Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Release Date: October 18, 1987
Here’s a staple of my childhood, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! You take on the role of Little Mac as you battle your way up the ladder of the professional boxing circuit to earn the Minor, Major, and World Circuit championships. Along the way, you face off against a contingent of national stereotyped fighters. My favorites are the weak Frenchman, Glass Joe; The drunk Russian, Soda Popinski (c’mon Nintendo of America, Vodka Drunkinski was too adult?); and the incredibly muscled Super Macho Man of America.
Controls are simple enough. Mac throws a left body punch with the B Button, a right body punch with the A Button. If you hold up while pressing either punch button, he’ll throw to the face. If you’re lucky enough to have a star in your possession, you can press the Start Button to throw an uppercut. You can dodge left or right by pressing left or right. You can block a punch by pressing down and you can duck by double tapping down. As a kid, I didn’t know ducking was a thing, so it’s not a huge part of my repertoire now, but it’s helpful.
Each boxer has their own set of punches and patterns for you to learn. Some of them stick to a special move at a certain time on the clock. Others are a little more random. Winning the Minor Circuit is an easy task. The Major Circuit isn’t much more difficult. The World Circuit is where the difficulty ramps up. Opponents become more powerful and timing requirements become much tighter. I would say Soda Popinski is where the difficulty spikes and then it stays relatively high for the rest of the game.
If you can win all three titles, you can advance to the Dream Fight with Mike Tyson himself. This is one of the ultimate tests of being an 8-bit gamer. If you can beat Mike Tyson, you’re one of the upper echelon. This is a task I could complete in my younger days, but was unable to do now. In my best of what was probably fifty attempts, I made it into Round 3, only to have my head knocked off. Maybe my response time has fallen considerably over the past 30 years. Maybe there’s some lag inherent in the emulator. Either way, I failed. Tyson knocks you out with one punch in the first 90 seconds of the fight. The rest of round 1 is where you can do some good damage, but then he gets tricky in Rounds 2 and 3, especially with his rapid jabs.
Between rounds, Mac talks to his trainer Doc Louis. Sometimes Doc has a piece of advice, other times he’s useless. The opponents often have something to say that is entertaining, as well. Addendum: I decided to give Tyson a shot on the NES. It took me about 20 minutes, but I beat Tyson in Round 3. I’ve still got it.
The boxers all look good, even if they all have a palette swap.
The music is all classic and the sound effects are used wonderfully. They even have Gannon’s laugh in there.
Everything is as smooth as butter.
I think the difficulty curve is just about perfect. Tyson’s impenetrability is what docks this a bit, although it creates that pedestal for those that have defeated him.
Fun Factor: 3.5
It’ll piss you off, but you’ll have a great time and find yourself going back for more.
Overall Grade: 3.6
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! earns an A-. Definitely in the top of NES games. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is an all time classic and must be played be everyone.