A Brief History of Boxing Video Games - Page Two


PART II: Body Blow! Knock Him Out!

It was 1984, and we were in between Rocky III and Rocky IV. There was a new love affair with boxing, which spilled over into the arcades. One of the biggest games of the year was a coin-op by Nintendo called Punch Out. Punch Out became a phenomenon; it had great graphics, it was fun to play, and the machine wouldn't stop yelling, "Body Blow!" Punch Out was a first-person boxing game, where the player was a green wireframe boxer which allowed an unobstructed view of the rival boxer. The fights started out easy, with Glass Joe being an easy knockout. This was a great tactic, because little kids could pump quarters into the machine, beat the first guy and feel like they actually did something. But after Joe came a string of progressively harder opponents. Each boxer had a weakness, and the key to becoming champ was to look for that opening. One trick was paying attention to their eyes, which flashed yellow when it was time to score that key punch.

Punch Out did have a sequel at the arcades, but nothing matched Nintendo's port of the game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Released in 1987, Mike Tyson's Punch Out! had some slight differences from it's arcade predecessor, the most obvious being the addition of then boxing wunderkind, Mike Tyson, to the game. The green wireframe boxer was also replaced by Little Mac, a kid from the Bronx with one hell of a punch. To achieve what the wireframe did, Little Mac was just that, little. About half the size of the other boxers, to be exact. The game was the same as the arcade: combine headshots and body blows to weaken your opponent and look for the patterns and openings. The championship bout was now against Tyson, and there was something completely thrilling about punching out a man who, at that time, was an undefeated monster in the ring. For some reason, one of the most memorable parts of the game was the Rocky inspired cutscenes between fights that showed Little Mac and his portly coach training hard. Mike Tyson's Punch Out! went on to be one of the best selling console video games of all time, but I always wondered if Tyson himself every beat the game. I can imagine him getting beaten by Bald Bull and getting so enraged that he hurls his television set into his gold-plated Lamborghini.

Years later, Nintendo released a sequel to Mike Tyson's Punch Out!, sans Mike Tyson. Super Punch Out was released for the Super Nintendo in 1994 and was updated for the 16-bit generation. All the old favorites were back; Piston Hurricane, Bald Bull and Mr. Sandman, along with a whole host of new palookas like Gabby Jay and the impossibly hard Hoy Quarlow. By this time, the franchise had already seen its golden years, and the game wasn't nearly as successful as the previous incarnations. Who knows if we'll get another Punch Out game. The Nintendo Revolution's unique motion-sensitive controller may be the perfect thing to resuscitate the mighty Punch Out!.