During the 1980s, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was a cultural phenomenon. Not only did it introduce skill-based gameplay and its now-memorable boxing ring theme music, but it also gave players the chance to face-off against colorful fighters of different nationalities.
Plus, gamers were psyched when they learned the final boss of the game was then-legendary real life boxer Mike Tyson.
In 1987’s Punch-Out!!, players were told the story of Little Mac, a petite fighter from the Bronx who wanted nothing more than to enter the World Video Boxing Association.
Because of his small stature, Mac was turned down by over one hundred trainers before meeting Doc Louis, a former heavyweight champion. With Doc’s training, Mac shaped up to become the greatest fighter in the circuit.
Fifteen years later, the series is making a triumphant return and is better than ever before. Punch-Out!! for the Wii was released in March of 2009 and it is proving that it has built on to the original game’s content.
Punch-Out!! Is Strong in Character Humor and Gameplay
Players are sure to find the gameplay simple, yet challenging.
Each match takes place in an unnamed boxing ring where Mac faces the likes of characters like timid Frenchman Glass Joe, suave Spaniard Don Flamenco, and easily-angered Turkish man Bald Bull. He goes through three circuits (minor, major, and world) before getting to the final fighter. Each one gradually becomes more difficult over time, testing players’ skills and reflexes.
Veterans will even find the game to be challenging in later modes as the learning curve really racks up. Perhaps the most difficult is Title Defense Mode, where all the previous challengers return with new moves and more brutality no thanks to previous weaknesses being righted.
Speaking of the characters, they are very endearing with humorous personalities, particularly because of the animations that add to their expressions. Most of them speak their native languages, but they are still funny because of their hand gestures and vocal tones.
The fantastic voice work also adds to their personalities. For instance, Japanese fighter Piston Hondo carries himself with honor and dignity that can be heard in his stern voice and even seen in the way he bows while in the ring.
On the other hand, Irishman Aran Ryan is anything but honorable, asking Little Mac if he has cheeseburgers in his gloves after the raven-haired fighter is knocked down and even going as far as cheating during matches. The hyper, mean-spirited tone in Aran’s thick Irish accent really brings out his mischievous side.
Most of the soundtrack is remade from the NES music, but with a more modern-day rock flair. Even the main theme music changes as a new boxer enters the ring (once these versions of the song are unlocked, that is). Middle Eastern, Latin, Island, and even Surf music are used in some of the variations to fit with each fighter.
Many gags and scenes are also reused from the 1987 game, like Don Flamenco carrying roses into the ring and the more memorable training montage where Mac chases a bike-riding Doc through New York City. These nostalgic references are great nods to the ’80s and ’90s Punch-Out!!s.
There are two options for controls: one where players can use the new Wii motion controls and another that mimicks the NES controller. Buttons are very responsive and smooth when pressed since Mac will throw punches, dodge, and duck oncoming blows immediately.
Exhibition Mode is also a good option for novice players if they are having trouble with certain opponents since they can practice as long as they want to before the real match. They will never be knocked out in this mode, which gives them plenty of time to figure out an opponent’s weakness or fighting pattern.
When It Comes to City-Select and Multiplayer Character Variety, Punch-Out!! Could Be Better
While there aren’t too many negative things to say about the game, the developers could’ve added all of the opponents to Head to Head multiplayer mode. Only playing as Little Mac leaves a lot to be desired thanks to the lack of variety and all the other characters have potential for good movesets.
This game could also use a city-select option for matches instead of just one ring to fight in. There is just way too much untapped potential for cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas because New York isn’t the only good boxing city in the world.
Even international cities could contribute more variety in culture, people, and style. Watching Parisians cheering for Glass Joe or Russians supporting Soda Popinski in Moscow could prove to be a good change if handled correctly. Perhaps players would even become more motivated to defeat their competition if those fans booed Little Mac.
Opponents could’ve used a bit more backstory. The cutscenes are nothing but four or five still images, nothing that really lets players take a deeper look into their lives.
The most glaring issue with Punch-Out!! has to do with the lack of new characters. Brooklyn-based Disco Kid is the only new opponent and even he is based on an old one (Kid Quick from the arcade game).
Perhaps a Schwarzenegger-esque Austrian boxer would fit in with the old characters, or maybe even a Native American.
Punch-Out!! is Still an Enjoyable Boxing/Puzzle Game
Punch-Out!! may not be perfect, but it is still a pretty good update on an old franchise. With talk of a new sequel, hopefully some more liberties will be taken with the series to give it a bunch of fresh concepts.
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