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Review – Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Easily described as one of the best Nintendo games ever, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! has entertained millions of people throughout the last 25 years. It is often the gold standard of boxing games, and has yet to be match in terms of its nostalgia and entertainment value. MTPO is the definitive entry in the franchise, and is a landmark game in the Nintendo library.

The original Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!! were originally arcade games that were released in Japan. The games were a rousing success. However, to become Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, it includes an interesting background. The story goes that Mike Tyson, prior to his first WBC title, was seen at a boxing match displaying his raw skills in the ring by a person involved with the NES version of the game. He was approached to include his likeness in the game, and ultimately agreed on a contract. This contract only lasted so long, and eventually MTPO ended up becoming Punch-Out!! for the NES after the contract had expired.

Graphically, the game was not able to match the abilities of the arcade version, and most games are unable to do so within the older consoles. Knowing that the home version would need to be altered, developers decided to create the player-controlled boxer to be much smaller in order to see the full-sized version of your opponents. This is the creation story of Little Mac.

Players control Little Mac throughout a series of title fights and move their way up the boxing ranks, ultimately facing Mike Tyson. Plugging in MTPO into the Nintendo, players are greeted with the familiar sound of the bell ringing to indicate the start of a fight. Glass Joe is your first opponent, and is a great way to get accustomed to the controls. You must duck and weave against their punches, and are able to block them as well. Glass Joe tends to go down midway through round one for most experienced gamers. If this is your first time, you may end up taking him all the way to round 3 for a decision. If you’re quick enough and can score three knockdowns in a round, it’s a TKO. In any case, the controls are smooth, and mostly responsive. Only rarely, and most likely against the later foes, will the controls seems like they don’t respond as fast as your reflexes in some cases. This could be just because I’m getting older and my responsiveness could be slowing, but I will deny that notion for at least a few more years.

The boxers you face have incredible personality for a NES game. You will meet the likes of Don Flamenco early on. He’s a Spanish boxer with much flair. He has his own theme music he enters to, and that would be from the opera Carmen. He relies on his “Flamenco Punch” for his take-down, but is easily readable. You will also meet King Hippo, who at first, seems to be impervious to your punches. Once you find the way to beat him, he becomes relatively easy. It helps that your trainer gives you hints in between rounds to help in your progress. You will encounter others such as Bald Bull, Super Macho Man, and my friend Tim’s favorite, Soda Popinski. Some characters use similar move sets and models, just changing the face to make them seem like separate characters. Overall though, you get a good amount of variety…and stereotypes.

Once you get to Tyson, this is the most challenging opponent by far. I can honestly say I have never beat Tyson. In my previous attempts, I would get knocked down within the first 15 seconds or so. He has a vicious punch and will knock you out in no time. The key is to dodge all the punches for the first half of round 1, then you MAY have a shot at it. In my latest attempt, I lasted close to that mark, but was never able to land more than one or two punches on Tyson. I haven’t seen anyone personally beat him either, but with practice, I’m sure I would be able to take him down.

Music in MTPO is one of my favorites. The interlude music is our theme song for the Retro4Ever’s podcast series and adds a great sense of accomplishment to your journey. Though, I never understood why Little Mac is wearing a pink hoodie jogging behind a bike. They totally did that in Rocky, right? The theme music for the boxers are also done very well, and creates individuality. I’m not a huge fan of King Hippo’s music, but you can’t win them all. The sound effects are done in great taste, and are appropriate to the boxing. When you reel back to land a super punch, you know by the sound effects that if it lands, you’re in business.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is one of my favorite NES games of all-time. It has held up incredibly well over the years, and so much so that the iteration without Tyson has made its way to both the Wii and the 3DS. It spawned numerous sequels and upgrades, and the original still is played by many of those within my inner circle. Players begin to notice certain tips, trick, and nuances to specific fighters which will help in their defeat. We’re not a Tips & Tricks website, so I will spare you the secrets, but it is well worth the journey to find out for yourself what they are. MTPO can be picked up online and in most secondhand stores for under $15, and is well worth the purchase. You will plug it in, get going, and before you know it, two hours have passed. It is the perfect mix of nostalgia and function, and is certainly a must own. Just don’t blame me if you happen to spend an entire night submersed in this gem.