When I was a kid growing up in the States in the 1970s, I can remember very much wanting a Rock’em Sock’em Robots set, though I only ever got to play with a friend’s and never actually had my own. For the uninitiated, two players each press buttons to execute their robot’s uppercuts in order to cause the other’s head to pop-up before pushing the head back down again for another go – pretty basic stuff.
Around the same time, Tomy was making something a bit more sophisticated which had little plastic figures made to look like proper boxers that could pull off jabs and uppercuts, bob-and-weave and block. I couldn’t really find any information about it online, but apparently Parker Bros. sold it as “K.O.” in the States. Now Takara-Tomy has released a WiiWare version as part of a series of downloadable games based upon their classic toys (there’s a train town game and one with racing plastic cars, too).
Though the controls are pretty much the definition of the Wii put-down “wagglefest,” it’s the presentation and OTT cheesiness that makes this a must-buy in my book. Right from the get-go you know you’re in for a treat when an announcer says the name of the game: “Ken-toesh Foory Foory Boxing,” followed by a dramatic Japanese pop song – presumably the Takara-Tomy equivalent of “Eye of the Tiger.”
There’s two primary play modes and a couple of mini-games included. The controls are the same for all games: Nunchuck and Remote motions perform left and right jabs, respectively, whilst holding the Z or B button will perform an uppercut with that hand. Holding A blocks and you can use the control stick or d-pad to bob-and-weave. Before each game you need to choose your fighter – and your opponent if playing solo – from a selection of four, with more to unlock during the course of play. If you can’t make up your mind there’s also a random selection button.
In the first play mode you’re participating in a straight-up boxing match: either a single bout or a four-way tournament (if solo, the other three will be CPU-controlled; otherwise it’s a two-player game). Both players have stamina and health gauges to watch. You can either throw a lot of jabs and quickly tire yourself out, meaning a vulnerable recovery period where your fighter sits defenceless for a few seconds, or try to time those uppercuts. Uppercuts deal more damage and use less stamina, but they’re slow to execute and leave you exposed to a counter-blow.
If you lose all your health you’ll get knocked down and need to alternate presses of Z and B in order to build up your stamina and a little of your health again before the announcer counts to ten. Every time you get knocked down requires more button presses to refill your stamina and you’ll get back less health. After a couple of canvas make-out sessions you’re unlikely to get back up again.
The other game mode is a bit simpler but has the same choice of single game or four-way tournament for one or two players. Instead of trying to wear down your opponent who can then get back up again, you need to land enough blows on them to wipe out their hit points (these vary from fighter to fighter), which automatically knocks them down. There’s no uppercuts in this game so it bears a closer resemblance to Rock’em Sock’em Robots, with players furiously bobbing, jabbing and blocking in order to land a few hits to knock the other guy down. The first player to get the pre-set number of knockouts required wins the game.
The two mini-games provide a decent challenge, but aren’t quite as engaging as the main game. The first sees the player’s chosen fighter facing four panels which can be hit with jabs and uppercuts. A series of round targets will appear in front of them which must be hit in order to rack up the points. Make a wrong move three times and it’s game over, with the highest score being recorded for each individual fighter.
The second mini-game is called Speed Knockout and sees players fighting every other boxer back-to-back in an effort to knock them all down in the least amount of time possible. Your opponents won’t punch you, but they will dodge and block as you wear them down, just like the first game mode. As with the other mini-game the best time is recorded for each fighter separately, though there are no leaderboards or initials for bragging rights.
Furi Furi Boxing shines in the visual department with large figures standing in a base with buttons that looks just like the classic toy, sitting in a boxing ring with an audience of coloured pegs. The light glints give a plastic appearance to the fighters and their movements are slightly stiff and jerky just as you would expect the toy to look in action. After being knocked down the virtual plastic boxers wriggle about trying to get up and if they succeed it’s in one smooth movement – excellent. After winning a bout the victor bobs up-and-down in time to the music with one fist raised whilst a voice-over says “YEAH!”
There are eight fighters in total with four available initially (actually there’s twelve, but I’ve yet to figure out how to unlock the special metallic ones). You’ll encounter all of them in the Speed Knockout game. Unlocking the others is pretty simple: play 10 single player games of each of the two primary modes, 10 of one of the mini-games and then ten tournaments of either kind.
Possibly the greatest part of the game is the brilliant voice talent. Each boxer says “Good choice” in their own voice when selected and announces their name before the fight. The fighters have the English names of various animals and pronounce them with a lovely Japanese accent. I never get tired of hearing “I am Beyah” (Bear) or “I am Tigger” (Tiger), etc. before the fights. After winning a tournament a picture of the smiling face of the winning boxer appears with the voice-over saying “I am Champion!” – classic!
For the importer this is an easy choice. The menus are pretty simple and the options include a selection of three camera angles (I opted for behind the fighter for all the modes as the side views make it too hard to dodge blows) and whether to turn off the music – though during a game you can only change the latter. There’s an illustrated tutorial which goes over the controls and how to unlock the extra boxers as detailed above so you don’t need to refer to the Operations Guide in the Wii Shop (though that includes a comparison of all the fighters’ stats – including the special metal ones).
I think a little nostalgia is worth the 1000-point price tag of this little gem. Cheers to Takara-Tomy for bringing back some memories.