Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
  • Genre:
    • Fighting
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 10/01/1987
    • US 11/21/1987
    • UK 12/15/1987
Score: 80%

This review was published on 05/30/2009.

Punch-Out was one of the first and most revered games to have brought the boxing ring into the virtual world of gaming. Having achieved preliminary success in the arcades, Nintendo later decided to bring a scaled-down port of Punch-Out to the Nintendo Entertainment System, something they were known to do with a few of their old arcade titles. To help promote sales, they managed to license the heavyweight world champion boxer of the time, Mike Tyson, into having his personification entered into the game as an additional, extra hard fight.

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Little Mac is his name, and winning the boxing championship tournament is his game. He isn't very big, as his name implies, so you'll have to compensate for the lack of skull-crushing strength with smooth moves. The moves at your disposal are simplistic, yet effective in the hands of a skilled player. Your boxing repertoire is divided into two parts: one offensive and one defensive. Each button on the controller corresponds to one of Little Mac's arms, and holding up on the d-pad will do a high punch, whereas not holding it does a low punch. Alternating between the two buttons with the right timing will typically produce the best results. As far as defensive goes, dodging is as easy as pressing right and left on the d-pad. Your dodges need to be timed carefully, or else you'll get your lights punched out and look stupid while doing it. Pressing down will make Mac guard; pressing down twice consecutively will have him duck. I personally found these last two maneuvers to not be that useful, since guarding doesn't work against some attacks and almost everything can be dodged without ducking.

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In the first few matches, sticking to high punches will be enough to totally rearrange your opponent's face. That obviously won't stay true for the rest of the matches, wherein you'll have to be more strategic about whether to use high or low attacks, as your challengers will block most of your hits. And strategic you will be; every time someone guards against your attack (or if you guard against theirs), you'll lose a point from the heart counter. If this thing hits zero, Little Mac will be a little fatigued, practically making him a sitting duck. Mac can't do anything but dodge when fatigued, so you'll have to wait it out until your heart counter is replenished. To even out the odds a bit, Mac has an ace up his sleeve: the Star Uppercut. During any given match, you will sometimes gain a star or two for making fools out of your opponents. These stars grant Mac the capability to knock someone out cold with an incredibly powerful uppercut, providing you press the start button. Kind of a weird button to press, but they didn't have a choice with the limited buttons available on NES pads. Mac and his battle mate will have life bars that deplete as damage is dealt, eventually resulting in a knock-out. This being boxing, you can get back up after being knocked out, providing you do it in time. It's not always clear what factors into whether your opponent will get up in time or not. Some matches can drag on because your opponent will always manage to get up in time. The obvious counter-measure to this is the TKO; if you knock your opponent out too many times within a single round, you automatically win, even if he could still get back up. Still, if you are unable to knock them out thrice in one round, you'll end up staying in a single match way longer than you need to.

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With all of that out of the way, it's now time to go into the game's main attraction: the fighters. Punch-Out is known for featuring a colorful cast of fighters that parody almost every ethnic stereotype there is, with greatly exaggerated expressions. It's enough to send any politically correct localization team into a cold sweat. Every fighter has a sort of pattern to their attacks, not to mention some killer special moves that'll leave you reeling if they connect with your face. This being the 8-bit age, almost every hulking beast you face will have an Achilles heel of sorts, which depends on knowing how and when to strike. Exploiting these esoteric weaknesses can result in anything from preventing their super moves or knocking them out in a single punch. Some fights do feel a bit gimmicky, like the bout with King Hippo. He's a tough nut to crack back in the day when mortal men did not have 'net surfing capabilities, as there's only one specific way to hurt him. Doc Louis, your mentor, even jokes at how you should join the "Nintendo Fun Club" for hints on how to defeat the great and venerable Hippo. However, most of the fights are flexible enough to allow for players to experiment with different strategies, and the few gimmicks further add to the game's charm rather than detract from it. Speaking of charm, all the different fighters will have an introductory musical theme unique to them. It's a nice touch, but the grating sound effect used for the crowd's cheering will undoubtedly annoy you to death.

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Mike Tyson's Punch-Out is totally awesome, and Mike Tyson has very little to do with it. In fact, if you're not a fan of convicted rapists, you may want to look into the Punch-Out Nintendo released a few years later, in which Tyson is completely removed from the equation. Well, okay, not completely: they changed him into a white version of Tyson with spiky hair, by the name of Mr. Dream. Apparently, their dream is for Mike Tyson to befall the Michael Jackson syndrome.

Word Count: 970

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