Black & Bruised
Many old-school gamers will agree that Super Punch-Out!! is essentially a household name, an unprecedented classic that has yet to be unseated from its spiritual throne. Despite said classic being two console eras old, it remains untouched, having created a relatively unique standard yet to be surpassed. (Ready 2 Rumble was close, but even then I'd still run back to the NES edition to face off against Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman, and - of course - Mike Tyson: the true bad-asses of arcade boxing.)
Needless to say, developers have a lot to live up to. However, this didn't stop Majesco from entering the foray last year with its release of Boxing Fever. Depending on your perspective, one could look at its release as a homage or shameless emulation of the aforementioned arcade boxing mode. Though avid boxing enthusiasts may have very well welcomed it open arms as the spiritual successor. That is to say, had it been initially releaed on a next-generation platform.
Enter Black & Bruised, the envisioned console counterpart based upon the handheld edition, developed by the same development team, Digital Fiction. The entire premise has been completely reworked from the ground up. The most evident improvements include a vivid, cel-shaded engine, an abundant assortment of power-ups, multiple game modes, and a broader level of depth and appeal. It's essentially like playing an all-new game. Literally.
If there's one word to distinguish both titles, it's "personality." Between the off-screen narrator featured in the Story Mode (who for some reason always makes me think back to the days of when I watched The Dukes of Hazzard) and the various comments uttered by the boxing ensemble, acknowledging B&B as an upgrade is an understatement.
The premise of the game is pretty straightforward - beat the snot out of your opponent, and then some. (Well, at least in the Arcade and Survival Modes. The Story Mode contains character-specific storylines which pan out as you progress through each bout). Choose from one of nineteen characters (five of which are inaccessible until certain conditions have been met), then step into the ring and unleash your fists of fury. But just because it's an arcade game, doesn't mean button mashing is going to get you very far. Digital Fiction has beefed up the A.I. substantially and added a difficulty setting to configure the matches to vary in intensity from a mere pillow fight to a no-holds barred, teeth-buster. The question is, do you have what it takes to be the Ring King? The key to survival lies in selecting the ideal character balanced in strength, speed, reach, and movement. For example, characters such as the large n' heavy Jackpot excel in Strength but lack the speed to run circles around someone like Jumping Janet who's, um, pretty "bouncy," I might add.
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