama to a boxing match that makes each punch feel more intense, but they can also be very frustrating. It can be annoying, for example, to utterly dominate an opponent, only for an automatic cut scene to take over and tell you that you lost anyway, because the plot says so. Other times, dominating the opponent means you never get to see an event that occurred, such as Ippo learning a new move or some plot resolution, which in turn makes later storyline segments a bit more incoherent. It almost feels like Victorious Boxers Revolution is encouraging you to hold back in order to see cut scenes, rather than fight to the best of your ability.
Victorious Boxers Revolution isn't a realistic boxing game by any means. Don't misunderstand: You won't see any leaping kung-fu styles or shooting energy bolts from boxing gloves, but the title is very much a manga universe. Each boxer has a special move that he can pull off. For example, Ippo is the master of the Dempsey Roll, a series of rapid blows that allows him to win almost any battle with ease. His rival Miyata is the master of counter-attacks and will meet every blow with his own Jolt Counter. These moves are quick, powerful and match-ending, and most matches become a rush to build up enough fighting spirit. (Think of "fighting spirit" as a super bar from a fighting game, only it increases as a boxer fights better and decreases as he gets hit.) Another thing to note it that it is fast. The game is so fast, in fact, that it works against it sometimes. Matches can end incredibly quickly — within 30 seconds sometimes, if Ippo or another boxer gets a good start. While it can certainly be fun to take down a champion that quickly, it certainly isn't satisfying, especially when the pre-fight cut scenes last longer than the fight itself.
You'd figure that the Wii and boxing would be a match made in heaven. After all, Wii Sports Boxing already showed us that the Wii has the potential to allow gamers to jump into a boxing match as no other system ever has, so why is it that Victorious Boxers Revolution utterly fails at this? One contributing factor is that Victorious Boxers Revolution offers six different control schemes, and they're all slightly flawed.
The first two swing methods are the ones that most Wii gamers are going to want to use: the Nunchuck boxes, while the Wiimote simulates your fists. The problem is that the swing motion controls just don't work. The first problem gamers will encounter is with footwork. The first controller scheme assumes you'll "tilt" the controllers in the direction you want your boxer to move. In practice, however, your boxer jumps and swerves spastically, and all you can do is frantically swing your Wiimote around in a vain hope of knocking out the opponent.
The second method is exactly the same as the first, but the boxer movements are controlled using the Nunchuck analog stick instead, which is far more pleasing. Sadly, once you get the footwork problem settled, the overall issue with this control method is far from solved. If anything, punching is more problematic than movement, since you can't simply fix it by binding the attacks to a button. Instead, you swing the Nunchuck to punch with your left fist and the Wiimote to punch with your right. It sounds simple enough, but the problem is that you have almost no control over which punch you throw. Try to throw a hook, and you'll throw a jab. Try to do a jab, and your character will launch an uppercut instead. Eventually, all fights degenerate into mindless controller waggling.
If you get tired of the first two control schemes, Victorious Boxers Revolution offers another set of options for Wii users: the trace method. In this mode, in order to attack your opponent, you "trace" lines on the screen to throw punches. This is about as awkward as it sounds. Actually getting the Wii to register the lines you trace is frustrating and tedious, especially when your opponent is throwing a hundred punches a second directly into your face. If Victorious Boxers were a slower game, this method might be reasonable, but its speed and lack of response mean that the trace method won't work well, and it ends up being less useful than the already-lackluster swing mode.
The final control methods don't really deserve much praise, although they are the easiest to use. Those gamers with either a GameCube controller or a Nintendo Wii classic controller can substitute them for the unsatisfying Wii controls. While these two control schemes work just fine, with punches bound to the face buttons and movement to the analog stick, it feels mostly pointless to play a Wii boxing game with a GameCube controller. Without the unique control method, there is little to recommend this title above the superior boxing games available on other systems.
Once you've finished Victorious Boxer Revolution's two-hour story mode, there isn't much left to the game. You can replay on a new difficulty mode, but there is no reason to do so because a single playthrough of the game will unlock every fighter. Unlocked boxers can be used in the game's sparring mode so you can either battle against another computer opponent or a friend via split-screen. Unfortunately, that is it. There's no unlockable artwork, no new storylines or anything of the sort. Unless you find yourself absolutely in love with Victorious Boxer Revolution, you'll be shelving it in a day or so. Retailing for almost $40, that's just too little game for your dollar.
Hajime no Ippo has a stylish and classy art style that looks great on paper. The developers of Victorious Boxers Revolution do their very best to convert those character designs into 3D graphics, but it doesn't work out too well. The characters look odd and distorted, especially their muscles, which don't seem to match up to their actual limbs at all. The characters seem to have difficulty with expressions, leading to creepy moments where Ippo is staring blindly ahead while he's supposed to look intense and determined. The cel-shading is OK but not great, and overall, it's a very bland-looking game, outside of the awkward design transference.
Xseed games did a surprisingly good job with the dub cast for Victorious Boxer Revolution. There are almost no annoying and awkward characters, and most of the voices fit their respective boxers very well. It's certainly not a revolution in voice acting, but it works perfectly well. As for the background music, the only thing you can say about it is that it exists and isn't annoying. It is, however, bland to an extreme degree. There is nothing memorable or interesting about Victorious Boxer Revolution's soundtrack, and it does a poor job of getting you pumped during a boxing match.
Victorious Boxers Revolution should have been great. Hajime no Ippo is about the closest you can get to an animated version of Punchout, and the Wii is almost custom-made for boxing titles. Yet the poor Wii controls, short length and lack of extras make it hard to recommend this game for anything but the most die-hard fans of the Hajime no Ippo manga. Other Wii gamers will want to stick to Wii Sports Boxing or hold out hope that Nintendo or another third-party company decides to give the Wii the boxing game it truly deserves.