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by Empire Interactive

2-01.jpg (4616 bytes)When I was a kid, my father gave my brother and I some boxing gloves for Christmas. His rationale was that if we were going to hit one another anyway, we might as well have some padding between our fists and our faces. I soon learned that even with the added cushioning a blow to the face still hurts. Due to my aversion for all things painful, my pursuit of the pugilistic arts never went further than Punch Out or Mike Tyson’s Knockout. In these games I was able to exorcise all of the pent up frustrations of youth with nary a bruise to be seen. Those boxing video games were a cathartic experience for me, and it was with that same hope of catharsis that I booted up Victorious Boxers. Although my frustrations are different than those of an adolescent, they are still legion. Even though I enjoyed the game, the promise of catharsis was soon supplanted by a growing frustration with the controls and repetitive nature of some of the gameplay.

8-01.jpg (5806 bytes)The problem with trying to sell a game based on a franchise is that the franchise must first be popular. Thousands of games were sold based on the Harry Potter franchise. It didn’t matter if the game was any good. People were clamoring so much for anything with the lightning scarred boy in it that quality was irrelevant. I’m sure that the game makers felt little pressure to create a Harry Potter game that was any good. As they looked at the all important bottom line, I’m sure they said, "What difference does it make how good it looks or plays? If we package it right, they will buy it." I think that Victorious Boxers suffers from the same kind of franchisitis. It seems to put too much weight in its source materials.

5-01.jpg (6438 bytes)Victorious Boxers is a game based on the Japanese manga, "Hajime no Ippo." Unfortunately, not very many people in the U. S. are all that familiar with it. Perhaps in Japan he’s as big as Batman. That might explain why they let so many things slip under the radar when they were programming it. From what I can tell of the story, Victorious Boxers is a marriage of Rocky with a plethora of films in the John Hughes Pretty in Pink tradition. A young kid who just doesn’t fit in turns to the sport of boxing to prove himself and find his place in the world. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.

3-01.jpg (6837 bytes)With most games I play I have a distinct impression and it pretty much rings true for the whole game. Either I like it or I don’t. Things aren’t so cut and dry with this one. I keep going back and forth on this game. At first I was frustrated by the controls and disappointed with the graphics and repetitive nature of the story mode. As I played a little more and started to get the hang of the controls, I found myself really enjoying some of the matches. There was a sense of accomplishment when I beat an opponent, and I thought that I would give this a favorable review. Then the matches got old again and I found myself not really knowing how to approach this game. So, if I seem a little uncertain about how I feel about the game it’s because I am.

7-01.jpg (8923 bytes)At the outset of the game there were a few things that really annoyed me. The first was the omission of any type of "life" meter. I’ve gotten so used to seeing a meter descend in connection with each blow my character receives that I was a little thrown off. One could argue that this omission adds a level of realism to the game, but I was out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t like it. The more I played the game, the better I got a sense of when Ippo or his opponent was on the verge of collapse. But I still would have liked to know for certain. The actual boxer graphics are not that bad. Their moves are very fluid and it was a nice touch to add some bruises after a particularly bad round. The cut scenes are used again and again only with different subtitles. Again, this gets a little old. There is a two-player mode included on the game of course. The further you advance in story mode the more characters you unlock for combat.

9-01.jpg (9149 bytes)There were moments of real enjoyment playing this game. When I got into the rhythm of the bobbing, weaving and jabbing I lost sight of the graphics and mundane settings. But those moments were a little too few and far between. I found myself punching the air far more than I ever punched in the direction of an opponent, and there were times when I thought that I was doing well only to find myself on my back being counted out. With a little more patience, I might have been a little more entertained. But video games are not at a point where they can, or should, ask too much of their players.

Jason Frank   (01/29/2002)


Ups: Japanese style aesthetic; could be great if you're a fan of the manga; some bright moments of gameplay.

Downs: Controls; no life meter; graphics; repetitive gameplay.

Platform: PlayStation 2