It only took about 10 minutes to remember the trick to get the ole NES working. Put the game in just enough to push it down into lock position, hit power, then give the game that extra little push in, hit reset and voila. Old school gaming can begin. After I remembered this little trick came the all important “what fricken game do I start with?” Mario Bros. 1 or 3? What happened to 2 you ask? I mean really, what the hell happened to it, I loaned it to Ian 18 years ago, where the hell is that kid these days? I will think positive and hope he is an astronaut and the serial killer he always dreamed of being. Or do I start with the all mighty classic Zelda or Metroid, well after about two seconds of pondering, I decided to start a bit different than with typical Mario fare or almighty classics. Enter Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! Definitely in my top 5 all time favorites for NES games. I pop in the cartridge and immediately I’m transported to 1987. I am 6 sitting on the floor about 2 feet away from the TV filled with utter excitement to try out this new game. But I am not 6, I am 26 and I have grown into a hairy monster, but I am still 2 feet away from the TV. Just waiting for the giant boxing glove to burst through the Blue background on the Punch Out main screen, oh yea, it’s on.
Back in this game’s hayday I logged in quite a few hours of play, fine tuning and remembering each opponents little movements and patterns. This game is all about timing, just like in real boxing. The gameplay is pretty simple, but considering the time of its release it wasn’t all that bad, especially compared to some of the boxing games out at the time. Simple dodge left, dodge right, block, right jab, left jab, and the almighty ‘Start’ uppercut. All of which become more and more difficult to perform as you move up in the ranks. I can’t tell you how many times I sent that adamantium controller flying across the room because Little Mac didn’t move when I said, only to be punished with a vicious upper cut by Bald Bull or Soda Popinski. Besides those little hiccups which I don’t think are actual hiccups, well I try to tell myself its because the game gets harder, but it’s just me not being on enough caffeine, the gameplay is great.
Visually, well, umm, it’s not bad for an 8bit game. Character face animations and movements are pretty smooth. From each opponents little signature move to Little Mac’s strained face when he lands a heavy uppercut you can see the detail, which for the time was a great thing to capture. The game’s sound makes you feel like you’re right in the ring, ok, maybe not really. All I know is that when I threw an upper cut it made that cool little “whoop!” noise, it made me feel stronger than I have in years.
Now this being an 8bit game the AI well isn’t really AI. It’s just a formulaic structure that allows fewer hit boxes as the player progresses. Simple. But what I think makes this game so much fun is the difference between each opponent and how they fight. They each have their own distinct style from Glass Joe, just being a complete pussy, to Mr. Sandman who is fast as hell and hits like a motherf$#ker. Each have their own hints as to when and what type of punch they are going to throw, and each having a “power” hit that all have giant weaknesses. The funny thing is that the developers tried so hard to give the fighters some character that they made them all vicious racist stereotypes. But it was overkill, because the movements provide the fighters with more than enough character.
Obviously this game has a good replay value. Hell it came out in 1987 and here I am 20 years later playing it again and having just as much fun as I did when I first played it. This time around though it took me 30 minutes and change to get to Mr. Sandman, who is one of the last two fighters you face before Tyson. I’ve only beaten Tyson once in my entire Punch Out career. Luckily, after waiting 20 years, I feel pretty comfortable that I am beating that bastard at the game of life. Who knows maybe face tattoo’s will get popular before they erect the Thunderdome. Needless to say, this game is still fun as hell and will remain in my top 5 all time favorites for NES games for some time.
[8bit Take]: It’s a classic, of course it’s good.