Game Description: Victorious Boxers boasts a knockout combination of incredible 3D motion-captured graphics and addictive gameplay. The title introduces gamers to Ippo, who, fresh off of the mean streets, meets an old trainer who puts him in the ring. Gamers must start at the bottom, then earn the right to a pro placement. Eventually, by working up the professional rankings, they may earn a crack at the world champion. The game differs from other boxing titles in that it offers career progression through constant improvement, and gamers must learn new moves to progress. Listen to your trainer, and he will advise you as each fight progresses. You can take on more than 40 boxers in a huge variety of boxing arenas. See the crowds grow as each fight attracts a larger and larger purse!
In the business of selling consumer goods, it's often times not so much what you sell, but how you sell it that matters most. Case in point is the McDonald's fast-food chain. I don't think anyone over the age of 16 actually thinks McDonald's makes a tasty hamburger, but through aggressive marketing and vast franchise distribution, McDonald's is the most dominant force in the fast-food industry. The same could be said of the Knockout Kings boxing games that have graced multiple consoles. Slick packaging, plentiful licensing agreements with real-life boxers, and a slew of celebrity endorsements has been enough for most gamers to overlook the mediocre gameplay and make it the front runner in this niché sports genre.
Under these kinds of market conditions, it would appear highly unlikely for a new boxing game like Victorious Boxers: Ippo's Road To Glory from Empire Interactive to succeed. This is a boxing title that benefits from no real-life licenses, strangely focuses on unpopular lighter weight classes and it's a videogame adaptation of a popular Japanese manga (comic) series that most North Americans have never heard of. Much like the title's protagonist, Ippo Makunouchi, Victorious Boxers is an underdog right from the start.
However, if any boxing aficionado passes up this title just because Lennox Lewis doesn't adorn it's packaging or Mike Tyson's name isn't in the title, that would be an injustice greater than Roy Jones Jr. being robbed of a gold medal in the 1998 Olympics. For Victorious Boxers is the best boxing game to come along since 4D-Boxing in all its flat-shaded polygonal stick figured glory graced the PC many eons ago.
For those who are willing to give Victorious Boxers a shot, I'm sure many will not be initially impressed. In fact I'm willing to bet that many readers will think I've become mentally ill or I was on some potent drugs while playing Victorious Boxers to give it such a resounding vote of confidence.
I'll admit that upon starting up the game for the first time, I was far from impressed by the awkward introduction movie, the overall sparse graphics, and the limited amount of modes that basically consisted of a streamlined 'story' mode and a standard issue 'versus' mode. The lack of any attribute training options, create-a-boxer feature, or any other customizable element only reinforced the notion that I had pissed away my money on a dud.
It wasn't until about half a dozen boxing matches later when I encountered a tough-as-nails adversary did my view of Victorious Boxers start to shift. Through out the course of the numerous rematches that it took to beat this difficult opponent, I started to realize the subtle use of control and technique that made Victorious Boxers unique and special.
To sum up what makes Victorious Boxers a serious contender in two words: pure gameplay. The in-ring action is near flawless. Unlike so many boxing games in the past that interprets boxing as this stationary rock'em sock'em style of fisticuffs, Victorious Boxers pays just as much attention to movement and positioning with the lower half of the body as it does its offense and defense with the upper half.
Rather than bullish head-on collisions, fighters will bob, weave, and duck with incredibly fluid motion and it takes a considerable amount of skill to be able to 'catch' a fighter and land effective punching combinations to get the knockout or decision. Victorious Boxers is definitely challenging.
All the credit goes to the wonderful control scheme that makes the smooth flowing action possible. Most boxing games require players to depress any number of buttons to block punches. Any one whose ever boxed or gotten into a fight can tell you this style of control doesn't really make sense because in the heat of action fighters don't make cognitive decisions to guard particular punches thrown at them. Fighters today throw such lightning fast combos and the recipients of those punches are forced to react defensively with instinct rather than with the mind.
Victorious Boxers control setup is a more accurate representation because it doesn't have a 'conscious' blocking method. Instead, Victorious Boxers focuses more on motion for defense and brilliantly utilizes the incremental sensitivity of the analog control stick to facilitate both evasive tactics and footwork. Bobbing, weaving, and ducking type motions are performed by pressing the analog stick minimally while full step movement is done by holding the stick completely in one direction. Blocks only automatically occur when two fighters make contact with the exact same punch.
That said, Victorious Boxers' greatest attribute—strong attention to gameplay—is also its greatest weakness. Outside of the in-ring action to master, there's very little else for players to sink their teeth into. The game is all business to the point of being almost arcade-like and long-term play-life is seriously jeopardized. For those looking for a little more content or those who might not appreciate the art of boxing as much as I do, Victorious Boxers under whelms.
Much of what I've written may not even matter in the larger scheme of things. No matter how good Victorious Boxers is, it won't be able to overcome its inherent disadvantages of being a boxing game about fictional anime light-weight boxers that no one outside of Japan has ever heard of. At best, Victorious Boxers is destined to be a sleeper hit that may manage to achieve cult status. At worst, Victorious Boxers won't even register on anyone's radar. In this media-driven day and age of information, good craftsmanship just isn't enough to the make it in the videogame industry. Marketing and business savvy play just as important role in achieving success.
Critic's note: At the time of writing this review, it was announced that makers of Knockout Kings, EA Sports, is working with New Corporation, the developers of Victorious Boxers, on creating the next entry of the Knockout Kings series for the Nintendo GameCube. So perhaps for the future of boxing games, it will be possible for good business and good art to come together for one incredible boxing game.
Looking at Victorious Boxers, I definitely agree with Chi in that most people will be far from impressed by what they see. I certainly was.
While Chis evaluation of the ingenious control scheme is right on, a basic game engine burned onto a CD and sent to stores is not nearly enough to make a well-rounded title. I definitely think the creators of Victorious Boxers were onto something here, but unfortunately they must have taken a jab to the chin and went down in the first round, because they certainly did not go the distance.
As mentioned in the main review, there are no training portions, no stats to distribute, you cant make your own boxer and theres nothing to do at all except for box. While boxing by itself is basically okay, I need more than this to keep my interest. Outside of straight duking, Victorious Boxers is the textbook definition of "bare-bones". Incredibly, there are barely even any story bits between matches. The most you get is your coach spouting the same recycled phrases over and over while you roll your eyes in boredom. There is no suspense or drama, and any feeling of achievement is stripped bare due to the complete lack of emotional involvement. By comparison, even Punch-Out on the SNES knocks Victorious Boxers cold. In that game there was a definite build-up and mounting tension to the games structure. Fight a few palookas to advance through the circuit, and then watch Little Mac train on his bike to prepare for the title bout. Not much, but it was something. In Victorious Boxers, every single match is a "final" of some kind, and the entire affair becomes one long, uninterrupted string of matches that become impossible to tell apart. After the first few bouts, you could care less.
As if the lack of any substance to the game wasnt bad enough, the control scheme isnt exactly flawless, either. While its above average in most respects, theres an inexplicable lag when Ippo needs to turn and face his opponent. Instead of instantly swiveling to face the other boxer or maintaining a constant lock-on, he will often face the same direction for a moment or two after his opponent has danced away. This small delay in Ippos targeting is more than long enough for the enemy to land a few good hits, and for you to throw punches far off the mark. In my opinion, if the game is only going to do one thing, it had better do it damn well. It doesnt.
Victorious Boxers is a game that has a better-than-average control scheme and a few good ideas, but could never have been a contenderthey should have just thrown in the towel and went back to the gym.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Violence
Parents, since Victorious Boxers is based on a Japanese anime cartoon, the characters obviously look less realistic and the violence a little less intense. The characters faces will become amusingly bruised throughout the course of the match, but there are no bloody cuts to be concerned about.
Boxing fans thirsty for a realistic boxing simulation, Victorious Boxers is a significant step in the right direction and should not be overlooked likely despite outward appearances. The game may lack a lot of bells and whistles like create-a-boxer mode or actual endorsements and licenses from real-life boxers, but it makes up for it in terms of pure gameplay and challenging boxing action.
Fans of 3D fighting games like Soul Calibur and Tekken will most likely find the sparse graphics and realistic fighting model of Victorious Boxers to be too subdued and lacking in terms of variety.