Review by Psycho Penguin
"It's fun as ever, but..."
Let's face it, the NES had many old-school classics hits, and Mike Tyson's Punch Out was one of those many hits. Everyone used to love this addictive classic, including me. It was one of the first video games made that everyone could enjoy. Even non-boxing fans still enjoy this game. And I still think it's one of the greatest video games ever created. It's certainly the best boxing game ever made, and one I still gladly play today over newer releases like Knockout Kings 2002 and KO Boxing.
There was one small problem with the formula: Mike Tyson was the game's spokesperson and final boss. When he started to get into his legal trouble, Nintendo could not afford to keep him on the cover, so they released a ''Greatest Hits'' version of the game simply entilted ''Punch Out!!''. Do not think that this is an updated version, as the only change made was the removal of Mike Tyson as the final boss, instead replaced by a character named Mr. Dream who was basically the white version of Mike Tyson. I don't mean that racially or anything, but he acted just like Mike Tyson did, and was really the only ''difference'' in the game, yet was just a different character.
So, don't expect Punch Out!! to be a totally different game from Mike Tyson's Punch Out, and you should be okay. The storyline remains mostly the same. You are a young whipper snapper named Little Mac, and you're on a mission to get through a boxing circuit. Alongside your trusty trainer who ALWAYS gives you helpful advice (or not, as you'll soon see), you will fight boxer after boxer on your quest to get to the top of the boxing world.
It's not going to be easy, though. Standing in your way is a wide variety of boxers ranging from a washed up has been to a guy who teleports across the ring. The variety of the bosses you have to face was certainly wonderful, and the key to winning is putting together strategies. That's the best part of Punch Out. You are on the bottom of the screen, and the boxer you are facing in your fight is to the north of you, punching downward. You can't really move much, only left and right to avoid his punches. The key is to find each boxer's weak spot, and that's half the fun of the game. Mostly every boxer in the game has their own weakness, and using it to your advantage is the key to victory. That's where the variety comes into play.. a boxer who has a crystal gem in his hat must have a weakness to punches to his head, huh?
The problems with the game, as few as they are, start here. For one, each boxer usually comes at you with the same pattern, and once you figure out the pattern, they become easier and easier. You don't have to knock them out, but it's always wise to. Knocking them out becomes easier and easier as you develop strategies and learn their patterns. You can't really make the game harder, so what you see is what you get. Mr. Dream will always give you a tough fight, but knowing how to beat the Bald Bull will come natural to you after a single fight (or possibly two) with him. The lack of boxer patterns is a little annoying, as I wish they would change it up and do something else each fight. However, I think Nintendo was not in this for the ''realism'' aspect and just wanted a fun, arcadey like game, so it's perfectly understandable, but still something I disliked after a while.
Also, another problem was the lack of game modes. You don't really get much to choose from, you just fire the game up and start. This leads to a lack of replay value for those who are bored of the same old fights all the time. However, I never really found this to be too much of a problem. Nintendo was definitely looking to make a different kind of boxing game, and suceeded in doing so. It's not like a whole bunch of early NES games had tons of options to choose from, anyways. It is a bit weird not getting to choose a challenge level, but such is life.
Despite these problems, they can't mask the fact that Punch Out is the most fun I've ever had in a boxing game. Each fight will bring you against a different boss hwo has their own attack pattern, and you have to beat them using quick wits, dodging skills, and a special ability. In this game, once in a while when you land a good hit, you will get a star. You can then use this star to hit your opponent with a knockout blow. Well, it's not a true knockout blow, but it's close enough, as it takes out a lot of his energy. Yes, in this game, you get energy bars, and you also get a time limit. 3 minutes per round, 3 rounds per fight. You also get points, but I am still unclear as to what to do with them. The boxing engine is so fun, it's scary, and the lack of modes and repeated attack patterns of the bosses do a little to damper the fan, but not too much.
Plus, the controls are just terrific for a boxing game, which relies on good controls to provide a fun and exciting boxing atmosphere. The majority of boxing games I have played featured lackluster controls where punches and dodging were like pulling teeth, but fortunately there's not much to complain about with Punch Out. It's easy to dodge, it's easy to punch, and that's about it. Pressing start to use a star may prove to be a little annoying after a while, because sometimes you might forget what to press, but other than that, the controls were outstanding.
The game also looks pretty good for a game made way back in 1986. Yes, I say 1986, because this game looks just like Mike Tyson's Punch Out, as had been the pattern throughout this review. The ring may be an ugly green, but it won't distract you at all during the game. The scoreboard is solid, and the crowd models are decent enough. The game has the old NES crowd, so don't expect too much there, but it's good enough for government work. Seeing Mario dressed up in a referee outfit is always fun, and Little Mac looks decent. The best part are the animated and detailed boxers you have to face. They all look very good, and they each have their own unique style to them. Just wait until you see the Indian guy who teleports across the ring. He looks really awesome. The graphics are good, and they look even better when you consider the terrific boxer models. Definitely top notch stuff from Nintendo here.
Not only do the graphics look good, but the music is awesome. You only get one song throughout the game, but once you hear the song, you will never forget it. It's one of the all time classics, and a song that will go down in my heart as one of the best to ever grace a video game. The lack of variety is usually a problem in video games, but with a song this good, who need variety. If you ever get bored of it, play it on emulator, turn the sound off, download ''Little Mac's Nightmare'' off Overclocked, and rock hard. Definitely the best video game remix I've ever heard, so I just had to squeeze that in there. The sound effects are also pretty impressive, as you get the punches and ringing of the bell that makes boxing so great. In addition to this, the crowd goes wild all the time, and Mario counts when a boxer goes down for the count. Very nice job with the music and sound effects here.
You will get hooked to the game just based off the awesome song that plays alone, but you will stay for the awesome fighting mechanics and fun the game provides. It's simply one of the most fun boxing games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. You may see my review, and say to yourself, ''This game has no real modes, and the boss patterns always stay the same. Why should I play it?'' The answer is because it's so damn fun. The real replay value comes from trying to knock each boxer down in the quickest amount of time once you learn their patterns. There's always contests going on the Mike Tyson's Punch Out (same game, like I said) board to see who can knock down the boxers in the quickest amount of time. That's where the true replay value of the game comes from. Not from 17,000 modes that let you train against pillows, or from varied boss patterns, but from just being plain fun.
Sadly, this is not the most challenging game in the world. Sure, at first, you will find yourself getting knocked around after a few fights. The first few fights are relatively simple, as they're just warming you up. Once you get to the 2nd Circuit, the boxers get bigger and meaner. They'll start to do stuff like charge at you, teleport around the ring, and throw straight jabs at you followed by roundhouse punches. The key is to stay focused and try to figure out the pattern. Once you figure out each of their weaknesses and patterns, the game becomes a whole lot easier. But, every game becomes easier once you figure out what to do, so why should this be any different? The game will always stay tough to a certain extent, especially Mr. Dream, who is just as wicked as Mike Tyson was.
I do recommend getting Mike Tyson's Punch Out instead of this one, just because Mike Tyson is so much cooler, and it feels more classic than this one does. It's hard to say not to get this game though, because it's still Punch Out. It's one of the greatest video games ever created, despite the flaws. I had to give it a 8/10 because of the flaws and the fact that it's not worth buying, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this game isn't great. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is simply the best boxing game of all time, and people of all preferences will enjoy this one. I personally don't really watch boxing much, and I still love this game. It has good graphics, a killer song, and some of the wackiest and craziest bosses the boxing circuit has ever seen. What's not to like?
Plus, you get to see the most classic line ever when Little Mac asks ''Got any advice for me, Doc?'' followed by ''JOIN THE NINTENDO FUN CLUB TODAY, MAC!'' Totally awesome advice, dude.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/00, Updated 07/05/03
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