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Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting (DS)

January 30, 2010

He’s a heavyweight…

Yeah, this is pretty much the best boxing game I’ve personally played in years.

And in truth, it’s probably the best I’ve played ever; even edging out Knock Out when I was a kid.

Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting, is a Japanese only DS game based on the Hajime no Ippo comic/cartoon series. The bad news is, it’s more or less completely in Japanese. The good news is, there’s a translation patch out there that does a serviceable job of translating stuff. Not totally great, but it’s enough to get you by, especially since there really isn’t too much you need to know beyond a few rules settings, like how many rounds are the matches, whether the 3 knock down rule is in effect or whether a boxer can be saved by the bell. And also the difficulty level of the AI boxers.

Not much else to say in that regard. In story mode, the game picks up after the Rookie Kings Tournament Arc. So you’ll be playing as Ippo as he challenges a bunch of guys to go up in ranking, become the Japanese champ and start taking out other national champs in a bid to become world champion. SPOILER: You DON’T get to be world champion, because the series hasn’t reach that far yet. After that, you get to fight in a bunch of random fights featuring other characters, until the grand finale, Date Eiji vs Ricardo “He will rape yo derriere” Martinez.

Yeeeah, so Ricardo is the SNK Boss character of the game, although David Eagle (of AMERICA) is probably up there as well, stat-monstery-wise (and Bryan Hawk is pretty annoying with his one-hit kills). But enough with the story aspect and name dropping of characters you’ve never heard of; so why’s this game rock? Why have I played over 100 matches within the first week of getting this and over 300 matches by this point?

The answer, the characters. Well, the game mechanics as well. There are 3 ways of playing the game; purely with the stylus, partially with the stylus of just plain full on d-pad action. I prefer the d-pad naturally. Anywho, aside from the usual button mashing and stuff, there are a lot of neat little touches in the game that add a lot of that Hajime no Ippo flavor. For instance, in the series, Ippo is constantly half-blinded as his opponents cut and pound his eyes till they swell shut. This is replicated in the game through a darkening on the edges of the screen. As you get pounded by jabs or slicing hooks to the head, your field of vision gets ever smaller.The effects aren’t as devastating as in the series, but it’s still an annoyance. It’s fortunate that the AI doesn’t know to obliterate you from your blind spot. Naturally, the AI is immune to blindness during the fights, BUT, if you do “blind” them, they’ll restore their vision between rounds, rather than restoring their stamina. So it’s worth it to jab the f*ck out of them.

There’s a whole lot of other nice little touches like the above, such as counters, stunning punches, “perfect” punches, rolling punches and so forth, but I’ll refrain from those. But I’ll refrain from going in-depth so as not to drag this review out too long. So where do the characters factor into all this? Well, for one thing, the characters actually have stats and boxing styles that are pretty close to their series counterparts. Mashiba has a quick jab and a long reach, Ippo is a hard puncher of course, and Itagaki’s weak and got a chin made of Gundam plastic, but he’s fast and is easily able to access his special ability, which is probably one of the most fun yet frustrating abilities in the entire game. Itagaki can enter into bullet time, allowing him the chance to land over a dozen hard punches before the opponent can even hit the floor! However, in Bullet Time, Itagaki gives less damage and takes a whole boatload more damage. Coupled with his already low punching power and glass jaw, you’ll have the fun time of pulverizing your opponents only for them to get back up anyway, and also, a single glancing blow during bullet time is all it’ll take to kill you. It’s literally possible to accidentally walk into the back of a blow and get yourself elbowed to death. If you’re lucky, it’ll only drain away your entire health meter, but usually you’ll die if your opponent so much as touches you during bullet time. Which makes sense really, so no complaints… well, no significant complaints about that.

Anyway, not to go on too long (which I already have), but while the game has its flaws, it’s still a nice, mindlessly fun game with plenty of variety and difficulty level. It’s up to you whether you want a tough fight or an easy mauling. There’s a “Fighting Spirit” option you can choose between rounds that’s utterly broken, and one boxer seems to be glitched in that he can’t use his specials, but other than that, this is a really neat game.

I’d totally recommend it, despite it being Japanese. Once you figure out how to actually playing the effin’ thing, it’s an excellent time filler of a boxing game.

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