Review by horror_spooky

"Punch It! (Louder)"

When sifting through the annals of gaming history, a game everyone would come across is Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Punch-Out!! was a landmark video game for its day, being one of the best boxing video games made at the time (and to this day), and it featured a wacky cast of characters with everyone's favorite plumber as the referee. Punch-Out!! has since spawned a spin-off, a sequel, and a remake for the Nintendo Wii, but how does the original fare nowadays? Surprisingly well, actually.

The concept of Punch-Out!! is fairly simple. You play as an amateur boxer Little Mac and you have to work your way through the ranks, earning title matches, defeating champions, and eventually face Mike Tyson, who was the current World Heavyweight Champion of boxing when the game was released. It's strange how such a simple concept can be so fun and addicting, but it definitely is those two things.

The game starts out easy enough, though its difficulty basically sky-rockets as the you progress through the ranks. You are limited to jabs and body blows, which are controlled using the B and A buttons, and occasionally an uppercut when you dodge certain moves that your opponents try to use. Both you and your opponent have a heart meter that represents damage you have taken, but you can only win a bout in three ways. One, you knock out your opponent (which is done by hitting devastating blows at key ponts) to the point that they can't reach the count of ten, knock them down three times, or win by techincal decision, which means that the fight ended in a draw, but you had a higher score than your opponent. The latter is an impressive feature considering this game is a NES game.

A good defense is the best offense, and that holds true for Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!. Little Mac has to dodge punches or at least block them, which is done via the d-pad, in order to remain in the game. Any blows done to Little Mac are devastating, so if you can't block and dodge your opponents' moves, you're screwed. Granted, each opponent has a specific pattern that you can memorize to beat the game fairly easy, but if you are to jump into the game and learn each of their patterns it will take a lot of skill and serious determination to complete the game.

Unlike most NES games, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! doesn't condemn you to the bowels of hell every time you lose a life. On the contrary, you usually are offered a rematch or just have to repeat a few rounds of boxing to reach the point you were at before. This holds true until you finally face against the titular Mike Tyson; if you lose that fight, you have to start all the way back at square one! Brutal, yes, but with grit and determination, the game can be mastered and defeated. Unfortunately, narrow-minded gamers who restrict their gaming to Call of Duty or Wii Sports and claim that they're "hardcore" will probably never get to taste the joy of accomplishing a truly difficult gaming challenge.

The storyline is very simple. All the game is about really is that Little Mac is an underdog trying to overcome impossible odds and become the World Heavyweight Champion of boxing. The writing though is clever and very well done. The taunts and insults your opponents throw at you in-between rounds and fights are entertaining and give the game more character than it otherwise would have held. It won't win any awards or anything, but the plot in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! gets the job done and is probably more advanced than most games of its generation.

There's nothing that advanced about how the game is presented. The character models are done very nicely and a lot of the characters have become iconic in gaming, like Little Mac and King Hippo. Mario's cameo as the referee is pretty neat, and there are simple cut-scenes presented sometimes that show Little Mac training in ways similar to Rocky.

The music is fine. It's really nothing special and it won't remain in your head for the rest of your life like the Super Mario Bros. theme or the Legend of Zelda theme, but it won't make you want to bash your skull in with a brick either. There are nice sound effects, and the punches sound pretty satisfying whenever you are able to land them. Overall, the sound could've been better but it's not terrible or even bad by any means.

Beating the game can easily be done in one sitting if you know ahead of time what to expect. However, if you take the game head on as a fresh challenge you will be in for a frustrating ride. This frustration, coupled with the fact that after you finally topple Mike Tyson and become the World Heavyweight Champion that there's not much replay value, severely hurts the game. Unlike Super Mario Bros., you won't find yourself replaying this game a million times to try to find secrets or beat your score; no, on the contrary, you will probably want to put it on the shelf for life after completion as a momento to accomplishing one of gaming's stiffest challenges.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was one of the earliest boxing games there was and it provided Nintendo and gamers everywhere with a colorful cast of memorable characters. Yeah, the difficulty is insane and frustrating and the replay value is in the gutter, but the game is still a classic and should still be at least tried out by basically any person who calls themselves a real gamer. If you're looking for a fun and challenging game, this title is definitely the way to go.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/14/09

Game Release: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (US, 10/31/87)


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