GDC: Punch-Out!! • Page 2

Comeback kid.

It's so pure, so simple, but Nintendo and Next Level are keen to stress that there's an awful lot more to Punch-Out!! than meets the eye. "There are hidden elements in the Punch-Out!! universe. The original game is about finding the tells, finding the weaknesses, solving the hidden puzzles," says Halliday. "So there are a few elements to the controls that aren't quite visible but users will discover over time while they master the game." One of these may or may not be related to the Wii's new enhanced motion sensor, MotionPlus - Tanabe says we'll have to wait for the final release to find out.

The same goes for online leaderboards. And for whether Mario or other Nintendo characters might appear as cameo referees (they don't in what we see). And what the roster of fighters will be, and whether it will include real-world stars like the NES game's Mike Tyson ("you can find out yourself if you play the game all the way through to the end," chuckles Tanabe mischievously). Multiplayer, at least, Halliday is willing to confirm, if not explain. "We're trying to broaden the experience of the game to more fans, so having a multiplayer mode - while challenging with the Punch-Out!!-style gameplay mechanic - was something that we were interested to do from the outset of the project," he says.

It sounds like a slight game - and we don't know much about it, given it's just two months away from its 22nd May release - but when the developers hint at its hidden waters, we believe them. Perhaps it's Halliday's obvious understanding and admiration of the original's deceptive depth. "Playing the original games, there's always a way to just barely beat the boxers, and you get the satisfaction of overcoming that fight, but there's also a lot of satisfaction in learning everything there is to know about that boxer," he says.

"We're not allowed to discuss it at this time, but there are more hidden things, more exploratory things in the game to keep you coming back to perfect those boxers, and put your scores up on YouTube and compare yourself with anyone in the world... We barely fit this game onto a DVD, the amount of content that we've jammed into this is pretty impressive compared to our previous games. A simple yet deep experience I think is totally valid in this market."

One of the later videos, introducing some of the cast.

If Punch-Out!! is defined by one thing more than its layered, arcade-puzzler gameplay, it's the cast of boxers. In our preview, we meet feeble Frenchie Glass Joe (who goes down in a hail of croissants), uppity Kraut Von Kaiser and brain-damaged fatty King Hippo, all old favourites, plus newcomer Disco Kid, a camp, preening dancefloor peacock. Each is introduced by a quick tableau of cartoon stills, and voiced in their own language. It's not politically correct, it's not subtle, and it's not pulling its punches. It is funny though (funnier than the slightly stilted lines from your trainer, at any rate).

"I think the most important thing is the David and Goliath, underdog sort of story," says audio director Chad York. "I think all of the characters represent different types of bullies, and everyone relates to a different boxer, so we tried to capture the essence of all the different scenarios we could think of that classic underdogs have gone through."

Unsophisticated, maybe, but it's pure personality. Everything about this disarmingly straight-down-the-line, pitch-perfect revival is. The complete lack of audiovisual frippery, focusing everything on the larger-than-life characters and taut, information-rich sound. The transposition of sudden keyframe animations to the smooth but rapid and rhythmic lunges and eye-bulging antics of the cast of characters. The clipped precision of the timing, the subtle surprises in the fight routines.

We're going to have to take Punch-Out!!'s replay value and feature set on trust, for now, but we can already tell that Nintendo and Next Level have done a minor classic with this update - and in the process, revived a side of Nintendo we've rarely seen since SNES days, the masters of the tight-but-loose, cheeky-but-clever single-player arcade game. And that's something absolutely every Wii owner would enjoy.

Punch-Out!! is due out for Wii on 22nd May.

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