Then there’s Exhibition, essentially a practice mode that lets you duke it out with the other boxers without fear of tarnishing your win/loss record. Helpful, but even in this expected, throwaway mode Next Level Games has found a way to actually make you care about a practice mode.
Above: Boxer-specific achievements!
Each boxer (both regular and Title Defense versions) has three unique goals to meet in Exhibition mode. Just about every one of them requires you to deconstruct the opponent’s attacks and figure out how to absolutely annihilate them, sometimes without ever missing a punch or being hit yourself.
These extremely demanding guidelines help crystallize the idea that Punch-Out!! is more than dodging and punching, and anyone who sinks in the required time will become insanely good, in the same “holy crap” kind of way as someone who’s effortlessly five-starring Expert songs in Guitar Hero.
Above: A sound test is your reward
Obviously there are no Achievement Points or Trophies to win. Instead, completing all three goals will unlock that boxer’s sound test, where you can listen to their various dialogue utterances and a country-specific version of the memorable Punch-Out!! theme. We had a grand old time dicking around with the audio (mainly for our filthy, stupid podcast) but you know what would have been better? Effing leaderboards!
Above: Please, god damn it
Punch-Out!! and 1994’s Super Punch-Out!! keep track of your best KO times. That’s where most of the replay comes from - trying to slice seconds off your total time. In the SNES days we were content to take the Super Punch-Out!! cart over to a friend’s house and gloat about our unbeatable times… but in 2009, with all these internets flowing freely, it makes no sense whatsoever to omit leaderboards.
There could have been a bustling, one-upping community borne from this, and instead, we get a tacked-on versus mode that’s barely worth acknowledging. No one wants a “versus” Punch-Out!! because a large part of its appeal is getting friends in a room that’ll blurt out strategies, or demand the controller for their own attempt to KO the towering doofus onscreen. That’s how it was 20 years ago, and that’s how the new game is today.
Above: Punch-Out!! appears in the office, five dudes drop everything to watch/advise/correct
All we needed was a list of the best times per boxer and we’d be playing Punch-Out!! for weeks on end, trying to climb to the top of the boards. Without this online list, replay solely comes from how much time you want to spend perfecting your techniques against the 13 boxers. Not interested in replaying the same guys over and over and over? This ain’t for you.