Punch-out!! is one of my favorite games on the NES, and the only cart besides The Legend of Zelda I was truly envious of, since I had a Commodore 64 instead of a Nintendo at the time. There have been five different titles in the Punch-out!! series over the years – for the arcade, the NES, the SNES and the Wii – yet I still think the NES version is the best. There are actually two different variations on the NES. One cart features Mike Tyson as the final opponent, the other a more generic Mr. Dream.
Punch-out!! is an arcade boxing title and it has more in common with rhythm games – like Parappa the Rappa – than traditional sports games. You play as Little Mac and, in your quest for the championship title, you'll fight a series of giant boxers. Your opponents, with names such as King Hippo and Bald Bull, are cartoonish and entertainingly silly. The banter of the boxers, as well as your coach, fleshes out the characters and provides a hint of a story between rounds.
During play, you cannot really move around the ring, but you can block, dodge and counter punch. The keys to winning are pattern recognition and timing, as well as figuring out what counter moves will best overcome the other boxers' various special moves.
Like many NES games, I generally make it only so far before the game outwits me. Yet I'm having such a great time playing, I don't mind. Someday I'll beat you Soda Popinski!
- Ben Langberg