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VC Review: Punch Out!!

Back in 1987, the NES was getting flooded with titles, both quality and garbage. Nintendo crafted many of the quality titles of the time for their console with love and care, and it showed. Punch Out!! is one of those titles. This is one of the classic NES games with a strong following, and there’s a very good reason why: it’s a solid title sopping wet with personality and is a rock-hard challenge to any determined gamer. While this version may not have the likeness of Mike Tyson (as the original NES release did) it has everything else–and that’s more than enough

Punch Out!! is a boxing game starring a puny but spry boxer appropriately named Little Mac. All of the opponents he faces are larger than him, and the later boxers dwarf him in size. This was a clever choice because it creates a charming comedic touch to the game’s personality–Mac has to jump to punch his opponents in the face, for example. It adds an element of playing the role of the underdog, taking on seemingly impossible odds and overcoming them. And furthermore, this takes away that nasty “transparent boxer” concept that was featured in Wii Boxing as well as the original arcade version of Punch Out!!

The graphics are amazing for an NES title. Sprites are huge and very well-animated for their time. Since the game relies on twitch reflexes by analyzing your opponents moves and anticipating their attacks, great care was paid to foot movement, facial expressions, and back swings on punches. Granted, the locations are limited to slightly different colored boxing rings–but this is a boxing game. Instead of simply slopping the game together, much attention was given to detail to make a game with limited environments spring to life with character. Mario even makes a cameo appearance as the referee–a nice touch that adds that good old Nintendo shine. The sound is fine, but very limited to only a few tunes. Fortunately, what little there is sounds good and does add the drama of a fight to the proceedings.

What will keep you coming back to Punch Out!! again and again is its addicting, reflex-based gameplay. Sharp and a knife and solid as steel, Punch Out!! delivers a stunningly fun and challenging experience, and beating the game is heralded as one of gaming’s revered achievements (one that I’m still striving to achieve myself after over 15 hours of game play). The game starts off very easy, and gradually works its way up to extremely difficult. Easing the player along at a steady pace and ramping up difficulty at a comfortable rate is a task many games fail to reach, but Punch Out!! succeeds. As the player reaches a new series of boxers, they may be overwhelmed at first, but as they play each fighter again and again, they’ll master his techniques and eventually be able to breeze through him with little trouble.

Later on in the game, when the player is bombarded with a long string of consecutive foes with no checkpoint in between, fighting the same four or five fighters whenever you want to get one (maybe two) shots at defeating the next fighter you haven’t beaten yet can be a bit daunting and repetitive–such is the hard core challenge the game provides. Finally beating that difficult foe who’s mashed up your face into applesauce on numerous occasions delivers a strong sense of reward. And if you can beat Mr. Dream himself, you’ve earned yourself a badge. If the Wii had the type of achievements Sony is promising for their new Home system, beating Punch Out!! would be quite a coveted trophy, to be sure.

As an NES title for 500 Wii Points ($5), this title is well-worth the money if you commit yourself to mastering the game–which is basically required to beat it. Depending on your skill, hours and hours can be spent on this game despite its quick and slick arcade nature simply because it’s so challenging and skill-based. If you shy away from tough challenges (or pink jogging suits, I suppose), maybe Punch Out!! isn’t for you. But I recommend it to anyone else.

Awards:

Hardcore Difficulty

Final Word:

Buy It! 

This is one of the best games to grace the NES, and a classic sports game to boot–but you don’t necessarily need to be a boxing fan to appreciate Punch Out!!‘s solid gameplay. It will deliver a one-two knockout to your Virtual Console with its charming personality and raw challenge. Stickin’ and movin’ is more fun than you might think, and for $5 and a drive to win, you’ll get a very good value out of this quirky, well-crafted title.

“Dancin’ like a fly, bite like a mosquito!”

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