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Rage of the Gladiator (3DS eShop) Review

Review for Rage of the Gladiator on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

From the good amount of quality WiiWare titles, a fair few are starting to be made available again on more recent systems in an attempt to cater to the new audiences who may not have tried them initially on the Wii. Indeed, the system's online shop was not exactly the most popular source for games for the large majority of owners of the console, whereas the eShop on 3DS, for example, has seen great popularity so far, due in large part to the promise of free content in the form of demos, inciting even younger players to at least check in to see what's on offer. From then onward, such people may have noticed that far more games are available on there than meets the eye of the freebie-hungry player. Rage of the Gladiator, the game at hand, is one of those (along with the likes of Art of Balance, Fun Fun Minigolf, escapeVektor, Cave Story and Night Sky, to name but a few). It was already lauded for its quality on WiiWare, so it is with high expectations that the new 3DS rendition can be dived into.

Gracius, prince of Avalance, is the main protagonist of Rage of the Gladiator and a typical, if maybe a bit generic in looks, gladiator. He was initially sent into the arena to die, as a death sentence for being falsely accused of killing his father. In order to survive, he must defeat his opponents in this arena before they do the same to him. Doing so takes place in first-person fights against fantastic enemies, ranging from mythical creatures like a Minotaur to everyone's favourite long-bearded serpent-charmer, amongst many others. Ten opponents await (with a secret eleventh one accessible under certain circumstances) and defeating them all is the only way to clear the game, with higher difficulty levels unlocking when doing so.

As will be obvious from here on in this review, from all the comparisons drawn to it, this game plays very much like a Punch-Out clone, at least at its core. Basic actions include left and right punches, left and right kicks (which basically are the counterparts of the lower left and right punches in Nintendo's franchise) and a shield guard. Where it starts going beyond Nintendo's recipe is in everything else.

As Gracius fights, a blue mana meter fills at the bottom of the screen, not unlike that of certain 2D side-scrolling one-on-one brawlers from Capcom or SNK, actually, with three levels to it. That meter, once filled up enough, lets players unleash devastating special powers with highly varying effects, with some requiring the meter to be filled to a higher level than others.

Screenshot for Rage of the Gladiator on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Those powers have to be unlocked and purchased from the in-game shop using the money won from fights (because, yes, death sentenced pit fighters earn money from fighting for their life - how sweet is that?). There are a lot of them, too! Powers come in three different flavours; some focusing on devastating physical attacks, others on greatly increasing the hero's aptitude to parry the enemy's most powerful moves, and the third and final type is magic, allowing more combos to be performed. In a sense, this corrects the sometimes unfair nature of the Punch-Out fighters who are allowed all kinds of nonsensical moves, whilst Little Mac is limited to just using his punches!

Moreover, potions may be purchased to be used in battle to replenish the mana meter mentioned above, as well as the health bar, which adds more accessibility for less skilled players. Indeed, Punch-Out games may become quite unforgiveable, especially on younger and less patient players who want to continue kicking ass beyond the first pitiful opponent. Rage of the Gladiator, however, offers a much smoother learning curve, and as a matter of fact, a longer period of gameplay, as each difficulty level sees Gracius fighting the same opponents.

The opponents are the same ones, yes, but they are then much quicker, hit harder and show some new moves that they never performed before, allowing even the less skilled players to get some great enjoyment from it right away. That's not to say that Punch-Out!! is a worse game, but whereas it offered enjoyment on durability and trial and error to try to spot weaknesses in the opponent's moveset, Rage of the Gladiator offers something similar but smoothened to be more directly accessible without sacrificing too much of the "hardcore" fun that the most skilled players may want to look forward to.

This is all served through good graphics that are quite on par with those of the WiiWare version, although jaggies are a bit more visible due to the lower resolution of the 3DS screen. However, the main addition, as one would expect, is the stereoscopic 3D effect, which works incredibly well - as it tends to in games relying on a first-person view - and is a feature which makes this 3DS version perhaps all the more appealing compared to its Android and iPhone counterparts, let alone due to the fact that the 3DS offers the comfort and accuracy of having actual "buttons" on it! Obviously, the motion controls of the WiiWare version are no more on the portable system, but some can't have it all, anywhere, anytime, right?

Screenshot for Rage of the Gladiator on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


The button layout and larger set of possible actions than in a Punch-Out game may perhaps make it a bit harder to approach at first, but an hour or two later, this is all forgotten already. The disappearance of motion controls, while perhaps disappointing, was to be expected as this version is on a portable system.


Quite similar to its WiiWare counterpart, only with the added depth allowed by stereoscopic 3D, which, as it must be pointed out, 2DS owners won't be able to experience, let alone potential Android and iPhone buyers!


The ambient music fits the setting well enough so that the player won't feel the urge to turn down the volume. Sound effects, from the cheers of the audience to the punch noises, are also quite well done. Character voices are even made part of the gameplay, as indicators of what they're about to do, as seen previously in Punch-Out!! on Wii.


While the amount of opponents may not be quite as high as that of Punch-Out!!, they move differently enough that the re-fights on higher difficulty settings won't feel the same. Plus, the many special powers and equipment to either purchase or unlock make it an even meatier package than Nintendo's game, despite the lower price point!

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Rage of the Gladiator shined already on the Wii Shop Channel in its WiiWare rendition by being a very good, cheaper alternative to Punch-Out!!, with a different vibe and more complex gameplay. On 3DS eShop, while doing away with the motion controls, it manages to remain the cool one-on-one first-person brawler that it already was on WiiWare and uses the 3D effect marvellously. If one is a fan of the gladiator theme and fancies himself as a Russell Crowe from that certain movie everyone knows about, and of mythical creatures like a Minotaur to punch on, then he or she is certain to find great enjoyment from it. With the appeal of the theme being, however, perhaps a bit less universal than that of the comical boxing found in Punch-Out!!, those who are not particularly fond of the mythos may perhaps find it a wee bit hard to get into initially, but should certainly be drawn in nonetheless by the quality of the gameplay mechanics, the great graphics and the smooth learning curve. On 3DS, Rage of the Gladiator stands out even more since it doesn't even have a Punch-Out opponent to fight alongside on the market, which should make Ghostfire Games' brainchild all the more appealing to players hungry for that type of experience.

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I'm stunned - really didn't know what to expect from this, but certainly wasn't thinking it'd be as good as you say it is! Gamelion have done a few decent games now - impressive!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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