I can’t believe it. In just one night, I’ve been transformed into a 14-match winning pugilist with, guess what, 14 KOs. Yup, Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting! DS does have a way in making you feel like a boxing champ. The game feels like a cross between Rocky and The Karate Kid, with reasons explained soon enough.
Bring ‘Em On
For starters, the game is divided into several modes, with the main one being the Challenge Mode. Here you fight a plethora of opponents in one-on-one matches. Each matches are interspersed with training sessions which take the form in mini games, which include catching leaves with the stylus and dodging rocks thrown by your trainer (who looks like a hard-ass, treats you like he is one and is quite hard to please..cue The Karate Kid reference).
The training sessions serve a dual purpose, not only improving your reflexes but also serving bonuses in your next match (e.g. a fully charged special move bar at the onset of the match). You play as Ippo, the titular character, in the Challenge Mode and having gone through 14 rounds with him, I found that he’s good with both arms and can take quite a beating, ala Rocky.
Pick Your Fights
Characters defeated in the Challenge Mode (it will take sometime to go through the ENTIRE roster), will be unlocked for the Free Match Mode. Here, you are accorded a whole bunch of options on customizing your match.
You’ll get to choose which fighter to fight as, and the fighter to fight against as well as the arena, background music, the number of rounds a match, the duration a match, as well as tweak both fighter’s attributes prior to a match.
Having said that, the matches in both Challenge and Free Match Mode are something to talk about. Fights take place in full 3D with the camera being directly behind the semi-transparent protagonist. Despite the DS’ known graphical limitations, you’ll still be treated to a visual feast in this game.
You get to see bruises and cuts appear as you continue to pummel your opponent’s face. Land a super move and you’ll find his mouth guard flying out rather realistically (trajectory and all). Opponents (and even you) might flail once the going gets tough and sometimes the opponent can be seen grovelling on the floor in pain after a TKO.
The action is shown entirely on the touch screen whereas the top screen plays hosts to the health bars and pugilist profiles. There was once my fighter got pummeled and the top half of the touch screen turned black! It turned out that it was an effect employed by the game to indicate the poor/blurry vision suffered after too many blows to the head!
After each round (in a match), you are given the choice to treat your boxer’s injuries or motivate him. In my case, treatment solved the black screen problem.
Going for the KO
Gameplay is entirely stylus driven; it is used to move the player, land hooks, uppercuts, midsection blows, jabs and even to dodge blows. The objective is pretty simple, just knock the opponent’s health bar down to nothing. He might get up the first couple of times (with the health bar restored to about half and then 1/3), but he’ll usually stay down after the third time. Some opponents, however, can take quite a beating, so it’s best to try and land Super Moves to the face.
The sound effects are a little let down, especially when compared to the animation/graphics, but they do their job.
If you get tired of getting punched in the face (happens at higher frequencies at higher difficulty levels), check out the Mini Games mode. Here, you get to replace the training mini games found in the Challenge Mode. You can also view your wins and your match and mini game records.
Connectivity wise, Hajime no Ippo doesn’t have WFC online gameplay but does feature local area WiFI matches.
The Knock Out Punch
The game is in Japanese but the menus don’t really pose problem after a bit of trial and error. The gameplay aspects are explained in a graphical manner and through the mini games, so no problem in picking the game up. More importantly, I had fun playing this brawler. I’m a bit surprised though, that the game has a Cero A rating (equivalent to the ESRB’s E rating), despite the on-screen violence.
Here’s a bit of trivia, Hajime no Ippo is based on a boxing manga of the same title? It is at present, one of the longest running manga ever (Wikipedia article)! Interested in getting the game? Click here for further information.