Not always, but in life it can sometimes be good to go back, to go back to the past and play those…well games from yesteryear. Nintendo thought so, because with the release of the 8th generation console the Wii U, Nintendo developed and released two games that drew upon the games from the NES era and added challenges in order to gain stars. The more stars you got the more games it unlocks. The first game, entitled NES Remix was launched in Europe December 18th 2013 and the second game entitled NES Remix 2 was released 25th April 2014 which as a game that challenges were based on, included Punch-Out!! (The double exclamation mark being the title, not my excitement about the game). So looking back at the game did it deliver a knock out blow to floor it’s rivals or leave you on the mat counting to 10 for it to be over?
Punch-Out!! was released in Europe in December 1987 and is a port of an arcade game developed by Nintendo themselves in 1984. Punch-Out!! is a boxing game where you control the character Little Mac, as he works his way up through the boxing circuit, starting out at the bottom on the Minor Circuit working your way up in difficulty to the man himself Mike Tyson, though in later versions was Mr Dream. As per normal standard boxing rules, you have to beat your opponent to a pulp, either by knocking him to the mat three times to get a triple knock-out (TKO) in one round, or if you hit your opponent hard enough, and the ref counts to 10 whilst the opponent is on the mat. With the arcade version, the characters were larger and had wire framing for the main character, so as the NES could not replicate the powerful arcade graphics and processing, the development team made the characters smaller, in order to see more on screen, and added passwords to save progress and animated cut scenes.
On screen, Little Mac can jab, do body blows and when he has the ability to, to do a powerful uppercut. The uppercuts are limited, as in order to perform this, you need to have earned a star – typically from counter-attacking the opponent’s punches. Though not always, the uppercut when timed right can inflict a powerful punch that will send your opponent to the mat regardless of the health he has. On screen it shows the number of “stars” you have, your health which starts at 20 and goes down with every punch you make or the damage you have incurred, the enemies’ health bar and also the timer, being a standard 3 minutes a round. You can dodge your opponents attack, which when timed right can give you the ability to get a few punches on your opponent draining his energy. If you run out of health, you turn purple (something that wouldn’t look amiss from Bart Vs The Space Mutants) and have to mash the buttons as quickly as possible so that your opponent doesn’t knock you out. If that should happen, it’s that moment where you close your eyes and imagine your playing Track and Field and hopefully, you might live to fight another round.
The controls are fluid and responsive – The A button punches with the right arm and the B button punches with the left arm. When you hold the Up d-pad button with A or B, you perform a normal uppercut, whilst holding the down d-pad and A or B does a body blow. You can dodge attacks with the left or right d-pad, which as mentioned above you will need to familiarise yourself with in order to dodge attacks. The start button is where the powerful uppercut comes into play, but only if you have a star in order to do this. The graphics are bright and bold and although the crowd do look the same, that’s not why we play this game, right? The characters you control and play are colourful and varied, and even Mario makes an appearance as the referee – as if saving the Princess didn’t take up enough of his time, nor playing golf or tennis at the weekends… The music is upbeat and the sound effects suit the game well, this certainly wouldn’t be a time to put on your headphones and listen to 1970’s disco, so let the sounds form the cartridge enhance your experience.
Punch-Out!! is a game worthy enough to be in anyone’s NES collection. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the characters quirky and charming which make you remember them. A lot of the game has had an enduring legacy from character names such as Glass Joe and King Hippo, down to a particular meme that is popular after winning the Minor Circuit. Although games can be bad and have moments that last through the years, the fact that Punch-Out!! has varied legacies shows the appeal of the game. If you have 30 minutes then it certainly is worth popping this into your console and with the help of the password system, it doesn’t feel like you have to start playing with Glass Joe every time you pop the cartridge in the machine. Copies are common in all good game shops and online auction sites, so although you may not agree with violence, how can you not fall in love with this game? I’m off to get big boy pants in purple and train hard though I’m more a lover than a fighter…
Rating – 5 out of 5