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Animal Boxing - DS Review

Game Info
Animal Boxing

DSiWare | Akaoni Studio / Gammick Entertainment | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
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14th February 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

When I first saw Animal Boxing, I couldn't help but be attracted to the great visual presence. The idea of playing with the DSi upside down (like in TECMO’s 'A Topsy Turvy Life’ series) intrigued me too, but it was really the look of the game that grabbed my attention. At the time, it looked really good for a DSiWare game. After it released, though, I discovered that this game came out on the retail scene some years ago, meaning that the DSiWare release comes in the form of a straight port. Sounds like a good deal especially for $8, but when you get deep into the actual game, your opinion may very well change. Although it definitely has the right amount of presentation to capture your interest, the actual gameplay may leave you wanting more. 
    Surprisingly enough, Animal Boxing does contain a small story in the form of an intro movie. Basically, you're the resident of a new community where you are the only human. After having spent time to get to know the customs and personalities of the animals, a boxing gym opened up in the local area and changed everything. Soon, everyone was flocking to this new building to prove they are the best boxers in the land. Feeling left out, you sign yourself up to take part in this new fitness craze with something of your own to prove.
    The Main Menu presents players with the following three choices: Championship, Vs. Animal, and Vs. Human. In Championship, you compete in a series of weight classes that consist of a series of bouts against different animals (five to be exact). The final match is a boss fight against the leader of the bracket you're fighting in. The second selection acts as your Free Play option where you can face off against any animal you've already encountered in Championship mode. And finally, Vs. Human allows you to play wirelessly with a friend who owns the game on their own DSi system. Sadly, no Download Play exists here, but whether or not you can play with those who own the retail version remains to be seen. Regardless, Animal Boxing is primarily marketed as a single-player venture, so although multiplayer is included, that's not what's most encouraged here. So that's one thing to be aware of before taking the plunge. 
When you enroll in the Championship for the first time, you'll arrive at a customization screen where you can dress up your in-game avatar. You have a good amount of elements to toggle, including boxing gloves, hairstyles, boxing belts, accessories and more. After having created a human character to represent you in the game, you can make your way to the Tutorial event where you'll get a briefing on the different moves you can execute. 
   During a heated battle, studying your opponents and using variations in your punches are both very important. Thankfully the first-person system allows you to do just that. The first thing to note is the fact that this game is played with the DSi held upside down. This method allows you to use the touch screen to pull off moves at eye level, which is much more realistic than directing your punches upwards into the distance. Tapping your rival's face will produce the simplest of punches, while drawing lines from the side, up above or down below will allow for hooks and uppercuts. You can also hold your stylus in place for a moment to charge up your punch for a more powerful hit, but because this can leave you wide open, don't expect to use this too often as your enemies get stronger. 
    Defensive moves are mapped to specific buttons on the left side of your handheld (when facing upside down). The X Button is used to block by holding your fists up, while the A and Y Buttons are used to dodge left and right respectively. It's pretty straight-forward to get the hang of. Overall, I'd say the control setup is pretty good. Drawing lines took a bit to get used to at first, but I later realized that the trick is to swipe the stylus in a way that has a little bit more reach than a quick flick would. But after multiple play sessions, I learned my way around the entire system.  
From time to time, one of two items will pop up on the screen for a brief second: either a red pepper or snack bar. Both of these correspond to meters shown on the bottom screen. First, red peppers will increase your heat meter which, when full, will make your character's punches super-charged for a short period of time. Directly in front of these blazing flames is your health/energy, shown as an outline of a wolf animal. Eating one of these snack bars will restore lost health over the course of a fight. Each character has three stages of health: green, yellow and red. Whenever you transition to a new zone, an animation will briefly display showing your fighter getting knocked back then back up again. 
    There are plenty of characters to face off against, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. All characters are rated based on three criteria: Strength, Speed, and Resistance. Some animals are really quick on their feet (like the Kimono-wearing cat), while other brute-like creatures are more powerful in nature (like the walrus). You won't know these stats when coming up against opponents for the first time. But after a while you'll start associating their physical traits with their strengths and weaknesses, to the point that they become predictable opponents. All in all, there are over 40 animals to fight and unlock, which should keep you busy for a good while if you find the game enjoyable.
    In my honest opinion, I doubt you'll find the game to be that much fun beyond the first few stages. Soon, initial feelings of amusement fade away and you discover that the game is actually pretty shallow with a stagnant player experience. Now kids can probably overlook the flaws in the overall structure. Especially since this is the kind of game you'll want to share with your family members and like-age friends for the sake of testing it out. But for everyone else, more than likely the game won't seem so appealing after just a few tournaments (or fights as the case may be). Playing on your own, it quickly gets to a point where you've seen everything there is to see and the fights that take place aren't uniquely different. It gives a very "rinse and repeat" feeling that will taste sour to many. 
As I touched on earlier, there is very little to the gameplay that's particularly attractive. Instead, it's the visual presentation that pulls you in, arousing your curiousity. The character models look nicely detailed in their appearance, and the brief animations that take place when dodging attacks, when you're hit by a punch, or when the heat meter reaches maximum capacity are kind of nice. The stadiums and other locales you fight in are also pretty good. The same can't be said of the audio, though, where there's basically only main theme song. Forgetting about voice clips and the odd sound effect here and there, there's no actual music to immerse you in the fight. It's all very underwhelming.
    In an almost superficial sense, Animal Boxing's visuals make the game look like a pretty entertaining fighting game. But even in short bursts, the gameplay leaves something to be desired. In actuality, there's a somewhat fragile level of substance that erodes over time, which can quickly reveal how weak of a sell it is without the flair. And the somewhat unnecessary repetition is certainly to blame for all that. Even though it may sound like a promising buy, you're probably better off staying away from it entirely. Parents, on the other hand, should consider getting this for a child if they're into fighting games. It may not be really exciting or anything, but they probably won't mind. Plus, as shallow as it may be, it has enough content to keep them occupied for a while. 

19/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Inverting the DSi allows for a more realistic system, good controls, shallow gameplay results in a stagnant player experience
Presentation 7/10 - Great-looking character models and arenas, good animation work, lack of audio detracts from the game's excitement
Enjoyment 2/5 - Can get sick of it rather quickly, fairly evident flaws in the game's substance, kids can look over flaws and have some fun on occasion
Extra Content 4/5 - Lots of animal fighters to face and unlock, multiplayer support is included but it could have been stronger, player customization

Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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