I never got the chance to play the original Punch-Out on the NES when I was younger. I can remember watching friends play Super Punch Out! on the SNES, but I never got to play that one either. Granted, there are ways I could’ve played it in the past and can easily do so now, but somehow, some way, the first Punch-Out game I’ve ever played ended up being the most recent one released on the Wii console in 2009.
And man do I feel left out for missing the first two games cause this one was so much fun to play!
I’ve never really been a fan of boxing games, whether realistic or arcade versions of the sport. But Punch-Out comes off as a very addictive, unique and honestly, a fair boxing game. The first round of fights are easy enough, giving you time to get used to the controls and understand the signs you need to be looking for to avoid getting your face knocked off. So by the time you get to the final set of fighters, you’ve had the time to get used to the controls and do-able fights before it’s time to get your shit pushed in.
I’ve still yet to beat Mr. Sandman in the same way I’m sure a lot of people have never beaten Mike Tyson in the original NES title that carried his name. It took me a while to figure out all of Aran Ryan’s tells, Super Macho Man took a ton of tries to finally beat before time would run out, but Mr. Sandman? Not a chance, he either royally whips my ass, or I can’t do remotely enough damage to him before the match is over. And yet, I’m not bothered by this, in fact I’m okay with it. The game is challenging but not in an unfair way, each opponent gives you the signs, it’s all about you memorizing them and getting your timing down, not to mention your hand-eye coordination. It’s not that it’s too hard, I just haven’t got the patterns down yet.
What really sells the game though is the vast variety of the cast of opponents you’ll face over the course of the game. And while some people may think they’re racist stereotypes, they’re honestly not as much as they used to be (see Pizza Pasta, yes that is a real opponent in the series) and in fact they’ve been overhauled and re-designed a bit to be a lot more enjoyable and a lot more accurate than we first thought. Each character comes off as a bit more of a fun stereotyping of a certain character’s background, rather than just a terribly researched and hateful creation of that character. And because of that, each opponent for the most part even when they’re kicking your ass, you can’t help but enjoy the time you spend with each opponent and their quirkiness.
And for a bit more of a background on the characters in the game, check out Gaijin Goombah’s video on the subject:
In terms of the game itself, it’s so much fun that even when I haven’t finished the game, I can happily go back to it after a long break, start from scratch and it still feels fresh to me. I will happily go back and give Glass Joe a good smacking and re-visit all the other opponents and re-learn their tells and kick their asses too, only to run into Mr. Sandman again and get thrashed again.
If you’ve never played the series, I would definitely look into it, even if you’ve never had an interest in boxing. For a sport that can be very mundane and boring to play, the Punch-Out series does a fantastic job at not only making the game mechanics fun to play and fair at the same time, but also creating a world and a cast of characters that are also enjoyable and only further add onto the fun that the game already is.