Review by Dangerous K

"C'mon Mac! You can beat Iron Mike!"

As I write this review, Mike Tyson has just been defeated by an eighth round KO by WBA/IBF Heavyweight champion of the world, Lennox Lewis. After seeing the fight I was interested in reliving a different time in which Mike was the man. So I decided to play the legendary Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out for the NES which was released 15 years ago, in 1987.

This game was released in arcades and was eventually released on a home console, that being the NES. At the time, a year before the game came out, “Iron” Mike Tyson made history by becoming the youngest ever world champion in boxing at the age of 20 years and 144 days. This is a mark that still stands all these years later. After winning the WBA championship, Mike became one of the most feared men to ever step into a boxing ring. He defeated every comer, he not only beat them, but he usually brutally took many fighters down with such strength that it struck fear into people. Nintendo decided to capitalize on “Iron” Mike’s success by making a game for him. There are two versions of Punch-Out for the NES. One is the classic one which features Mike himself. The other was released after Nintendo decided Mike Tyson was no longer worthy of having the game still made after him when he was convicted of rape charges. This one features Mr. Dream. While both games are identical with the exception of the final boss, the first is better just because it features Mike.

The game itself is probably one of the simplest designs out there, yet it is so effective that it remains being a great game even after all of these years. Graphically, it is nothing incredibly technical. Given the standards for gaming graphics in 1987 on the NES, it is a very good game to look at. In fact I feel that it has withstood the test of time, and still remains to be a good looking game. One of the things I think that made Punch-Out stand above many boxing games was the cartoon type fighters. Some of the boxers you fight are large hulking monsters which look every bit mean as some of them were intended to be. They range from wimpy looking people such as Glass Joe up to the mean and scary looking Mike Tyson. You fight from a view which is behind the fighter you control, who is Little Mac. He is small. The animations are done rather well. Sometimes they are humorous when you stun an opponent such as Bald Bull with a jab and you see spit fly out of his mouth when hit and his eyes spin around. While the fighters don’t have the largest number of frames, it still comes across in a good way. There is nothing incredibly detailed here because the game was not exactly meant to be that detailed. As I stated before, given the technical limitations of the time, these graphics are good.

The sound of the game is good. The crowd sounds about as good as one could expect for the time period. The music which plays during the fight is one that has stuck in my mind to this day. It’s not anything deep as a Final Fantasy track, but it is a bit catchy to me. The sound effects when you get hit, or vice versa are funny. There really are not any issues with the sound as far as I am concerned.

Controlling Little Mac is quite simple given the lack of buttons on the NES controller. The “A” and “B” buttons act as your two primary punch buttons. One being for throwing punches with your right arm, and the other for your left arm. The start button is your secondary punch. When you gain a star, you can use that secondary punch by tapping the start button once thus causing Mac to throw a big uppercut. The D-Pad moves Mac left and right to avoid punches. When holding the D-Pad button down causes Mac to block a punch. Normally when you throw a regular jab it goes for the stomach of the opponent. To throw a jab to the head, you have to hold the D-Pad up when hitting the punch button in order to strike the opponent in the head. The control is responsive and accurate. When you hit a button, it responds without any issues.

Playing the game is simple. You take on the roll of Little Mac and your goal is to battle your way through the three divisions. You have the Minor Circuit, Major Circuit, and World Circuit to do your battles in. You work your way from the bottom to the top. At the end of each circuit, you face whoever the champion of it is and provided you defeat them, you will move onto the next circuit. Simple ain’t it? The major key to this game is timing. I can’t stress that enough especially when you move on later in the game. In each fight, the opponent has certain mannerisms which act as clues to when he will perform a certain type of punch. You always have to be aware of this if you plan on winning the fight. Seeing these mannerisms does not become as important till near the end of the Major Circuit. Once you are in the World Circuit, you must be able to properly identify them if you hope to make it to Mike Tyson. Each fight consists of three rounds which are three minutes long. However the clock moves a bit fast so it’s not literally three minutes. Both fighters have a health bar, and when it is taken down, all the way, they go down. Also when you time punches right, and you interrupt an opponent in the middle of a punch you will sometimes get a star which allows you to attack with an uppercut. Little Mac has a stamina meter in which when you get hit it goes down, and when you block it goes down. When it reaches 0 you turn pink and you have to avoid several punches before it refills. Mac cannot throw punches during this time. You can win the fight by either: KO, TKO, or decision. TKO is when you knock the opponent down three times in a single round and the referee stops it. In this game the referee is none other than Mario! Unfortunately the TKO rule is not applied to Little Mac in the same way for some reason. If you get knocked down three times in the fight overall whether it happens in separate rounds, you will lose by TKO. In between rounds Louis who is your trainer will offer words of advice to you depending on how bad you are being beaten. Meanwhile your opponent always has some memorable quote he will spout depending on how the fight is going for him. One of my all time favorite quotes from the game is when Piston Honda says, “I’m going to give you a TKO from Tokyo!” The difficulty of the game is past just right. It starts off simple and increases in each fight. But it increases in such a way it generally does not feel overwhelming. It is not like some games where things might be going easy than in the next fight things will go from being not too hard, to being incredibly hard. The harder challenges are in the World Circuit when you fight people like Soda Popinski, Mr. Sandman, Macho Man, and Mike Tyson. I will have to say that Mike Tyson is one of the most challenging bosses I have ever faced in a game. In fact he is so challenging that for some reason I still have not been able to beat him to this day. If you get nailed by a single uppercut, it drains all of your health and sends you down for the count. The gameplay is simple, yet it is so fun to play.

Not too much really needs to be said about the replay value. To put it quite simply, the game came out in 1987, and I still play it 15 years later.

The only thing that really keeps me from giving the game a perfect score is that while the graphics are good, comparing them to something such as the Legend of Zelda, I think Punch-Out falls a little bit short in comparison. The one other issue I have with the game is how hard Mike Tyson is. You really need to find a groove to be able to beat Mike Tyson. I’ve seen people beat Mike. One person did so by decision which was a shocker to me. However I just have not been able to defeat him. This game is one of the great all time classics on the NES, and has proudly withstood the test of time. It is definitely worth purchasing.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 10/10
Control: 10/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Replay: 10/10

Overall: 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/11/02, Updated 06/11/02


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