Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! (NES) review
"France’s most stalwart athlete, Glass Joe, quickly finds out his career is heading for a humiliating end, as his punches are easily dodged by Mac, who then responds by sending jab after jab into Joe’s face. The fight is short and brutal — with Glass Joe spending more time face down than the average hentai game chick."
Maybe the average boxing fan would be a tad bit skeptical of Little Mac’s chances to ascend through the ranks and unseat Mike Tyson as the greatest heavyweight champion to reign over a fictional boxing association. They’d say there’s no way a 100-pound midget should be in the ring with highly-trained gladiators. They’d say he should be a massive underdog to even survive ONE ROUND against the sissy French guy who serves as everyone’s first stepping stone to a successful career.
But then, the bell rings and the first fight of Little Mac’s career begins. France’s most stalwart athlete, Glass Joe, quickly finds out his career is heading for a humiliating end, as his punches are easily dodged by Mac, who then responds by sending jab after jab into Joe’s face. The fight is short and brutal — with Glass Joe spending more time face down than the average hentai game chick.
Mac’s next opponents didn’t fare much better. Von Kaiser might have been an boxing instructor, but against his diminutive foe, he was the one being taught a harsh lesson in pain. The always-popular Piston Honda promised to deliver a TKO from Tokyo, but found himself forced to trudge back to his homeland bereft of his low-level championship belt.
But things would get tougher for Little Mac. While booze-loving Russkie Vodka Drunkenski had changed his name to Soda Popinski to improve his American endorsement possibilities, he still was capable of delivering series after series of alcohol-fueled jabs and uppercuts. African monster King Hippo seemed near-invulnerable, while no man could withstand the charging punch of Turkey’s massive Bald Bull. And waiting for Little Mac to get past this motley crew of goons were the real big guns: Sandman, Super Macho Man (not to be confused with “Macho Man” Randy Savage) and Mr. Tyson, himself.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! isn’t the most realistic sports title I’ve ever played, but as far as the NES is concerned, it is the boxing equilivant of Tecmo Super Bowl — a fast-paced game that lured me in with its simple controls and hooked me with addictive gameplay.
The key for Little Mac to advance through the ranks lies in the player’s ability to read the computer-controlled boxer’s body language, quickly dodge or block their blow and retaliate with a handful of punches while their guard is down. Early in the game, this is child’s play. Glass Joe’s body flashes for what seems an eternity before he unloads a punch and holds the pose long enough for one to lay a good half-dozen jabs on him. Piston Honda’s eyebrows twitch spastically before he lunges in with a series of jabs.
Don’t count on things remaining this easy. I remember chuckling to myself while dodging Bald Bull’s easily-telegraphed jabs and responding with a handful of shots to his ugly face, but my mirth turned to shock as he hopped to the back of the ring and then quickly leapt forward, unleashing a brutal shot that sent Mac’s crumpled body to the canvas. And it didn’t help my blood pressure when Soda Popinski came after me with rapid-fire chains of jabs and uppercuts, keeping me out-of-synch during my first couple of attempts at him.
Here's where the same sort of reflexes used in the average dance/music/keep-the-beat game come into play. As I advanced through these tougher opponents, I found myself getting into the habit of instinctively moving my hands over the controller: dodge, dodge, punch, punch, dodge, dodge, block. Over and over again I tapped buttons in precise combinations. If I dodged too soon, I’d bounce back into the path of a jab. If I punched too late, it would be blocked, leaving Mac open for a crushing counterattack. Everything was about the timing and that timing had to be perfect.
One reason for this is because the game won’t just let Mac indiscriminately throw lefts and rights. Before each fight, he starts with a number of hearts (determined by his opponent’s style). While Mac will lose a number of hearts for getting punched, he also will see his supply depleted whenever one of his shots is blocked. If Mac loses all his hearts, he temporarily will become unable to use his fists and be forced to dodge until either regaining a couple or suffering a knock-down. On the other hand, when Mac shows exceptional timing, good things can happen. Remember that one-punch knockdown that Bald Bull’s charge inflicted upon me? Conventional wisdom dictates the judicial player does what they can to get the hell out of the big fellow’s way when he busts out that move, but the skilled player simply hits Bull with a perfectly-timed punch to the kidneys to not only negate that move, but also send him slowly crashing to the mat. A little skill goes a long way!
But it will take more than a little skill to get past all the challenges of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!. The first time you fight him, dancin’ Spaniard Don Flamenco is a wimp; the second time, he’s a defensive genius who easily can deplete a full supply of hearts when he covers up and lets Mac wear himself out trying to find an opening. Iron Mike is an juggernaut in every sense of the word, capable of putting Mac on his back with the first punch he throws. Guys like this ensure this game will never become easy. No matter how good a player may be, all it takes is one poorly-timed move and their opponent will have the opportunity to take over the fight.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! is a remarkable game. Boasting simplistic play, fast-paced button-tapping action and a cartoonish assortment of amusingly-animated opponents, it’s managed to withstand the test of time and still is the greatest boxing game I’ve ever played.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 01, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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