Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman and Paddy Scotsman go down to the boxing ring, and…

Punch-Out Wii (2009)

Look, can we get one thing straight? National stereotypes are fantastic fun. I’m allowed to say that, because I’m Irish, and we’re the butt of every joke and stereotype in the book. You’ve heard about the Irish electrician who was called in to fix the electric chair at Sing Sing, don’t you? He came out afterwards and said it was a good thing they called him, because that thing was a death-trap.

Then of course there was the Irish firm who won the contract to supply the latest fleet of submarines to the US Navy? Apparently those bad boys are unsinkable. You see? That’s a hilarious take on the Paddy factor, that supposed level of a combined stupidity and apathy that defines the Irish mentality. Probably the other things that define us are drinking and fighting, in that order.

But this is where stereotypes can let you down, or at least go out of date, because I do not personally rate Ireland’s drinking and fighting ability all that highly anymore. We do like a bit of binge drinking, sure, probably more than many countries in Europe (I’d have just said the EU, but we’re not letting the UK off the hook that easily). But even though our Thursday + Friday + Saturday nights can resemble hell on earth, it’s a long old time since we had fightin’ rebels – pushing and shoving is the best we do now.

No, I’m afraid our drinking’s been overtaken by Finland, our fighting by Serbia, and I’d say Russia has overtaken us in both regards. That should put an end to these supposed negative stereotypes that Ireland faces but where I ought to be offended, I’m just disappointed instead.

Your stereotypes can get confounded as well. I once met a Finnish girl and immediately got all excited. In the first place, I was surprised to see a Finn out and about, and not home alone drinking in (sexy) underwear. Anyway, I spotted my opportunity and began thinking of everything Finnish I could. Sisu! Kossu! Rally! Perkele! Depression! She wasn’t into any of it. I suppose she conformed to the Finnish stereotype of being hilariously bad at small talk, but that was it. I started the chat, and she Finnished it.

They can really help you out, can national stereotypes. They’ll let you know exactly the type of person you’re dealing with, and that’s a skill that behavioural psychologists and criminal profilers would love to have. They’re easy to remember too: the Irish are homely, the English are either unfailingly polite or dreadful chavs with no in-between. The Germans have no sense of humour, the Austrians are rude, the French are indescribably rude.

The Italians are crazy drivers and generally corrupt, the Greeks even moreso. The Spanish are lazy, which somehow extends to the Mexicans. The Americans are mostly ignoramuses with the occasional brainbox thrown in. The Canadians are too nice, the Russians are evil, the Polish are drunks, the Australians are even more racist than me, the South Africans are even more racist than that, the Nigerians are scammers, the Indians never stop working, and the Chinese love a bet.

There you go, I’ve just taken you on a trip around the world in a whirlwind of stereotypes. I’ll never work again now, but wasn’t it a fun jaunt? National stereotypes, no harm in them, and they only add to the experience in the delightful Punch-Out!! For Wii. Truth be told, with it releasing in 2009, it probably arrived just before hysterical social media slammed the door shut on stereotyping. Perhaps Punch-Out Wii will eventually have to be referred to like those racist old films you’d get in the 50s and 60s, as a “product of its time”.

It’d certainly take you back to the good old days of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out anyway, which is the best endorsement I can give this game. Just about anyone who’s played the NES Punch-Out fell in love with it, and I’ll even be charitable to Mr. Dream for once and say that his version is just as good. Well, here’s your 3D re-imagining of an old Nintendo franchise lovingly and gingerly taken out of the archives, spun around and gently laid onto the record player.

It was easy to dismiss the Wii as a casual Just Dance machine for grannies, but it did quite a bit for many of Nintendo’s franchises. Now, I’ll caveat that by saying that it did absolutely nowt for F-Zero, which I won’t forgive it for. But Punch-Out Wii had a big advertising campaign behind it, a real push, and seeing the old Punch-Out boxers brought to the 3D realm was very exciting.

And they really are all here, in all their nigh-racist glory with the only censorship change being a changing of Piston Honda’s name, to Piston Hondo. That’s it, his heavily Japanese eyebrows are intact, and the Wii title goes a step or two further by making sushi appear when you knock his lights out. So there you go, copyright infringement against a car company is a minefield best worth dodging, but open racism is okay.

It is the same old faces showing up, only one new boxer to spar with, but fear not; once you batter each of the boxers and bag yourself the World Title, you’ve got to go a step further and defend it in the Title Defence mode, where you’ll rematch all of the boxers who’ve been each undergoing their own Rocky montages, or maybe Ivan Drago montages. The end result is that they’ll come back ten times as difficult, way faster and smarter than the old NES tricks that’ll stand you in good stead for the first half of the game.

It’s a great way to build longevity into the game, and offers some very surprising difficulty. Losing to Glass Joe? It happened to me, and I bet it’ll happen to you too. And when he taunts you in untranslated French, or Soda Popinski laughs at you in Russian or Bald Bull charges at you in Turkish, you’ll feel like the most international punching bag in the world.

The great international voice-acting is just one of the great, charming little things about this game. There’s plenty more – take a fun, local 2-player mode, not too comprehensive but a bit of a laugh. There’s a super-hard, once punch knockdown mode. There’s a secret fighter at the end of it all (not a cel-shaded Mike Tyson, sadly). You can use motion controls if you’re a bit crazy, and you can go crazier still by bobbing and weaving on the Wii Balance Board. It might take some trickery with Wii homebrew these days, but there’s even an add-on where you can fight against your ever-faithful trainer Doc Louis.

Best of all, you’ve got a great soundtrack that has flair and instruments specific to who you’re fighting. So a cheeky bit of sitar for Great Tiger for example. That’s probably racist too, but oh well, we’re already in deep now. Best of all, an off-his-face Aran Ryan returns as the Irish boxer representative. I highly doubt he’s from Dublin, as his in-game bio says, but since when were stereotypes always accurate?

7 October 2022

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