Retro Review: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (NES)

 

Mike_Tysons_Punch_Out_Box


Content Warning: Violence and slight alcohol reference.

 

Story

If you wait at the title screen, you'll get a little introduction.

If you wait at the title screen, you’ll get a little introduction.

This is the story of Little Mac, a tough, young fighter from the mean streets of the Bronx, who has the dream of making it big as a prize fighter. With the help of his trainer, Doc Louis, Mac strives to fight his way up through every division to claim the World Heavyweight Championship as his very own. Once he climbs to the top, he can challenge the reigning Grand Champion, “Iron” Mike Tyson himself.

Fun Fact: Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas prompted Nintendo to forego renewing the license to use Mike Tyson’s name and likeness. A reissue of the game featured a character called Mr. Dream instead of Tyson, and was simply titled Punch-Out!!

 

 

 

Gameplay

Your uppercut can only be used if you have a star, but it can be devastating if used at the right moment.

Your uppercut can only be used if you have a star, but it can be devastating if done at the right moment.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! has a simple control scheme. You can dodge, duck, and block as part of your defense. Additionally, you can throw right and left-handed high and low punches. You can even use a special haymaker uppercut if you’re lucky enough to obtain a star.

Stars are won by counter-punching an opponent at special intervals, particularly right before one of their special moves. In the event of a knockdown (you or your opponent), Mario–your exclusive referee for your entire career–will walk out and start a ten-count. If your opponent cannot return to this feet by the count of ten (KO) you win. Another way to win is to knock your opponent down three times in the same round (TKO). Finally, the most difficult victory to achieve is a decision.

Not surprisingly, your opponents hit back, and become progressively more difficult as your career continues. So, mastering the controls is simply a must. In other games, you may be able to get by with just a casual proficiency with the controls, but not in this one. The further you get, the less and less forgiving the game becomes of mistakes. This is especially true once you cross into the World Circuit. There are some opponents you will fight twice, assuming you don’t lose, and they are much more tough and crafty the second time around.

Does anyone else think of Captain N when they see this?

Does anyone else think of Captain N when they see this?

Your stamina is represented by hearts. You lose hearts when you either block or get hit by an attack, or if an opponent dodges or blocks one of your attacks. If you run out of hearts, you will turn pink and become temporarily exhausted. During this time, you cannot attack or block. All you can do is dodge. Once you’ve gained your second wind, you’ll regain a few hearts, and can continue the fight in earnest. But if you get knocked down you lose all of your hearts. To recover from a knockdown, rapidly tap the B and A buttons.

Steve’s Tip: If you’re a little bruised between rounds, you can hit the select button to gain back a bit of health. Doc will begin tapping Mac’s chest faster. Be careful, because if you do this with full or nearly full health, you will actually lose health instead. This can only be done once in a given fight.

 

 

Graphics

Some boxers, like Piston Honda here, you will end up fighting twice.

Some boxers, like Piston Honda here, you will end up fighting twice.

The graphics in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! are bright, and the palette makes the screen pop. The moves and body movements for the boxers are exceptional, devoid of rigidity or blocky animation. In fact, the animations themselves play a particularly important role, as they help you time your attacks. Each boxer has a “tell,” which lets you know when he’s about to strike. Learning these key moments for each opponent is a crucial step towards total victory.

Between circuits, you get to see a vignette in which Doc Louis is riding a bike while Mac runs behind him. There’s a nice little panoramic shot of NYC, including the Statue of Liberty. It is on this screen that your passwords are obtained. These passwords will let you start at the circuit you were on if you need to take a break and come back later.

 

Music/Audio

I've never figured out why Mac wears green trunks, gloves, and shoes in the ring, but exercises in a pink track suit.

I’ve never figured out why Mac wears green trunks, gloves, and shoes in the ring, but exercises in a pink track suit.

There’s not a whole lot to the music and sound in this game, but that’s okay. Each boxer has their own musical introduction, inspired by the boxer’s country of origin. The music that plays while you’re fighting has a rhythm to it that gets your heart beating. Successfully making your opponent eat leather will give you a satisfying 8-bit “bop” sound. While it sounds nothing like a real punch, you will nevertheless become narrowly focused on trying to chain together as many of those bops as possible.

Writing

This is another one of those games that has just enough writing to warrant a score and accompanying paragraph. The majority of the text you will read in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! comes in the form of taunts. Your opponents will attempt to ruffle your feathers between rounds, typically referencing themselves in some way while calling you weak.

 

Christian Concerns

Doc Louis doesn't always give the best advice...

Doc Louis doesn’t always give the best advice…

There’s not much to say here. It’s a boxing game, but there is no blood. The boxers all taunt Mac between rounds, but there is no foul language. Despite being a boxing game, there are no ring girls walking through the ring in bikinis carrying a card displaying the number of the upcoming round (there are only three rounds in a match).

In his taunts, Soda Popinski makes a few references to drinking. While the player is supposed to understand that he is talking about drinking soda pop (or punch), there is one line in which he states that he can’t drive. This is an obvious reference to not drinking and driving, which as it happens, can serve as a sort of a public service message. So, you can set the little ones down in front of this game and have a great time!

 

Conclusion

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is a great game to play with friends or family. Taking turns beating down all the colorful characters this game has to offer will fill your evening with fun and excitement. Some of the taunts the boxers throw at Mac between rounds are particularly memorable. You will need strategy to defeat every opponent, as this title is by no means a button-masher.

Look carefully: Not one hit scored against Tyson, and he won in six seconds. One-hit knockout. Think you have what it takes?

Look carefully: Not one hit scored against Tyson, and he won in six seconds. One-hit knockout. Think you have what it takes?

Photo Credits: Moby Games

The Bottom Line

 

 

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Steve Schoen

Live to game; game to live. Nominal Christian from birth; practicing Christian since 2002. I love to talk all things gaming, from console classics to Dungeons & Dragons.

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