Review: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

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With the start of the new year, I want to get back on track with my thoughts on many of the retro games that filled the countless hours of my youth. Nintendo was responsible for some of the most timeless games ever released to date. Everything from the classic 8-bit adventures of Mario, Link, and Samus to the hard hitting sports action of… Mike Tyson?!

As the legend has it, Nintendo was hard at work on a home version of their popular Punch-Out! arcade game when a Nintendo executive attended a Tyson fight. So impressed with the boxer’s skill, they offered Iron Mike a contract to feature him in their upcoming game.

In this game, the payer controls a wimpy looking guy by the name of Little Mac. Guided by his trainer, and former boxing champ, Doc Louis, Mac must defeat various boxers and work his way up to the championship bought with Mike Tyson himself.

I should take a moment to note that due to contractual issues down the road, re-releases of the game replaced Mike Tyson with a fictional champion named “Mr. Dream”. This version of the game is known simply as Punch-Out!. But aside the the name and look of the final fighter, the two games are identical.

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The opponents are always entertaining and often portray various racial or regional stereotypes. By today’s standards some of the humor in this game would probably be considered off-limits. Personally, this doesn’t bother me. It’s all in good fun – but whatever.

Most fighters have various weaknesses or “tells” to help you figure out what their next move is going to be. With a little time and repetition, it’s not difficult to get the hang of most fights. Our old friend Mario even makes a guest appearance as a referee.

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Eventually, you will make your way to the final fight with Tyson. But be prepared, he can take you down in a single punch! The trick is to keep a sharp eye out, as Tyson will often telegraph his moves. I enjoyed this game immensely as a kid. In fact, this game was probably the reason I even knew who Mike Tyson was at the time. It’s a shame that the only version of the game available these days nixes Tyson’s appearance.

This game was one of those essential titles when I was a kid. Everyone I knew had a copy and we all knew all of the ins and outs. Tricks like holding down the select button between rounds for a health boost we common knowledge. Several of my friends, (myself included) used to have all the secret passwords memorized. It was a blast! There have been two official sequels to the game, that I’m ashamed to admit, I have not played. Thankfully, this blog is here to help me tackle the backlog.

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Difficulty: Medium – The first part of the game is fairly straightforward and you learn quickly how the mechanics work. As the game progresses, some of the opponents get tougher. However, with a little patience it shouldn’t be too hard to conquer this title.

Story: Not much to write about. The premise is simple, you are an up and coming underdog boxer, working your way up the ranks to the ultimate bout with the heavyweight champ

Originality: Nothing like Punch-Out! existed at the time. This was pure Nintendo genius at its finest. Boxing can be a hard sport to translate to a video game experience, so to make this work Nintendo decided to go the cartoon route. This approach makes for a very original and entertaining title.

Soundtrack: Short on variety but heavy on the grooves. There’s not a lot of selection to be found in the game, but I find all of the music included in the this title to very catchy and memorable.

Fun: I thoroughly enjoy this game, even today. It’s a good example of a very basic, but yet fun and entertaining title.

Graphics: By today’s standards of course, the game leaves a lot to be desired. But at the time, the visuals in the game were top notch. The detail going into the character models is very well done considering the cartoon atmosphere.

Playcontrol: If you’ve never played Punch-Out! before, it will take you a few minutes to get the feel for things. When to dodge, when to punch, it all seems really foreign at first, but it does sort of fall into place after a bit. If playing on the virtual console, a standard controller or pro controller is recommended.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Classic Nintendo. Near perfect game. If you can overlook the stereotypical humor, there’s really not much not to like about the game in my opinion

Currently available: Wii Virtual Console  (Punch-Out! version)

Other Review In This Series:

Punch Out!!Super Punch Out!! – Punch Out!! Wii

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