You hear a whole lotta pissing and moaning from reviewers and fans alike on
replayability in video games. That is, what makes you want to beat a
particular game a second time? And designers within the industry have
internalized this whining and responded to it, as they have with so much
other spoken retard garbage since the post-PSX generation took off. Time
Attack mode. Extra outfits for the characters to wear. Did you happen to
collect all the items the first time through?
Fuckers. They turned a once admirable quality of video games into a
gimmick. But I shouldn't be so hard on the designers of the world. True,
rewarding replayability is rare in games of any age. It requires excellence
in design; an experience so rich and layered that you just know, first time
through, it's not possible to enjoy it all in one go. That, and being easy
to pick-up-and-play doesn't hurt either (hence why connoisseurs play SHMUPS
As Punch Out!'s opening credits attest: This is a story of true victory.
(Mike Tyson's) Punch Out! just happens to be one of these rare games.
The moves are simple. Left and right to dodge in those directions; down to
block; A and B to perform body blows; up + A and B to jab from either
direction; and if you get in an especially juicy hit: a jab when the
opponent drops his guard or a skillful counter punch, you earn a star.
Stars buy you uppercuts, and, if timed right, uppercuts buy you victory.
There'll be a smidge of disorientation while getting used to the working of
the controls. It's not long before you're swinging Little Mac away from the
haymakers and striking back with a swiftness. Later still, you'll begin to
spot openings and exploit them. You'll learn when to use those stars and
when to just plain stay the hell out of the way. The control is smooth and
responsive. It's pleasure, pounding these shifty-eyed donkey punchers down
to the mat, the game play just feels right in a uncluttered way.
Nintendo never released the patterns and programming that drives the boxers
you face in this game. As far as I know, no one's ever bothered to crack
it. So while you can read faqs or watch speed runs, every boxer remains a
puzzle you yourself feel out and untangle. And your opponents, I swear,
they know if you've been away. They can smell your rust. They'll not go
down in the first round like they used to. You'll miss the timing and get
hammered by the pink Russian guy (Soda Popenski. He's pink 'cause he's
filled with the power of Communism). And then he'll laugh the Ganon laugh
at you from Legend of Zelda 2: Link's Sword is Really Just a Bowie Knife,
But Let's Not Tell Him, OKAY? This is what makes this game so damn easy to
come back to, even after you've mastered almost every enemy. The first time
through is all about surviving the matches. The second time through
consists of honing your shear mastery over every boxer until you know how to
K.O. everyone in the first round without taking a hit. The third time comes
the day you pick this up after years have passed and your life is not what
it once was, and now you build up your skills, snatch back your old
sharpness. You'll grin as you remember the trick punches you thought you'd
forgotten. You'll finally nail Bald Bull perfectly the third time he
charges you and wonder how you could have ever let yourself get so soft.
The game doesn't get tired-it transforms-from one challenge into another
without adding a single super-secret boss or bonus cut scene or Legendary
If all us pedantic old schoolers ever get the pleasure of donning an Elitist
pin button, and we ascend our ivory tower to compile and hand down to the
masses from up high our canon of Classic Video Games that Must Be Played if
you're to be taken seriously as an educated gamer, this game must be chapter
within that canon or civilization will die screaming. And any NES top 10/25
list without this game (alongside a Castlevania) is a damned lie!
As a side note, I really do think LoZ2 and Punch Out! had the same
development team. So many of the sound effects are the same, the music
remains classic chip tune ownage. And I'd be remiss for failing to point
out the shared theme between the two games: fighting off badasses with
something really small. You don't have to play too long to figure out what
I'm talking about.
Oh, and the stereotypes. They're unfortunate, but what are you going to do?
Not play this masterpiece? Hey, at least Sandman escaped being one of
Squaresoft's racist caricatures.
There's no other way to close than by a favorite Punch Out! quote of mine.
"Help me Doc!"
"Join the Nintendo Fun Club today Mac!"