Midway is bringing its popular boxing franchise to the Game Boy Advance. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with a fairly early build of the game to see what sort of features we can expect from the final product.
The Game Boy Advance version of Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is set up very similarly to the Dreamcast and PS2 versions of the game. There are three gameplay modes: arcade, championship, and survival. The arcade mode lets you pick any of the game's 11 boxers and fight through a series of matches. The championship mode has you pick only one boxer and train him from a small-time fighter to world champion. This mode is set up exactly like the one in the PS2 and Dreamcast versions of the game--you'll be able to train your boxer between matches to raise his fighting stats. The training sessions are set up like minigames--some have you inputting different D-pad commands with precise timing, and some have you simply pounding buttons as fast as you can before a timer expires. Finally, the survival mode lets you pick any one boxer and fight a series of fights using the same health bar to see how many fighters you can take down before you finally fall.
The game has most of the characters from the PS2 and Dreamcast versions but is missing a few important names. Popular boxers such as Afro Thunder and Lulu Valentine return for the GBA version, but fan favorites Boris Knockimov and Butcher Brown are surprisingly absent from this version. However, the game does have a fighter named Rumble Man, who looks and sounds amazingly like Michael Buffer, the voice of the Ready 2 Rumble series.
While the basics of the gameplay haven't changed since the Dreamcast and PS2 versions of the game, the control scheme had to be adjusted a bit. The GBA's face buttons represent the left and right hands of your boxers, and the type of punch will now depend on what direction you press the D-pad when you throw the punch. The shoulder buttons are now the block buttons, and hitting them simultaneously will activate your rumble power if your rumble meter is full. Unfortunately, the game is very slow at this point, and there is a huge delay between when you input a command and when that command is carried out in the game. Also, the game uses a stamina meter like the one in the Dreamcast and PS2 versions of the game. After each punch, the meter will deplete, and your speed will decrease. Since the meter is simply too slow at this point, there's no way to string together combos, as throwing one punch after another is simply impossible. Additionally, the game's AI is way too hard--it would often finish us before we could get a punch in. Hopefully Midway is already hard at work addressing these issues, and there's a good chance that all the gameplay quirks will be ironed out before the final game ships.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 has a very different look on the Game Boy Advance. The game appears to use polygonal models for the boxers, which move on a static ring with a slightly animated background. The boxers don't animate particularly well--the animation is often choppy and unrealistic and, at this point, makes the game very hard to play. The game's only perspective looks at the ring from a sideways perspective. As the boxers move across the ring, the perspective will actually zoom in and will occasionally rotate to provide a better vantage point on the action. Unfortunately, this rotation effect is extremely poorly done and actually pauses the action for a moment while the camera readjusts itself. The sound of the menus and of Buffer screaming his patented line sound good enough, but the in-game sound effects are a little on the weak side.
At this point, the GBA version of Ready 2 Rumble doesn't really live up to the series' standard. With fairly poor gameplay mechanics, overly powerful AI, and some serious graphical problems, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is one of the weaker GBA games we've seen. Still, the game has at least two months of development time to address all the issues we found in the early build. We hope that Midway will be able to refine the game before it ships alongside the US launch of the GBA.