Eye Of The Tiger
With the release of Creed II and the announcement that Rocky Balboa is being retired as a character, I wanted to take some time to revisit the greatness that is Rocky.
Sadly, the Rocky video games are all pretty subpar. I have played the ColecoVision and Sega Master System games via emulation. I received the first PS2 title for Christmas the year of its release, and I promptly beat it that day before relegating it to the bottom of my game stack.
Luckily, there’s a video game that out-Rockies Rocky.
A tale of a scrappy boxer named Little Mac, who along with his trainer, Doc, must face off against a globe-spanning roster of seemingly impossible opponents, ultimately facing Iron Mike Tyson himself.
Go For It!
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was a game I knew as a kid, but I never really dove into it. My brother and I borrowed it from a friend in the neighborhood for a weekend, but all we wanted to do was use the code to get to Mike Tyson.
For some reason, it was more fun to warp to the end and get our asses kicked than to play through the game properly.
Once I got my first job and focused on rebuilding my NES collection, I would branch out and procure the games that had always interested me. Naturally, one of those titles was Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! as Iron Mike was still a big deal in the summer of 1998. It was at this point that I finally was able to work through the game properly.
The gameplay is timeless enough that it felt just as fresh playing the game a decade after it came out as it would have upon release. Ultimately, that is the true beauty of the game. Whereas most boxing games struggle to be a simulation of the sport, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is hardly a sports game.
I have heard it compared to a rhythm game, and, after thinking about it, it is much closer to Parappa the Rapper than Knockout Kings.
Outside of Glass Joe, the first opponent with a measly 1-99 record, the player can’t just barge in and start throwing punches and expect to win. The succeeding fighters each have distinct styles that dictate when the player should throw a punch and when they should go on the defensive.
That’s not to say that the game loses its difficulty after knowing the pattern, as precision timing is the second key to victory.
While the gameplay is still rudimentary yet challenging, the real appeal of the game is working up the ladder of the different circuits and squaring off against the different stereotypes.
In this PC addled age, it’s comforting that not too long ago a company was willing to publish a game with a Flamenco dancing Spaniard, a magical Hindu, a “soda” swigging Russian, and what I assume is a former Hitler Youth.
One of the stranger characters on the roster is King Hippo who is from the fictional Hippo Island (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that).
A fun fact about him is it’s unknown how much he weighs because he’s either too fat and breaks the scale or he bites at anyone who tries to get close to him.
He also drops his pants when he gets punched in the gut. Of all the characters lifted for inclusion on Captain N: The Game Master, his is probably the truest to his original design.
Showing they were able to laugh at their own nationality, Nintendo put in potentially the most offensive character of Piston Honda, hailing from Tokyo, Japan.
In the between round screen, one of his phrases is to just shout Japanese words that a five-year-old would know, such as sushi and kamikaze. Truly, it was a golden age.
Get Up! You Son Of A Bitch!
After learning the secrets to knocking out the first few challengers, the game cranks up the difficulty to sodomy and beyond with the last few opponents.
Depending on how recently I’ve played, I can usually get to Soda Popinski before he wipes the floor with my battered carcass. After a few rounds with him, I typically quit out of frustration and put the game back on the shelf for a few months, but I always vow to return.
As previously mentioned, the ultimate challenge is Iron Mike Tyson himself, and downing him in this game is the nerd equivalent of banging a real girl. If his glove even grazes Little Mac’s face in the first round, it’s an instant knockdown.
Of course, every school lunch table was full of stories of kids who were able to defeat Mike Tyson, but I call bullshit on all of them.
The series would see a Tyson-less re-release on the NES, simply called Punch-Out!!. In this version, the final opponent is Mr. Dream, a lazy palette-swapped version of Mike Tyson.
The series would go on to see sequels released on the SNES and Wii, but they never quite captured the cultural zeitgeist that the Mike Tyson version was able to conjure up.
To this day, any mention of the words “punch out” is sure to ignite conversation of how hard Tyson is to knock out, either that or maple-syruping up Bear Hugger’s hairy tits.