Ready 2 Rumble Round 2 Hands-On

The sequel to Midway's over-the-top arcade boxing game is not just for the next-generation consoles.

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Just like last year's game, the sequel to Ready 2 Rumble is headed to an assortment of platforms. But while the Dreamcast and PS2 versions get to flaunt high-resolution graphics and plenty of next-generation goodies, the N64 version simply has to make do with its outclassed hardware. Still, the N64 version of the game leaves quite an impression.

The N64 version of Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 has the same heart and soul as the other versions, but it suffers from watered-down graphics, sound, and simplified gameplay. This version has all of the same basic gameplay modes as the other versions of the game. The single-player game boasts arcade, championship, and practice modes. The arcade mode simply lets you play any of the boxers you've unlocked against a series of computer opponents. The championship mode lets you train a boxer and take him or her from the bottom of the ladder to the heavyweight championship. In this mode, you'll not only fight as the boxer, but you'll also complete various minigames that increase your boxer's stats. The all new practice mode allows you to fight a computer-controlled boxer in a timeless and health meter-less match that allows you to practice your combos and special moves. Two players will be able to play in the game's arcade mode, picking any of the game's boxers and going at it.

Round 2 sports a fair number of improvements over last year's game. There are now three levels to the RUMBLE meter, and when the fighters completely fill their meters, they can unleash a special knockout punch that sends their opponents spiraling out of the ring. Additionally, taunting now adds a few letters to the meter, making it an offensive weapon as well as a humorous element. There are all new blocks and fakes, and the game even sports a parry feature. Double-tapping the block button precisely before a punch is landed makes the fighters parry the blow, knocking their opponent's glove aside and rendering them momentarily vulnerable to a severe counterattack. When used successfully, the parry adds plenty of depth to the game, but parry-happy fighters often find the gameplay slows down when both players are waiting for the punch.

The game also features more of the over-the-top boxer personalities found in the first game. In addition to the 11 returning characters, there are 12 all new boxers, most of which are simply outrageous. Additionally, celebrities such as Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jackson, and even Bill and Hillary Clinton don boxing gloves for this year's game. Other wacky personalities like Jherri-Curl Thunder, Afro Thunder's Rick James look-alike cousin, and Momma Tua, Salua Tua's big and mean mother, fill out the game's roster.

The most obvious difference between the next-generation versions and the N64 version of Round 2 is the graphics. While not as sharp or well defined as those found in the Dreamcast or PS2 versions of the game, the graphics found in the N64 version of Round 2 are still very clean by N64 standards. The game is slightly better looking than the N64 version of last year's game, and it moves fairly cleanly. There was a small glitch with the animations where the fighters simply floated on the mat instead of actively walking it, but Midway assured us this problem would be fixed by the time the game ships. The game's other animations look very slick, and the frame rate does a decent job of keeping up with the graphics. The sound in the game wasn't as crisp as that of the Dreamcast and PS2 versions, and it seemed a little muddled at times.

Though the N64 Round 2 looks pale in comparison to the next-generation versions, this year's Ready to Rumble is still looking very good. With plenty of characters and extras sitting atop good gameplay and fairly decent graphics, the N64 version of Round 2 may be one of the best boxing games on Nintendo's system.

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