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Punch-Out!!

by Tom Malina - May 1, 2013, 10:09 am PDT
Total comments: 9

8

This NES classic still holds up today, providing you can handle its severe difficulty.

Simply describing Punch-Out!!, originally released for the NES in 1990, as a boxing game would be doing a great disservice to the subtleties of its design. On the course of taking young Little Mac from plucky up-and-coming underdog to World Video Boxing champion, you will obviously plant many fists into the faces of your opponents, but the game does not concern itself with a long list of different inputs or even any element of positioning within the boxing ring. 

Punch-Out!! is about reading signals – identifying what the opposing boxer is about to do, reacting swiftly by dodging or blocking and exploiting their narrow windows of weakness. Bouts can become very strategic, particularly once you figure out how to collect stars to power up your ultra-powerful ‘Star Punch’ uppercuts. While the trial-and-error method plays a significant part in the game, this unique style of twitch action still holds a strong appeal today with the latest re-release on the Wii U Virtual Console, although the punishment for failure might be a bit harsh by modern standards.

As a game made late in the life of the NES, Punch-Out!!’s animation quality is a cut above the rest. Characters on screen are expressive and move with a great fluidness, giving off little tells that form the essence of what the game is all about. The visuals also help to embellish the boxers themselves – each of Little Mac’s opponents is a national or cultural stereotype (my personal favourite being the Japanese fighter, Piston Honda), and they provide some humour to an otherwise very mechanical arcade-style game.

Let’s be perfectly clear, though: Punch-Out!! is extremely demanding of the player, both in terms of observation and reflexes, and if your only frame of reference for the series is the contemporary Wii successor from 2009, it should be noted that the NES title is much more unforgiving. The game is split into circuits containing three or four boxers each, and being kicked backed to the beginning of a circuit after losing the title match is demoralising, though the suspended save states feature on Wii U can help to alleviate this punishment somewhat. Purists will argue that this is simply how games were back in the early ‘90s, but the fact is, it makes Punch-Out!! difficult to recommend to somebody without the patience for out-dated video game difficulty tropes.

If you are looking just to knock some people around in the ring, no frills attached, stick with something like Fight Night. But if you yearn for the days where games were more of a distilled challenge or skill, look no further than this latest re-release of Punch-Out!!.

Summary

Pros
  • Playful sense of humour
  • Satisfying fast-paced action
  • Smooth, subtle animation
  • Tight, responsive controls
Cons
  • Difficulty potentially off-putting
  • Harsh punishment for failure

Talkback

Fatty The HuttMay 01, 2013

I am pretty terrible at video games but I just don't find this particular one that punishing. For some reason, I can always get pretty far. The controls are sublime.
Whereas, I am pretty miserable at, say, Castlevania or Ghosts and Goblins.


I give this one a 9.5.

CyrianMay 01, 2013

It was originally released in 1987.  1990 is when they rereleased it without Mike Tyson.

GrabMyBoomstickMay 02, 2013

Punch-Out!! is a true classic, and one of my absolute favorite games of all time. It's one of those games I still enjoy speed running through every once in awhile to this day. My best time is 29 minutes by the way.  :P:

TJ SpykeMay 02, 2013

Quote from: GrabMyBoomstick

Punch-Out!! is a true classic, and one of my absolute favorite games of all time. It's one of those games I still enjoy speed running through every once in awhile to this day. My best time is 29 minutes by the way.  :P:

Is that with Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?

GrabMyBoomstickMay 04, 2013

Quote from: TJ

Is that with Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?

Either, it's the exact same fighter, just reskinned (see what I did there) to look like a generic white dude. There's absolutely no difference in the fighting style, pattern, or brutal difficulty.

But to answer your question I've done it with both numerous times since I own both the Mr. Dream version on VC and the original NES cartridge with Tyson.

TJ SpykeMay 04, 2013

Actually, there IS a different between them. Not a huge one, but it's not a simple palette swap.

GrabMyBoomstickMay 06, 2013

Quote from: TJ

Actually, there IS a different between them. Not a huge one, but it's not a simple palette swap.

Dude, the only difference is the palette swap of Tyson/Dream, and a slightly different intro screen (since Tyson is obviously not in the Mr Dream version). That's it. I've been religiously playing/speed running this game for past 25 years. You don't know what you're talking about.

Fatty The HuttMay 10, 2013

Quote from: GrabMyBoomstick

Quote from: TJ

Actually, there IS a different between them. Not a huge one, but it's not a simple palette swap.

Dude, the only difference is the palette swap of Tyson/Dream, and a slightly different intro screen (since Tyson is obviously not in the Mr Dream version). That's it. I've been religiously playing/speed running this game for past 25 years. You don't know what you're talking about.

+1

Ian SaneMay 10, 2013

I typically go into NES games with the assumption that the game will be a little rough around the edges but Punch-Out plays as well as any current game.  I personally prefer the style and controls of Super Punch-Out but realistically the graphics is all that dates Punch-Out (and even then it's one of the best looking NES games).

I actually was surprised it wasn't quite as hard as I remember it being but the difficulty ramps up fast.  Stupid Mad Tiger!  I hate that guy!  ARRRGH!!!

Punch-Out is in many ways a puzzle game.  Once someone is familiar enough with the techniques of a fighter they can dodge and punch with such rhythm they might as well be playing Guitar Hero.  Something like Ghosts 'n' Goblins is all reflexes.  Punch-Out requires reflexes but it's all a reaction to move patterns you've memorized instead of random stimuli.

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Genre Sports
Developer Nintendo
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
Release Mar 20, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Punch-Out!!
Release Jun 05, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Punch-Out!!
Release Apr 27, 2013
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Punch Out!!
Release Apr 27, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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