Ready 2 Rumble Boxing (レディ トウ ランブル ボクシング)
Back in October 1999, SEGA had littered the UK with demo pods, featuring playable versions of it's upcoming titles for the Dreamcast with games like Sonic Adventure and SEGA Rally 2 proving instant hits but while the aforementioned titles impressed with their next gen visuals it was Ready 2 Rumble (R2R) which appealed to the masses thanks to two reasons, accessibility, and the simple fact that the demo featured two-player gameplay. Walking into Game, or my local Virgin Megastore, at the time it wasn't uncommon to see this game attracting gangs of the unwashed masses wanting to pummel each other. Yet, while the so-called video game connoisseur took home their copy of Powerstone at launch, it was R2R that became the system seller for the average punter of those who wished to indulge in a bit of after-pub, ultra violence. In hindsight, in addition to Sonic Adventure it was probably the title Sega should have used a little more in its promotional material (rather than sweaty looking hairdressers giving customer's a short back and sides). So, how does it hold up in 2014?
Yet again, the Japanese artwork trumps that of the West
The game gives you two basic modes to play around with, Arcade and Championship, and while Arcade mode puts you straight into the action Championship mode is where the meat of the game is. The idea is to get take a low skilled boxer from the Bronze Level all the way up to the Gold Level were you fight for cash prizes, which you can then spend on the training of your boxer. The game rewards you for your success as each each time you move to a new level you unlock another boxer to use; eventually you'll unlock the bosses for play in the arcade mode. To keep things varied in between fights you also get a chance to increase your boxers skills through a series of minigames.
The game features 19 comical boxers who are all stereotypical affairs; the fat Hawaiian (Salua Tua), the British gentleman complete with handlebar mustache ("Big" Willy Johnson), and the Russian brawler(Boris "the bear" Knokimov). Each boxer varies greatly in size, and boxing style (slow fat man, fast skinny dude etc.) which is all in keep with the comical nature of the game. I understand that the producers, Midway, did not use any real boxers for motion capturing so the action is less simulation based which means faster, more fluid and in R2R comical gameplay.
The game has a certain visual appeal even today
The controls are also very simple but intuitive as to appeal to both first time players (aka button mashers) and those who have been playing the game for a while (geeks like us). The X and Y buttons handle the left and right high punches while the A and B the lower ones. Just like with Virtua Tennis though, they can be combined with the analogue stick to access a variety of punches. After some time you'll also discover some special moves which add another level to the game play as you realize you cannot go in like a button mashing mad man at every opportunity. Combination moves are satisfying as is the Rumble finishers which can be accessed after a certain number of successful punches have been landed. Basically, if you land a hard punch, you earn a letter in RUMBLE. Once you have it spelled it out you can press L + R to power up into RUMBLE mode. Finally, by pressing A + B, you can do the Rumble Flurry which is an unloading of all of your special moves in a satisfying sequence on your hapless foe.
There are also two meters underneath your boxer’s name. The first one is a health meter, which of course decreases as you take punches, and once it runs out, your boxer falls to the canvas. The one underneath that is the stamina meter. The more stamina you have, the more effective your punches are. Throwing a punch empties the stamina meter, and fills again once you stop throwing punches which makes you more reluctant about throwing punches, and requires you to adopt a stick-and-move boxing strategy.
Stocky black dude from NY, moustachioed white dude from Mexico - stereotypes are the flavour of the day!
Visually, the game hasn't aged magnificently but it holds it home with some solid character design and some nice little touches like damage to your fighters face after he has taken a certain number of hits. It's fun to hear the crowd shouting prompts in reaction to your play style, "Stop holding back", "Go for him" but they do look strangely flat as they are 2D images shoehorned into a 3D arena (the same tactic EA still uses to this day with its Fifa series). One coolthing about the crowd is that it sounds different depending on how high your rank is. When you start out as a lowly unranked bronze-class fighter, no one will show up to watch you fight, but by the time you're ready to win the gold championship, you'll be smashing it up in a sold-out arena. Another thing to mention is that R2R also saw stripped down PlayStation, and Nintendo 64 releases which became something of a boasting point for Dreamcast fans at the time as they could point to the superior graphics, and fluid animation of this Sega Dreamcast version as evidence of their system's technology. Ah, the good ol' days!
In game audio is generally non-existent and limited to three real girls shouting “Let’s Get Ready 2 Rumble!” repeatedly at the menu screen. In game, the voices of the boxers are fun in a cliched sort of way, but the best sound effects are the crunching noises your punches make whenever the land a blow. You'll also never get bored of the introductions by guest referee Michael Buffer and especially his "Let's get ready to ruuuuuumble" announcement.
Boxing legend, Michael Buffer is a perfect addition to the lineup
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing is definitely a fighter for people who don't need deep gameplay to have a great time. While it can be a bit slow going at times in single play, it's comically endearing presentation and accessible pickup and play style ensures you don't need to learn a ton of special moves, leaving you with one of the best social experiences on the Dreamcast.