Joystiq impressions: Victorious Boxers: Revolution

With a projected late-September U.S. release, Wii-only Victorious Boxers: Revolution dukes it out for the best Wii sports title. I recently played a nearly complete localization of the June-released Japanese original, and Victorious Boxers is clearly different than Wii Sports Boxing. While Americans may think the manga art-style should appeal mostly to kids, the animation and physicality are viciously pitched to an older crowd. You're not trying to bowl over your opponent with kindness after all.

The boxing mechanics were harder to gauge than the catchy art. I relied on the two-fisted, motion-only control scheme, although the game offers five other ways to play. After a lot of wild flailing, I felt like I had a general sense of my character. But I never felt like my swings were perfectly interpreted. Hopefully, after an hour or two, players will learn how to move. But while Victorious Boxers easily held my interest, I couldn't predict if this will be a perfect translation between physical moves and game action. At some point, I wonder if the Wii controllers can handle one-to-one motion mapping for fast games.

I first noticed the Victorious Boxers art, animation, and style. The game looks sharp and clear in widescreen 480p. All of the characters and backgrounds are bold. (The long-running game is based on an animated, Japanese TV property, Fighting Spirit.) In-game animation and visuals excel, selling the boxing experience.

Victorious Boxers ditches the health-meter dynamic of other fighting games, instead forcing players to keep track of their wobble, blood, and bruises to gauge stamina. And the intense swings, knock-downs, and connections are far more adult-oriented than Wii Boxing. Instant replays looked exciting, sometimes making me cringe, just like real boxing. The T-rating is pushed to its hottest.

Players choose between six control schemes to work through the single-player story. You begin with access to a few boxers, but eventually unlock 25 characters for use in the single- or multiplayer game. Players swing with their fists in the primary control mode while occasionally pushing buttons to activate super punches. A secondary swing-mode steers the boxer with the analog stick, but otherwise uses the punching motion. Two pointing schemes use the Wiimote to target opponents and buttons to attack. And even the Classic Controller and GameCube gamepads are supported, for motion-free boxing.

I swung with one of the basic, motion schemes and had a hard time steering my boxer. I had to point the controllers forward to move ahead, but if I held my hands up to defend, the game thought I was trying to backpedal. (Unlike Wii Boxing, one of the buttons activates defense, so my motion was habit, not necessity.) I got more used to the system but never had clear control over the hooks and uppercuts; my style relied on jabs and flailing.

After more time, maybe the motion controls will feel better, or maybe steering the boxer with the thumbstick will be the best method. I had fun swinging against other journalists in two-player bouts, especially because of the great art and animation. But I'll have to spend more time playing before conclusively deciding if any of the control schemes -- hopefully the swinging ones -- trump Wii Boxing's flailing-but-fun approach. Look for XSeed's fighting game at the end of September.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.