by Empire Interactive
Official licenses, do they make that much difference? For some they do take football games for example. Fifa has always outsold the International Superstar Soccer series even though anyone will tell you in terms of realism and accuracy the Fifa series is nowhere near the ISS game. With boxing games we have Knockout Kings which boasts 'real' boxers but does that fact alone make it the best choice? Empire Interactive have recently released Victorious Boxers on the PS2 and although it doesn't have 'real' boxers it is still a great boxing game as we shall see.
In Victorious Boxers there are two main gameplay modes, Story and Vs modes. In the Story mode we take five different boxers through their careers. We begin by following the career of Ippo Makunouchi. You take charge of Ippo for important fights that help further his career. The first couple of fights see Ippo working his way up to the ranks of professional boxer and putting him on his path to being Champion of the Featherweight division. Other boxers who you follow the careers of are Masaru Aoki, Tatsuya Kimura, Mamoru Takamura, Genji Kamogawa. The Vs mode gives you the chance to either box against a previous opponent or play against a friend.
The graphics are superb. The crowd is perhaps the only part of the game, graphically speaking, that isn't first class. Boxers and the locations in which you box have been rendered beautifully. A well aimed right (or left) hook sends sprays of sweat, from your opponents head, shooting into the air. The boxers' shadows are also perfectly rendered. The only mistake I noticed was that on Ippo's shorts (where it has his name on the waistband) for one of the earlier fights his name is spelt wrong (Ipo instead of Ippo). The smoothness of the character animation is also spot on and as good as anything previously seen in a sports simulation/game.
On taking to the ring you'll notice a few oddities. First of all you'll notice that there is no energy/health bars. These usually are the mechanism for judging how much stamina your boxer has left but in Victorious Boxers you have to use the appearance of the boxers to judge this. The boxers get puffed around the eyes and cheeks and can sometimes stagger around the ring as well as the lean on the ropes if it's all getting too much. The absence of energy bars can be an initial shock to the system but by about your fifth fight you will have forgot them and begin to watch the general condition of your boxer. The second oddity is that there is no visible clock whilst you are boxing. This omission is a little harder to compensate for. It would have been nice to see how long you have left in a round, as it allows you to plan a strategy i.e. if you boxer looks tired and it's nearing the end of a hard round then a spot of evasion is called for or maybe you could decide to attempt to finish your opponent off if time allowed for it. Without sight of the clock though it takes some of the strategy element away from the game.
The general control of the boxers is very good. All the moves are here and the boxers all have their own special moves (some have four while others only have one). The only comment I would make about the boxers is that I occasionally found it awkward to manoeuvre when in a tight spot otherwise though, I was very impressed with the movement and punches of the boxers.
A majority of sport games are OK for deaf games and they usually are OK without subtitles. It was great to see however, that in the Story mode (which contains cutscenes between the fights) that all the conversations are subtitled. Even your trainers comments between rounds are subtitled which is excellent as he usually gives advice on how to beat your opponent. The only subtitling omission was the announcer at the beginning of a fight and to tell the the truth all he does is to name the boxers. Generally speaking Victorious Boxers is excellent for deaf gamers.
You might be wandering if the fictitious nature of the boxers affects the game well let me put your mind at rest and say that just like previous versions of ISS (which used fictitious footballers) it doesn't take away from the game at all. In fact ignoring the names of the boxers and taking the game solely as a virtual representation of the sport Victorious Boxers is a work of art. It's not perfect, the ability to workout and train your boxer would have been great and the manoeuvrability of the boxer in a tight corner is a little tricky but generally speaking the game is first class and every boxing fan should make owning this a priority.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10 An excellent boxing game.
Quality of text: 8/10 Good subtitling to tell the boxers' stories.
Graphics: 9.5/10 Fabulous. The crowd graphics are slightly below par.
Interface:8/10 Good, easy to get to grips with.
Gameplay: 8.5/10 While some may comment on the lack of 'real' boxers it has no bearing on the gameplay which is an absolute delight for boxing fans.