It’s a little weird to consider that outside of Fitness Boxing and maybe the esoteric ARMS, the venerable sport of strategic punch-ups doesn’t have any representation on Nintendo Switch, especially considering the longstanding relationship between Nintendo hardware and boxing. Whether you were ascending the ranks as Little Mac in Punch Out! or beating the tar out of your friend’s Mii in Wii Boxing, the squared circle and Nintendo have always felt like an odd match made in heaven. Switch finally gets its first boxing simulation in Boxing Champs from mobile developer Raz Games, but those looking for a hearty experience worthy of Nintendo’s reputation are likely to be disappointed.
First of all, this is yet another port of an earlier Steam release. Boxing Champs came out in late May and hit Switch in June, so there isn’t a huge time gap, but it’s still something to consider. Indie ports from Steam are nothing new to the Switch eShop, but the issues of both quality and quantity of content are front and center here.
To be blunt, Boxing Champs feels very much the amateur effort. Then again, that might not be a fair appellation…some amateur projects have a lot of heart and years of passion poured into them, whereas it would be more appropriate to call Boxing Champs an extreme budget title, with the not-so-budget price of $14.50. That might seem harsh, but $14.50 is a lot to ask for what little Boxing Champs has to offer. The game consist of a career mode and a 2 player head-to-head multiplayer, with very little else on the bones of this lightweight competitor.
Career mode lets you build a character and then participate in single bouts or punch your way up a 30-fighter roster. The character creator is basic in the extreme; it only lets you customize hair style, hair color, skin color, the general definition of your fighter’s muscles, and the color of his shorts. Every boxer has the exact same face, which ends up looking both cheap and eerie. This owes a lot to the almost embarrassingly rudimentary art style. The title screen promises a sort of cel-shaded polygonal style, but the actual game looks like something you’d find on Newgrounds circa-2008. The samey vector-art cutouts, loose marionette animation and flat primary colors just make Boxing Champs look incredibly cheapo and bargain bin. The final presentation insult comes with naming your boxer. You can pick from 30 or so pre-set names (I chose the Italian Stalian of course, and yes it’s intentionally misspelled in-game), but there’s an odd quirk to this. The game doesn’t remove the name you chose from the roster, so you eventually end up fighting a boxer with the same name as you. This just adds to the overall feeling of laziness that hangs over this game.
Rough first impressions aside, is the gameplay at least any good? Well, it’s not terrible but there just isn’t a whole lot here. The boxing takes place from an overhead perspective, so it’s much more of a beat-em-up or fighting game than a Punch Out! timing-based rhythm puzzle. Jabs, haymakers and uppercuts are mapped to both the face buttons and the right analog stick, while the left analog stick moves your boxer and the shoulder buttons block. Pretty basic stuff. Most fights boil down to wearing down your opponent’s health while protecting your own with well-timed blocks, and maintaining your stamina. You can increase damage by combo-ing your various attacks—I KO’d a guy in one combo—but the game doesn’t have a combo list or even record button sequences once you’ve pulled off a combo, so you’re basically button mashing to see what sticks. As you rise through the ranks your opponents will begin to survive getting knocked down, so fights will start to last more than one round as you square off against boxers who get their second wind.
After each ranked fight you can add points to a variety of stats, such as damage resistance, stamina and punching power. Some of the later fights are pretty stacked against you and any opponent that drags themselves back up after going down regains an enormous amount of health, so you might expect to get knocked down the roster a couple of times if you skip too far ahead. However, as you climb back up the ranks you get more XP points, so you can basically just grind until your boxer is a god in the ring. Even with these complications you can expect at best 3 hours of gameplay out of the career mode, and that’s being generous.
Multiplayer might serve as an amusing distraction but the overhead view takes a lot of strategy and depth out of what could be a decent, if shallow fighting game. Getting the beer flowing and beating the snot out of your friends is an entertaining enough warm-up for Smash Bros but ultimately that’s all it is. You can’t perform body shots or change the height of your block, and faking out your opponent is nearly impossible with such a constrained perspective and limited number of moves. It’s embarrassing to say but the 13-year-old Wii Boxing has more depth and strategy than 2019’s Boxing Champs.
I hate to say it because I don’t like being mean or overly critical in my reviews, but Boxing Champs feels like a wasted opportunity. It’s not broken in any way, but it’s so bare-bones in everything it tries to do. The boxing genre is fertile ground for innovation on Switch, especially with the Joycons and the goofy precedent set by ARMS, but this game feels like a minor distraction at best. Boxing Champs is in the same category as free phone games, but it’s charging $14.50 for an experience that looks, plays and has the content of Flash game shovelware. Save your money, and if you’re really craving three rounds of ring supremacy, dig Wii Boxing out of the closet and invite a friend over.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been gaming off and on since I was about three, starting with Star Raiders on the Atari 800 computer. As a kid I played mostly on PC--Doom, Duke Nukem, Dark Forces--but enjoyed the 16-bit console wars vicariously during sleepovers and hangouts with my school friends. In 1997 GoldenEye 007 and the N64 brought me back into the console scene and I've played and owned a wide variety of platforms since, although I still have an affection for Nintendo and Sega.
I started writing for Gaming Nexus back in mid-2005, right before the 7th console generation hit. Since then I've focused mostly on the PC and Nintendo scenes but I also play regularly on Sony and Microsoft consoles. My favorite series include Metroid, Deus Ex, Zelda, Metal Gear and Far Cry. I'm also something of an amateur retro collector. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my fiancee and our cat, who sits so close to the TV I'd swear she loves Zelda more than we do.View Profile