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Punch-Out!! Retrospective

April 17, 2010

Punch-Out!! Retrospective - (NES)
By Dakota Grabowski

Whether pitting you against Mr. Dream or Mike Tyson, this NES title remains a classic

When Mike Tyson was the cream of the crop on the boxing circuit, Punch-Out!! reigned supreme as the hottest title on the Nintendo Entertainment System. First launching as an arcade title and then ported over to the NES, Punch-Out!! is one of the most decorated titles from the NES generation of gaming.


What were its cultural impacts and/or importance?

In effort to promote arcade entertainment, Punch-Out pushed forward a satirical approach to boxing rather than a realistic one. The main character, Little Mac, was usually 2x smaller than all of his opponents who went by goofy aliases such as King Hippo, Bald Bull, Super Macho Man, Glass Joe and the like. The premise behind this was to beef up the comic appeal and let the players simply have fun without fussing with the controls.

Another aspect that still relevant in today’s gaming landscape is the focus on figuring out the enemy patterns and overcoming the odds stacked against the protagonist. Figure out the pattern and, voila, the opponent can be disposed of in a rather quick fashion.

Lastly, without Mike Tyson’s name tattooed on the front of the cover, Punch-Out!! may have had little impact on gaming as the his name and license itself helped put the title over with the mainstream crowd.


What areas of gaming did it advance?

There’s no question about it, Punch-Out!! looked great for its time period and stood out as one of the more charming titles on the NES. Any gamer that couldn’t get behind and root for Little Mac is in cahoots with the villainous opponents. The cutscenes with Little Mac and Doc Louis are among the most memorable in gaming, along with the brilliant background music that changes with every fight against a new opponent.

The premise behind boss battles was pushed to the limit as each fight is a boss battle in its own right. Players have to figure out the weaknesses of the bosses, exploit them and, of course, avoid any damage in return. In time, the patterns become more difficult to nail down, but that’s the pure joy behind Punch-Out!! Without the simple gameplay and addicting patterns to overcome, Punch-Out!! may have become what Power Punch II turned out to be in its wake. 


Does it stand the test of time?

Comparing it to what the boxing genre has done in recent memory, Punch-Out!! has yet to be passed in creating moments of pure ecstasy. The unfortunate fact about Punch-Out!! was that it didn’t support multiplayer so it was always a single-player affair that had friends and family members playing the part of wallflowers watching from afar.  

When you put it side-to-side against its brethren in the Punch-Out!! series, the NES original stands out as the best of the bunch, along with the claim that it has always been the most popular. Maybe it is Little Mac’s rise to prominence that helps put Punch-Out! over – especially since Super Punch-Out!!’s blonde power punch is a far cry from being well-liked – but the title still is as captivating as it was when it debuted in 1987.

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