This week I’m going to be looking at Punch-Out!!, a staple of any NES collection. This is especially true for those who love to collect variations of games. The boxing game based on Nintendo’s arcade classics, has three different releases on the NES/famicom with each varying from each other slightly. Originally released in Japan as a prize to 10,000 lucky gamers it started out as a gold cartridge before any of its other releases and features Super Macho Man from the arcade release as your ultimate rival. Following this Nintendo released Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! with the final Mike himself as the final opponent. Nintendo had to rebrand this in 1990 for a re-release due to the rights to use Mike Tyson as a character expiring. In place of Mike, Nintendo added Mr Dream, an entirely new and unseen again character to end the game with. The game also spawned a sequel on the Super Nintendo as well as a Nintendo Wii title, as well as multiple ports, making it quite an established series.
As far as gameplay goes it’s pretty simple. You face each unique opponent in a boxing match and win. You can do this by one of two different ways; performing a technical knockout, which is where you knock your opponent down three times in a single round or alternatively knocking them down for a count of ten which is a more common victory later on in the game as the opponents get harder which each passing bout. You are the protagonist, Little Mac, and your move set includes being able to deliver a left and right hook, an uppercut which can only be used a certain amount of times and the most powerful attack, an even more limited star attack which causes significant damage. He does have the ability to block and dodge as well which can be us useful if you don’t want to get smacked in the face, something I feel quite strongly about personally. As previously mentioned the difficulty progresses throughout the game and you start off by fighting Glass Joe before you move your way up through the ranks to the dream fight against either Mr Dream or Mike Tyson. It’s worth mentioning that there are a few questionable names for characters in the game with the German character being named Von Kaiser, or the Indian opponent called Great Tiger who actually has a tiger in his corner. But it was a different time and at least they had the courtesy to change Soda Popinski’s name from Vodka Drunkenski to avoid being that little bit too offensive. Each fighter has a unique style and pattern of fighting to learn if you want to become the ultimate champion. Most of the characters pop up again later in the game with new moves in their arsenal and in increased difficulty. For me, this is a great idea as fighting the same opponent again makes it feel like there’s progress in the game and that you’re overcoming you’re rivals even after they’ve trained harder to beat you. Overall the gameplay is simple yet satisfying and really that’s all I could ask for in a NES title.
Gameplay aside it looks pretty good graphically. Not groundbreaking, but oozes charm and it’s clear that care had been taken into the character design. Even the short cutscenes, while simple, are fantastic to look at and are pretty immersive when you consider the age of the title. Musically there isn’t a huge amount of variation with the soundtrack for each fight being the same. Each opponent does get their own intro music though, usually very fitting for their personality. There’s also different themes for the cutscenes, when a fighter is down and dependant on if you win or lose the bout.
Overall then the game is pretty impressive and holds a lot of replayability. The game has a lot of interesting factors to it and for the time it came out it still holds up pretty well today. I’ve spent a lot of time playing this when I’ve just wanted a quick game and the satisfaction of beating each opponent never goes away. If you have a NES and you don’t own a version of Punch-Out!! then you should pick a copy up when you get a chance. Or alternatively get one of its sequels, which follow the same formula with updated graphics and fighters. The wii version allows you to play with the wii remote and nunchuck too if you preferred. Maybe we’ll see a Punch-Out!! game for the switch soon, and if Nintendo can find a way to make it multiplayer on the one screen they could have one hell of a game on their hands.