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Ready 2 Rumble Boxing : Rd 2 (PS2) Review

Background Info

There's nothing like a mindless arcade title to brighten up the day. Last year it was difficult to not become enchanted by Afro Thunder as he made his way onto the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast in Ready 2 Rumble from Midway. Afro and gang jumped into the squared circle for some over-the-top boxing action. Just over a year later, Afro, Butcher, Boris, and the rest of the wacky Rumble characters return for the sequel, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2.

R2R2 features the original 13 boxers and another 10 newbies, including a few celebrities. Somehow the bizarre Michael Jackson has made his way to yet another console title this year (Space Channel 5 on the Dreamcast being the first). Any game with the King of Pop (to some I guess) has to be good, right? Well, from my impressions, Midway has another great arcade boxing title on their hands. Read on to see why.

Presentation/Graphics : 88
I've R2R2 were a dessert, I'd have to say it was a banana split. The bananas are the foundation, which in R2R2 is the ring. The rings look great, with smooth textures and plenty of logos. The ropes vibrate up and down and will even deflect when leaned on. The basic boxer models make up the ice cream. With the diversity of the boxers, this must be a mix of your favorite flavors. Afro Thunder's scrawny little self makes it back as does Boris Knokimov. Their muscles are distinct and outfits nothing short of spectacular.

Boxer animations make up the chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Some sweet moves are shown repeatedly over the course of the game. Some nuts are thrown on top that represent things like black eyes which develop during a fight. Finally, you can't forget the cherry. The cherry in R2R2 is represented by the subtle things in the game.

A bout starts with Michael Buffer making the introductions. The tuxedo-clad Buffer holds the microphone in one hand while the other arm is outstretched in a welcoming tone. Next, each boxer is shown with a short animation sequence. The graphical quality of each boxer is unbelievable. Aside from the intricately modeled faces, the trunks and costumes have eye-appealing colors and textures. Afro Thunder's huge 'fro bounces around as he hops on the canvas, and Selene Strike gets a little jiggly (looks like Selene had a little augmentation since the first title and earned the title a Teen rating). Once the boxers touch gloves, the fun really begins.

Take Mama Tua for instance. She's a lean 400 pounds and is rather disgusting to look at. You get the shivers looking at this mass of a woman wearing a top that shows just a little too much skin. It's actually kind of gross. Whack her across the face or body and you can just feel the fat vibrate. Yuck. There's also Robox Rese-4, a robot making his debut. His head is actually comprised of a punching bag that hangs from some structure attached to his back. As you punch his head, it rattles back and forth like a speed punching bag. The animation of the bag never skips a beat and makes the game a visual treat.

Presentation/Audio : 85
I love Afro Thunder. Have you picked up on that? I laugh every time I hear him. So R2R2 starts up and I hear, "It's time to dance, it's time to dance..." Whoa! Something's missing. I'm waiting for "Dance sucker" to no avail. If you are familiar with the original Ready 2 Rumble, you'll be right at home here. Phrases are recycled from the original almost completely. Having heard them all before, they tended to get old. To make matters worse, some phrases were repeated often during a match.

To compensate for the repetitive dialogue, R2R2 makes up for it with some great sounding punches. The sound of glove contact is the best you'll hear in a boxing title. The air escaping the gloves is perfectly sampled. Strong hits are usually accompanied by the groans of their victims. If you get knocked down enough, you'll undoubtedly see the "dream sequence" knockdown. In this scenario, you see the referee standing over you counting. The image is somewhat blurred and the speech slurred to give you the impression of being punch drunk.

Interface/Options : 80
Ready 2 Rumble 2 has a limited set of options. As an arcade title, there are simply not many ways to extend the play. From the main menu, you can enter the settings' menu. Here, you can customize the game's difficulty (easy, medium, or hard), the length of the rounds (15 to 180 seconds) and fight (1 to 12 rounds), the number of knockdowns required to win a fight (1 to 10), and sound and display settings. You can also customize the button layout for the controller. All of this is laid out in the nicely prepared manual.

The available game modes include arcade, championship, team battle, and tournament modes. In the arcade mode, you select one of the available boxers and battle to the top. You have three chances to defeat each opponent on your way to the top. The tournament mode lets you set up a boxing tournament. While R2R2 only supports two players at a time, this mode essentially allows up to 8 individuals to take turns and play in a winner-takes-all tournament. In the team battle mode, you select a team of up to eight boxers and face off against a human or computer controlled team. Finally, the championship mode sticks you at the bottom of the ranks. In this mode, you have to train and box your way to the top.

Gameplay : 83
For all the modes, the boxing is the same. You can expect responsive controls. The speed with which your boxer can punch is a function of the boxer's parameters. Boxers are rated in strength, stamina, endurance, experience, and dexterity. Punching speed is related to the dexterity parameter as well as the size of the boxer. For example, Butcher Brown and his long arms take a little longer than the diminutive J.R. Flurry. Also, if you are being attacked, it is difficult to unleash a counterattack. You have to grin and bear the punishment until your opponent has finished unloading on you. In fact, if there is a fault to the game, it is that you can't cover up. While you can block punches, it is all but impossible to do so in the middle of a series of punches.

If playing against the computer, perceptive gamers will quickly latch on to the strategy of their AI opponent. You can predict when an opponent will attack and have a counter-punch ready and waiting. This is effective no matter the situation. If you are using a boxer with a short reach against one with a long reach, you need to recognize your opponent's tendencies to win the match. You also need to learn the counterattacks of the AI opponents. There are many punches available, and some of your punches leave you wide open to a counterattack. To be successful you really have to understand both the offensive and defensive natures of the boxers.

As you make significant contact, the health of the opponent diminishes. The amount of decrease is related to the strength of the punch. A blue bar below each boxer's health meter shows the current strength of a punch. As soon as a punch is thrown, the meter drops and refills based on the boxer's attributes. Should a boxer's health meter drop to zero, he hits the canvas for the 10 count. The fight is over if either boxer is knocked down a certain number of times or when the final bell chimes and a decision is made. If you unload enough power punches during a fight, you start to spell out the word RUMBLE. Once spelled, you can hit the R1 and R2 buttons simultaneously and enter the rumble mode. In this mode, your gloves sparkle and you can throw some rapid fire shots across the bow. Or, you can wait and spell RUMBLE twice or even three times. With each subsequent spelling, the barrage of hits is more damaging.

While simple in theory, the game grows difficult in practice. One of my complaints about the original version of the game was its ease. Not so here. R2R2 plays tough, particularly as you close in on the top boxer, Rumbleman. Rumbleman is one tough cookie who at times borders on a cheating little bugger. He'll unleash a rapid fire succession of body punches that will leave your boxer gasping for air. You'll cry foul as this unstoppable attack depletes your boxer's health. On the hard difficulty level, most of the boxers offer a decent amount of challenge, and Rumbleman is next to impossible. You can beat him with the right strategy, which I'll leave to you. Even on the medium difficulty level I was challenged somewhat, particularly by Rumbleman.

Making it to the top occurs in either the arcade mode, where you can unlock additional boxers, or the championship mode. In the latter mode, you select a boxer and aim for the top. A calendar shows potential prize and title fights. The prize fights earn you cash, while the title fights line your pockets and move you up through the ranks. Along the way you can train your boxer. Training can either be manually or automatically performed. If performed manually, you have the potential for improving your attributes faster. The training exercises range from Parappa the Rappa style aerobics training to the Whack-a-Mole style Rumble Pad exercise. These mini-games are challenging, though some may easily bore. And once you make it to the top once, you may wonder what incentive there is to try again.

Replay Value : 78
This is an arcade title. Like most arcade titles, if offers limited replay value. There are quite a few boxers to unlock, but doing so is tedious. You must beat all opponents with each boxer to unlock the others, which is repetitive. Fortunately, R2R2 is fun. The difficulty of some opponents has me cursing at the television and keeps me coming back for more. I haven't had this much trouble pulling away from a game since Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast. Both titles have addictive arcade gameplay. You may not play it for a few days or even weeks, but once you get started, you're in it for a few hours. Ready 2 Rumble 2 is even better as a two-player game. The quick fights and extreme action are crowd pleasers. If you have a sparring partner, you must get this game. If you're going solo, it is still worthy of a look. The AI is much better and tougher than last year's version, and the game overall is a nice challenge.

Overall : 84
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is a nice boxing game wrapped in arcade elements. Some question the depth of the game, which is a valid question. If you want the deep, sim experience, you may want to wait for the upcoming Knockout Kings 2001 to hit the PS2. Likewise, if you own the first title on the Dreamcast there may not be much new, aside from increased difficulty, to warrant a purchase. Yet fans of arcade style games, such as myself, will appreciate the game. Its gameplay is fun, and the graphics are wonderful.

By: James Smith 11/20/00

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