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Ready 2 Rumble (N64) Review

Publisher: Midway
Release Date: Fall 1999

Background Info

Screens (4)
After EA Sports released Knockout Kings 2000, Midway enters the fray with their port of Ready 2 Rumble on the Nintendo 64. Two boxing games in one year? I'm not complaining. Ready 2 Rumble on the N64 is a nice looking and fun game with loads of boxers and plenty of action. While Ready 2 Rumble does not possess the depth of Knockout Kings 2000, the quick arcade action should appeal to virtually everyone. The arcade style translates over to both the arcade mode and championship mode in the game. So if you're ready to toss out realism, lace those gloves up!

Presentation/Graphics : 93
Perhaps Midway was cutting their own throats by releasing Ready 2 Rumble on the Sega Dreamcast first. For those of you who have seen the Dreamcast version, there is no denying that the game looks great. The detail in the boxers is incredible, with intricate features for each boxer. Well, while the N64 is older hardware, it keeps pace with the Dreamcast for the most part. In fact, owning a Dreamcast, I was shocked at how close the graphics were to the Dreamcast version.

Present in the N64 version of R2R are the bright colors that make it appealing to the eye. The various ring designs are colorful and detailed, but the boxers are the main attraction. While they don't have the detail of the Dreamcast version, you can tell the programmers kept the same basic features for each boxer. Muscles are well-defined, and my favorite boxer, Afro Thunder, has that gorgeous hair. The ring announcer, Michael Buffer, is unmistakable in appearance, complete with a jacket and bow tie. Ready 2 Rumble is pure eye candy on the N64. The only difference between it and its Dreamcast cousin is a little less detail.

Boxers' punches snap quickly, and those that land cause the opponent to react. Whether it's a quick jab or an uppercut to the jaw, the animations of both boxers are smooth and done well. Knockouts, likewise, look great and vary from boxer to boxer. Some boxers stumble around the ring until they fall like a tree, at which point the referee enters the ring to start the count. If a boxer activates the "rumble" mode during a match, the gloves light up and sparkle. Sparks fly from the gloves, and a glow emanates from the boxer's hands.

If you pummel your opponent enough, you're treated to a shiner. The game keeps track of which side of the face you connect to. If you only hit with a right jab, your opponent will eventually suffer a black left eye. If you fight in the first person view, which is one of several views available, you'll notice different facial expressions as you tag your opponent.

Perhaps the only issue in the graphics department is that at times boxers can walk through each other. However, this is only an issue at the beginnings of rounds and immediately after knockdowns. At these times, the boxers cannot yet throw punches, so this graphical glitch never affects gameplay.

Presentation/Audio : 90
The N64 has a bad reputation when it comes to sound. Unfortunately those ROM based cartridges just can't hold the CD quality audio tracks of the CD-based consoles. Fortunately Ready 2 Rumble doesn't utilize today's music but uses a looped soundtrack. As such, the music, like the graphics, is nearly identical to the Dreamcast version. I personally like the catchy theme song.

Included too are the boxer comments. I swear Afro Thunder is really Chris Rock, and all of his goofy statements are heard in this version of the game. Michael Buffer's "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Lllllet's get ready to rumblllle" sounds like the real thing.

During a match hits have a realistic sound, and each punch thrown comes with a grunt. During rounds, you'll hear the advice shouted from your cornermen. While there is no ring-side commentary during the rounds, you'll find that it's not missed as the action is quick and the fights are intense.

Interface/Options : 90
Menus in Ready 2 Rumble are a snap to walk through. The main title screen gives the option to select one of two modes of play or an options screen. The options available in the game are skill level (easy, medium, or hard), the number of knockdowns needed to win a match, the maximum number of rounds, the length of each round (from 15 seconds to 3 minutes), sound control, and controller configuration. The default controller mappings can be changed within the game to suit your style. The controller settings can always be reset, or all the game parameters can be recycled to their initial values.

In the ring, the default controls are such that the C buttons control punching and the A/B buttons are defensive moves. The left and up C buttons are high left and right punches, respectively. The down and right C buttons are low left and right punches, respectively. The A button is a low block, and the B button is a high block. The boxer's movement is controlled with either the analog stick or digital pad. While there are only four basic punches the C buttons can be combined with control stick motion to add more variety. For example, pressing a high punch button and pushing the control stick or pad up or down results in a hook. Moving the stick towards the opponent throws an uppercut, while moving the stick away from the opponent and asking for a high punch yields an overhead shot. The manual lists a special move for each boxer. Some are easy, like Afro Thunder's uptempo repeated left C button punch. Others, like Kemo Claw's "bow and arrow", are a combination of stick and button moves.

The game manual does a good job of explaining all of the options in the game. Each fictitious boxer in the game has his or her vital stats listed as well as a short bio. The bios, however, offer no background on each boxer's strengths and weaknesses. Finally, a special punch is listed for each boxer. In the championship mode, memory card slots serve as gyms. You can have multiple gyms, and switching from one gym to another is a snap.

Gameplay : 70
There are two modes of play in Ready 2 Rumble - Arcade and Championship. In arcade mode, you select one of the available boxers and start ranked tenth in either the bronze, silver, or gold class. The class is determined by the difficulty level set in the options menu (bronze=easy, gold=hard). The object is to make it to first place. With no game saves along the way, this mode is intended to be a single session event. As you move up through the ranks, you face a variety of boxers, each with distinct fighting styles.

The alternative mode is the championship mode, where you take control of a gym. When you start, you are given three boxers in the bronze class and some cash. The effectiveness of each boxer is determined by his or her skills in four areas - strength, stamina, dexterity, and experience. After selecting a boxer to start with, the next step is a little training. Since cash is low, your training will be limited.

The available training options, in order of cost, are aerobics, sway bag, speed bag, heavy bag, weight lifting, vitamin program, and mass nutrition. All but the last two options may be either manual or automatic. In manual mode, user interaction determines the effectiveness of the training. For example, in the aerobics training, the game displays a sequence of buttons. You must select the button as a bouncing ball hits the button. In heavy bag training, you are told what type of punch to throw, but if you miss the punch three times, the training is over. Each training option affects the skills in varying amounts, and understanding how each one works will lead to an effective boxer.

To earn more cash for the gym, you enter prizefights. Each prizefight carries a nominal purse, but the really big money comes from betting on your boxer. You can bet as much as you have up to $20,000, and I suggest you bet that amount on every fight if you want to bankroll a strong stable a boxers.

Once you're competent with the skills of your pugilist, the title fight awaits. Winning a title fight moves your boxer up one spot, until eventually he's fighting for the championship. Winning the championship moves the boxer into the silver class and makes a new boxer available. Winning the silver class moves you to the gold class and open another boxer. Winning the gold class retires the boxer. As more boxers are added, you can switch between boxers without losing any of the stats of your current boxer.

Clearly winning the bronze, silver, and gold classes are functions of the skills of your fighter. Each class allows you to fight a mixture of prize and title fights, with twenty total fights available. You can't be too greedy with the prizefights for fear of missing out on the number one ranking. Likewise, enter the title fights too early and you'll be left on the canvas.

Once in the ring, the boxing is a mixed bag. In the bronze class, fights are easily won with just one punch. The opponent AI is weak in the bronze class. The key to winning easily is to take a few moments to recognize how each opponent boxes. Doing so will enable you to see holes in the opponent's defense.

When the opponent is wide open, a connecting punch will decrease his health bar, which is full at the beginning of the fight. Below the on-screen health bar, a stamina meter indicates how much energy your punch has. Punching with a full meter yields a more damaging blow. The meter quickly fills up after each punch, but if you throw repeated quick jabs, the meter is nearly empty.

Based on the strength of the punch, the punch inflicts a certain amount of damage on the opponent. If the amount is large enough, you'll receive a letter or two of the word "RUMBLE." By completing the word, you can simultaneously hit the A and B buttons to enter the rumble mode. Your boxer gains some extra energy in this mode and can unleash a "rumble flurry" by pressing the down and right C buttons. Of course, your opponent can also spell rumble and enter this mode, so watch out!

If you knock an opponent down or are knocked down yourself, you can increase your health by pressing the C buttons repeatedly. While you automatically gain health if you are knocked down, pressing the buttons increases your health a little more. The fight ends if the round or knockdown limit is reached.

Moving up to the silver and gold classes, the single move strategy fails. Opponents are wiser and quicker, and sticking to one move puts you face first on the canvas. However, by understanding how each boxer fights, you can pick and choose your spots and easily steal a victory. In the higher classes, the opponents tend to use special moves more that can cripple your boxer. Their punches are faster and more powerful, and if you get locked up in a fury, it's difficult to make it out.

However, even with the more cunning higher-class opponents, the fighting is easy. At the time of this review, I've retired three boxers already while going undefeated. Since each class requires ten title fight victories, I'm at least 90-0. Throw in the prizefights, of which I lost none, and I've got a record the great boxers can only dream about. What's more, fights rarely went past two rounds, and many ended before the end of the first round, with each round lasting one minute.

The action is better in the gold class, though I still have yet to lose a match. Rather than lasting only one or two rounds, fights typically go four rounds or end in the fifth. Some fights even end in a decision by the judges. If you have a boxer with good skill numbers, it's almost impossible to not win. In fact, the championship fights in each class are some of the easiest ones to win. And the most difficult ones in each class are always against the female boxers. Those girls got the moves!

One of the problems with the game is the lack of a defensive strategy. I never once, while compiling my undefeated record, used the A or B buttons. Contrast this with Knockout Kings 2000 where defense is an important aspect of the game. Furthermore, it's no problem releasing a ton of punches at once. There is no health cost for being aggressive. While it depletes your stamina bar for a brief moment, it never weakens your boxer. In Knockout Kings 2000, the same strategy will leave your boxer tired and vulnerable. In the end, Ready 2 Rumble becomes nothing more than a button-mashing contest.

Fortunately the arcade mode is more balanced and not as easy as the championship mode. I've lost a few times in the arcade mode. However, the championship mode just packs more fun, and I wish this mode were more challenging. In Knockout Kings 2000, I was lucky if I made it through unbeaten in the career mode. Here I have a better chance of winning the lottery than losing a fight.

Besides a more challenging arcade mode, if you've got a sparring partner, the game stays fresh. Nothing replaces a human opponent for variety and unpredictability. Two-player fights can take place with the arcade boxers or the improved boxers from each players' gym.

Replay Value : 65
The replay potential is a tough call for this game. The game's enjoyment in the championship mode definitely jumps once you get to the gold class, but even then it still has offered little challenge as the boxer's stats improve. Much like real boxers must be disciplined in the ring, to make the game challenging you'll have to purposely avoid over-training your fighters to make for even bouts.

As a two-player game, or a single-player game in arcade mode, Ready 2 Rumble is fun and challenging. Boxers are unmatched talent-wise and skill is a requirement to be victorious.

Overall : 78
For quick fun, Ready 2 Rumble fits the bill. Its fast paced action lends itself to a fun bout. If you are looking for a boxing game with a little strategy, look elsewhere. The moves of each opponent are easy to follow, and discovering weak points becomes second nature. While the arcade mode is more challenging, the depth of the championship mode sucks you in, despite its ease.

Ready 2 Rumble is probably best recommended as a two-player game, unless you like always winning and never feeling challenged in a one-player game. The game's graphics and sound are some of the best on the N64. The only thing holding it back from greatness is an easy single-player career mode.

By: James Smith 12/23/99

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