|David and Goliath?|
You play as Little Mac, a 17 year old boxer looking to work his way up to the top of the leagues. You’ll square off against bizarre opponents like Glass Joe, King Hippo, and Don Flamenco. Many of them are hilarious in their own way, be it their on-screen actions, their imitation of popular icons, or their lighthearted representation of stereotypes. What makes the game so memorable, even to this day, is the all-star cast. While the Virtual Console version lacks Mike Tyson, this helps the player to truly enjoy what is offered instead of trying to breeze through the game just to fight Mike.
The fights themselves are somewhat deceptive; Punch-Out!! is more of a timing-based puzzle game than a genuine fighter. If you simply mash on the attack button and dodge blows to the best of your ability, you won’t make it further than the first few rounds. Instead, you must learn the habits of your opponent and catch onto whatever odd behavior they exhibit before launching devastating attacks. Little Mac essentially has four moves at his disposal: left jab, right hook, dodge, and a special attack. Unlike Mac’s other moves, the special attack can only be used after some success within the fights. In between rounds, you have the option to heal once, which adds an extra helping of strategic flavor to the game.
Punch-Out!!’s difficulty is fairly well rounded. The first few opponents are total pushovers, but they can get absurdly difficult by the end. Anyone can pick up and play the game without too many hitches, so long as they can identify the puzzle elements. Resuming play after a game over is a little archaic due to the use of passwords for “saving” progress, but you can always search up a password on the Internet to erase the problem. The game’s length mainly comes from discovering the weakness of opponents, so once you’ve found all the weaknesses, it may or may not warrant subsequent playthroughs.
|Could this match-up get more exciting?|
Visually, Punch-Out!! is several steps above other NES games of its time period, and it has a large amount of visual charm in spite of its age. It’s worth noting that each fighter is presented exceptionally well, both during and before the match through an informational sheet. The soundtrack is somewhat thin, lacking a large diversity in tracks. You’ll mostly be hearing the same tune throughout all of Little Mac’s fights, even title bouts, so it can get repetitive. The sounds themselves are comical, further cementing the idea that Punch-Out!! doesn't take itself too seriously. The numerable individual jingles played prior to when boxers enter the fray are particularly memorable.
Those looking for a full-out fighting game will honestly be dissatisfied with Punch-Out!!. However, it still appeals to a fairly large audience due to its unique blend of puzzles, humor, and fighting. If you can appreciate titles that rely on comedic value, Punch-Out!! will be a knock-out hit.
- Clark A
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