Released in 1987 after the success of the arcade game in America and Japan, Punch Out was a very addictive game which was brought to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Mike Tyson's name was brought to the franchise after his devastating victory over then WBC World Boxing Champion Trevor Berbick. This was considered to be a calculated risk at the time as Nintendo was unaware of how successful the young champion would be. Mike Tyson's reign would last 'til 1990 and Nintendo held the license to his name for two years so it was definitely a risk that paid off. If you get through the entire game, he will be your last opponent. Good luck with that one!
In the arcades players would have a transparent boxer character to play as to put themselves in the role of the boxer. By doing this, the developers distracted from the lack of control of footwork and immerse them into the character. The home system version didn't have the advantage of an arcade machine so it would need a way to get the same feeling but without limiting the onscreen view. This was back in the eighties before people had large HD televisions. Nintendo introduced the character of "Little Mac," who would be a small middleweight type fighter, boxing much bigger fighters on screen. By doing this, it gave the opponent more presence on screen and made the cartoon action much more of a spectacle for the home television.
'Get up, damn it!'
Again there was no moving around the ring in the home console version. Players could strictly dodge left, dodge right, and block. This didn't really take away from the experience though and the game was still enjoyable. It would take strategy, watching your opponent's fighting pattern, and deciding when to throw your own punches. With the opponents being that much bigger, the player couldn't just throw everything. The shots needed to be placed when the opponent was most vulnerable. Nintendo would give a few visual cues; having the opponent flash red for a split second usually meant it was beneficially to throw a punch.
From the Arcade to the Living Room!
Little Mac's stamina is indicated by a heart symbol and a number beside it, and the number only goes down if the player's punch is blocked or misses. The player can earn a power-up by landing a well-timed punch or dodge. This is a powerful uppercut which can send an opponent reeling to the canvas.
The characters are all kinds of crazy from typical stereotypes like the German Kaiser above or King Hippo from the Pacific Islands. One of my favourites is Piston Honda, a Chinese Heavyweight who wiggles his eyebrows before he throws a punch. Some have special quirks to them as well. Piston will throw a huge barrage which usually knocks the player down. When this happens they must tap the A button to get up as quickly as possible; three knockdowns in a round will earn the opponent a TKO. As the bizarre challengers keep coming, expect some bizarre attacks too; Great Tiger is an Indian magician who can teleport!
'I dance so well for you!'
There are 3 rounds in each match and it's very difficult for a player to box to a decision. The best way to win is to knock out your opponent or get the most knockdowns for a decision win. Between each round is like a dramatic interlude. Mac will get advice from his trainer Doc Louis while your opponent will usually taunt you in true boxing style!
You will also see the damage done on the fighters here depending on how well you did in the previous round. Don Flemenco asks you not to mess his hair. If you do enough damage, you'll see he's actually wearing a toupee.
'It'sa meee, Mario...'
The game utilises a passcode feature which saves your progress as you win various championships through the game. This also keeps your fight record earned, which is quite novel. In true Nintendo style, Super Mario referees all of your bouts. It took me a few goes to recognise him. I only realised when Don Flemenco starts complimenting his hair between rounds. This is a great game but might feel a bit dated now unless you played it when you were younger and want to feel that nostalgia. I don't think it's as good as the arcade version but there's an enjoyable experience here.
Overall 3 out of 5