Punch-Out!!,[a] originally titled Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!,[b] is a boxing sports fighting video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) developed and published by Nintendo in 1987. Years later, worldwide releases of the game were rebranded as Punch-Out!! Part of the Punch-Out!! series, it is an adaptation of both the Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!! arcade games with some variations. The game received critical acclaim and many publications often list it among one of the greatest video games of all time.
Genyo Takeda (the producer of the Punch-Out!! arcade games), was the assigned director of the NES variation of the game. Because the NES was not as powerful as the arcade hardware, Takeda and his crew realized that it would be impossible for the NES port to faithfully emulate the arcade graphics. Instead of making the playable boxer wire-framed or transparent in order to see an opponent, they decided to make the playable boxer more short-bodied, so that players could easily see opponents over the large head room of the playable boxer. Because of the playable boxer's short stature, they renamed the unknown challenger to Little Mac, a name that would remain relatively consistent throughout the series. Along with the boxer's new name and look, a plot was created, background music played during fights, animated cutscenes to break up the usual gameplay, and a password system for saving progress. The game also changed the AI ability of the opposing boxers, with each opponent following a set pattern that required trial and error and memorization of players to figure out how to defeat each one. This was added to the game to make it less arcade like, where the opposing boxers were more randomized in their moves, to ensure that games would not go on too long before a player would need to put more money in the machine to continue playing.
Around the time the Gold Version of the game was released for a NES Open Tournament Golf competition, Nintendo of America's founder and former president Minoru Arakawa attended a boxing match featuring future heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. While watching the boxer fight, Arakawa became so astonished with the athlete's "power and skill", he was inspired to use the athlete's name and likeness in the upcoming port of the Punch-Out!! series to help the game sell better. Tyson was rumored to have been paid $50,000 for a three-year period for his likeness. This transaction was something of a risk for Nintendo, as it occurred before Tyson won the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship from Trevor Berbick on November 22, 1986, a feat that greatly increased the profit for the game.
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Punch-Out!! features a boxer known as Little Mac, fighting his way up through ranks of the World Video Boxing Association. After facing a series of colorful fictional opponents in three main circuits, with one hidden one called Another Wolrd Circuit, the goal is to win a final "Dream Fight" against a highly skilled boxer. In the Gold Version, this is Super Macho Man, who was also the final opponent in the arcade game, "Super Punch-Out!!; in the original version released in the West, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, this is the real-life Mike Tyson, then-World Heavyweight Champion; in versions released in the West after the license to use Mike Tyson expired, this is the fictional Mr. Dream.
Little Mac has a limited repertoire compared to most of his opponents. His punches are limited to left and right jabs, left and right body blows, and a powerful uppercut. The uppercut can only be used once the player earns a star, which is typically accomplished by counter-punching the opponent directly before or after certain attacks are launched. The player can acquire up to three stars. To perform the uppercut, the player needs to press the start button once a star is earned. To defend, Mac can dodge left or right, duck, and block punches by putting up his guard.
Little Mac also has a heart counter, which decreases upon being hit, blocking a punch, or throwing a punch that the opponent dodges or blocks. When the counter decreases to zero, Little Mac temporarily turns pink and appears exhausted, leaving the player unable to attack but still able to dodge, duck, and block. At this point, Mac can regain some hearts (and his normal color palette) only by avoiding the opponent's punches. He immediately loses all of his hearts upon being knocked down, but can regain some by getting up.
A bout can end by knockout (KO), if a fighter is unable to get up within ten seconds after being knocked down; by technical knockout (TKO), if a fighter is knocked down three times in one round; or by decision, if the bout lasts three full rounds without a clear winner. In order to win by decision, the player must accumulate higher than a certain point total by punching the opponent and/or knocking him down; the needed total varies from one boxer to the next. However, some bouts cannot be won in this manner and will automatically result in a loss for the player if the opponent is not knocked out. Mac can only get up two times during any one bout; if he is knocked down a third cumulative time, he will be unable to rise and thus lose by knockout.
When Mac loses his first bout to a ranked opponent, he will have a chance to fight a rematch. However, if he loses a Title Bout, he will fall in the rankings – one place for the Minor or Major Circuits, two places for the World Circuit. Losing a rematch causes him to fall one place (unless he is already at the bottom of his circuit), forcing him to fight his way back up. A third loss (not necessarily a consecutive one), or a loss in the Dream Fight, ends the game.
The theme song for Punch Out!! is the "Look Sharp/Be Sharp March", composed by Mahlon Merrick sometime between 1953 and 1956. The theme was originally used for the radio and TV program Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (ran 1942–1960), a program which covered a variety of different sports, but over time began to focus more on boxing. Prior to the release of Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! in 1987, the song was featured in the 1980 boxing film, Raging Bull.
Little Mac faces a total of 14 opponents: three in the Minor Circuit, four in the Major Circuit, six in the World Circuit, and Mike Tyson/Mr. Dream. However, three of the World Circuit bouts involve previously defeated opponents with new moves.
Except for King Hippo, every opponent character sprite is used twice during the game, with a change of head image, colors, and special moves.
In addition, Mario makes a cameo appearance as the referee.
These characters include:
- Glass Joe: A stereotypical wimp from Paris, France. He is the first fighter you face in the game and the Minor Circuit.
- Von Kaiser: An ex-military officer from West Berlin, West Germany. He is the second opponent in the Minor Circuit.
- Piston Honda: An experienced boxer from Tokyo, Japan. He is the champion of the Minor Circuit.
- Don Flamenco: A former bull fighter from Madrid, Spain. Don is the first fighter from the Major Circuit and the first fighter to need a strategy involving his taunts.
- King Hippo: An overweight fighter from the fictional Hippo Island, located in the South Pacific. He can only be hit on the belly, which remains well-guarded until his hands go way up in the air; and if knocked down once, he will not get up again. Hippo is a Major Circuit Boxer.
- Great Tiger: An magical boxer from Mumbai, India that can teleport and trick the player.
- Bald Bull: Bald Bull is a fighter from Istanbul, Turkey, and has his own signature move. He will charge at Little Mac to knock him down in one punch, which can be prevented with a body blow. He is champion of the Major Circuit.
- Soda Popinski: A burly boxer from Moscow, Russia who enjoys drinking soda. Originally named "Vodka Drunkenski".
- Mr. Sandman: A black boxer from Philadelphia, known for his triple uppercut move that can be deadly to the player.
- Super Macho Man: A boxer from Hollywood, California who is the World Circuit champion.
- Mike Tyson: The last fight in the game and is noted as one of the hardest bosses in all of video game history.
- Mr. Dream: A reskin for Mike Tyson in the game's re-releases.
Before the public release of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Nintendo released the game in a gold-colored Famicom cartridge simply titled Punch-Out!! in Japan, without Mike Tyson in it, as a prize for participating in the Famicom Disk System's Famicom Golf: U.S. Course tournament held in September 1987. 10,000 units were produced, half were given as high score prizes, and the rest were given as a lottery winnings. Mike Tyson does not appear in this version of the game; instead, the final opponent is Super Macho Man, who was also the final opponent in the Super Punch-Out!! arcade game.
Nintendo later released Punch-Out!! to the public as the Mike Tyson version in Japan.
All references to Mike Tyson were removed from the game once Nintendo's license had expired. Mike Tyson's name was dropped from the title, and his likeness was replaced by a fictional character named "Mr. Dream". This version of the game is used in all Virtual Console releases, Animal Crossing, and the NES Classic Edition.
Punch-Out!! (released under the title Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream in English to distinguish the game from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!) was released on Wii's Virtual Console service on March 30, 2007 in Europe and Australia, on April 3, 2007 in Japan, and on April 16, 2007 in North America. Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream was later released on the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console service on February 1, 2012 in Japan, on March 1, 2012 in Europe and Australia, March 8, 2012 in North America; on the Wii U's Virtual Console service in North America, Europe, and Australia on March 20, 2013, and in Japan on June 5, 2013; and on the North American and PAL region versions of the NES Classic Edition, which was released on November 11, 2016. The latest release is on the NES/Famicom as part as the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service on April 10, 2019.
Punch-Out!! has mainly been well received by critics. A GameSpot reader poll ranked it as the 6th greatest NES game. It was rated the 17th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list. In August 2008, Nintendo Power listed it as the sixth best Nintendo Entertainment System video game, praising it for putting arcade-style fun over realism. Author Steve L. Kent called it the second major game of 1987. Author Nathan Lockard cited the graphics, violence, controls, and the variety of its being a "true classic" and one of the best NES games. In 2005, Punch-Out!! was inducted into GameSpot's list of the greatest games of all time. GamesRadar ranked it the 11th best NES game ever made. The staff called it a "brilliant puzzle game [disguised] as a sports game." Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! sold in excess of 2 million copies by 1988. Game Informer ranked the Mike Tyson version as its 14th favorite game ever in 2001. The staff noted that no boxing game since Punch-Out has been as "beloved."
Punch-Out!! was featured in the comic books of Valiant's Nintendo Comics System. Three stories are based around Little Mac, Doc Louis, and other boxers from the NES version and Mac briefly appears in the comic that introduces the story of Captain N: The Game Master. Mac doesn't appear in the Captain N stories himself; however, King Hippo is featured as a villain. Also, in the opening sequence of the Captain N TV series, the protagonist Kevin Keene was seen playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! before being forced into a vortex that formed in his television's screen.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Little Mac appears as a regular Trophy and an Assist Trophy. In the same game, the music from the Manhattan skyline scene in Punch-Out!! can be heard in the song titled "Famicom Medley." In the Wii game titled Captain Rainbow, Little Mac appears as a supporting character. Little Mac makes his debut as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and returned in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Punch-Out!! made an appearance on The Tonight Show on October 29, 2014. Mike Tyson, being one of the guests that night, was challenged by host Jimmy Fallon to defeat himself in the game on live TV. However, the real Tyson was defeated in the first round and lost by TKO.
The training sequence is referenced in the Family Guy episode "A Fistful of Meg" by Meg running behind Quagmire, who is riding the bike. Additionally, in the episode "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven", Peter is shown praying for cheat codes to the game, having been stuck on Bald Bull for four years at the time.
Power Punch II
After the release of Punch-Out!!, Krome Studios Melbourne began developing an official sequel starring Mike Tyson with manager Don King. Originally titled Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch, the game was supposed to take the series into outer space where Tyson would participate in an intergalactic boxing tournament against various space aliens.
The game's production ran into immediate trouble, however, following Tyson's 1991 incarceration for the alleged rape of Desiree Washington. Beam changed the Tyson character's name to Mark Tyler and modified King but did little to change Tyson's in-game character sprite.
Nintendo saw the game and disliked it, refusing to publish it due to lack of quality. Eventually, ASC Games published the title, and the game was released on the NES as Power Punch II, despite the fact that it was the first Power Punch title.
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