|(Mike Tyson's) Punch-Out!!|
Boxing games have been for many systems since the Atari 2600, but one title that still makes the top 10 list has to be Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, a port of Nintendo's hit arcade title that features an infamous name in boxing. When Nintendo brought Punch-Out to the NES, they wanted to have a famous name on the game, and that person turned out to be Mike Tyson. Now today Tyson may be a shell of his former self, but back in the 80s he was an invincible killer that KOed every boxer in his path, so there was no one better to add to their arcade boxing title. Thus Mike Tyson not only put his name on the game, but also became the final boss. Naturally Punch-Out was a big hit, not only since it featured Tyson but it also sported great arcade action that many Nintendo players happily took on.
*As may of you remember, in 1990 Nintendo claimed that their contract with Tyson ran out so they rerelased the game as simply Punch-Out, with Mr. Dream replacing Tyson as the last fighter. Other than the change to Mr. Dream, who's basically Tyson with white skin, this version is virtually the same as the original, so this review covers both releases.
Anyway this game puts you in the gloves of Little Mac, a young boxer from the Bronx. Mac was nothing but a streetfighter until the day he met Doc Louis, a former world champion from the 1950s who since fell into poverty. Impressed by Mac's fighitng spirit, Doc took him under his wing and became his trainer. Together they began a journey through the ranks of the World Video Boxing Association, but even with Doc in his corner, can Little Mac make it all the way to the top to the world championship?
In this game you you try to box your way through the ranks of the WVBA, fighting in 13 matches in the Minor, Major and World circuits against the likes of Glass Joe, King Hippo, The Bald Bull in and many others from around the globe. Under WVBA rules each match lasts three 3-minue rounds, and to win each fight you need to knock each fighter down for a count of 10, or three times in a round for a TKO. Mac can use several high punches and body blows, but to conquer each boxer you need to learn their weakness and dodge their punches so you can counter-punch them. You have a heart meter (your fighting spirit) which goes down every time you get hit or your punch is blocked. Once you're down to zero, you'll become too tired to punch and all you can do is dodge until you recover some hearts. If you land an effective punch, you may get a star which awards you with a powerful uppercut. Knock an opponent down and the referee (our old buddy Mario!) will make the count. You win if your enemy stays down for a 10 count or you knock them down three times for a TKO. If the fight lasts all three rounds, you can also win by referee's decision if you score enough points (but there are some fighters that can't be beaten this way). The last fight in each circuit pits you against its champion in a bout for the circuit title. You have to defeat Piston Honda for the Monor Circuit title, Bald Bull for the Major Circuit title, and Super Macho Man for the World Circuit championship. If you can beat them and win all three titles, you get to enter the Dream Fight against the heavyweight titan himself, Mike Tyson.
The graphics are very good for a 1987 release, even though you only really see the ring. Each boxer is larged-sized and sports some great details as well as smooth animation. The humorous expressions on their faces when you score a hit is also a plus. The fight crowd in the background has some movement which helps it look more lifelike. It may seem weird that Mac is only half the size of the boxers, but this helps provide an unobstructed view of the actions, and I'm sure nobody wants the green wire-frame player of the original Punch-Out arcade game. The sounds aren't too bad either. The main background tune is nice to listen too and doesn't get repetitive or intrusive. Before every fight each boxer gets his own entrance theme which is a nice touch. The best music is the theme that plays during the training sequences after each circuit. The sound effects range from the decent crowd noise to the goofy sounds of your punches connecting which are fun to hear.
As far as the gameplay goes, this game is just flat out fun and addicting. It's just a great experience to knock down every guy standing in your way, and it never gets old. The controls are simple to use and work like a charm. It's easy to block, dodge, and hit both high jabs and body blows. At some points there seems to be a little lag in response time, especially when you try to dodge punches, but it's not too bad. The fact that this game doesn't take itself too seriously, with all its humorus antics, adds to the charm and enjoyment. In addition this game does have a good challenge level. The first few boxers won't give you too much trouble, but the game get progressively more difficult as you work your way up the ranks. You do have to fight some characters twice, though they are harder the second time. The last few fights in the World Circuit are pretty tough, and true to form, Mike Tyson himself is EXTREMELY difficult to beat. However just remember that everyone in this game, even Tyson, can be defeated; it just takes a lot of practice, skill, and a little luck. After you complete each circuit you get a passcode that saves your progress, including your win-loss record. It's a good feature, but it's also a shame you can't get a password after every fighter you beat.
Overall, just because Mike Tyson's Punch-Out is not a "serious" boxing game doesn't mean it's not fun. Punch-Out is simply a fun and challenging arcade title that's easy to play and fun to watch at the same time, plus the addictive action keeps you coming back for more. Besides, you get a real sense of accomplishment when you finally defeat Tyson, something many Nintendo players strived to acheive to this day. Overall, Punch-Out!! is another Nintendo classic that certainly deserves the title, whether you're a boxing fan or not.
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