Soda Popinski as depicted in promotional artwork.
|First game||Super Punch-Out!! (arcades)|
|Designed by||Makoto Wada (Punch-Out!!, 1987)
Eddie Viser (Punch-Out!!, 2009)
|Voiced by||Ihor Mota (Punch-Out!! (Wii))|
Soda Popinski (Japanese: ソーダ・ポピンスキー Hepburn: Sōda Popinsukī?) is a fictional boxer from Nintendo's Punch-Out!! series. Soda Popinski first appeared in the arcade game Super Punch-Out!!, where he was known as Vodka Drunkenski (ウォッカ・ドランケンスキー Wokka Dorankensukī?). This was changed in the 1987 Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (later changed to just Punch-Out!!) to Soda Popinski to avoid controversy. His country of origin was originally the USSR, but this was changed to Russia in the 2009 Punch-Out!! for the Wii due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. He was designed by Makoto Wada in the 1987 release and by Eddie Viser in the 2009 release. He is voiced by Ihor Mota in the latter. Critics such as Sumantra Lahiri for The Escapist criticized his regional stereotypes.
Concept and appearances
Soda Popinski is a Russian boxer whose first appearance is in the arcade game Super Punch-Out!! in 1985, and again in the NES game Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! in 1987 (later re-released as just Punch-Out!!). A version of the game called Frank Bruno's Boxing was released for the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum, where Popinski was renamed "Andra Puncharedov". His most recent appearance is in the 2009 Wii game Punch-Out!!, where he is voiced by Ihor Mota and designed by Eddie Viser. He lives in Moscow, Russia (renamed from the USSR upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991). His first appearance called him Vodka Drunkenski, a stereotype of the vodka-drinking Russian. To avoid controversy, Nintendo of America changed the character's name to Soda Popinski in 1987's NES release.
Soda Popinski is characterized by his lack of hair, height, muscular frame, mustache, and his clothing. In the NES game, he made regular references to soda and could be seen drinking it in between fights. In the Wii game, he is shown to be capable of handling severe blizzard conditions and capable of drinking many bottles of soda. During matches, Soda will attempt to take a drink from a bottle in order to recover from being knocked down, or sometimes in the middle of the fight. If players prevent him from doing the latter, he goes into a rage.
Since appearing in Punch-Out!!, Soda Popinski has received mostly positive reception. He has been referred to by many sources as both a notable character to the series and a fan favourite. He was chosen as the favourite character by one of the producers of Punch-Out!! for the Wii. Complex also ranked him as the eighteenth most annoying character in video games and called him an "unholy collection of racial stereotypes." The reasons cited by the article include "annoying catchphrase," "grating voice," "gets in your way," "gets you killed," and "overpowered." MTV's Shaheem Reid suggested that rapper Papoose maybe be a cross between Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, and Soda Popinski.
Soda Popinski has been a component of racial discussion in video games since his appearance in Super Punch-Out!! for the arcades. The Guardian 's Aleks Krotoski called his name change one of Nintendo's "most dramatic additions/subtractions." Another article by The Guardian cited him as a "shamelessly politically incorrect character." Sumatra Lahiri for The Escapist suggested that despite nostalgia, the cast was offensive relative to racial sensitivity today. He felt that Soda became more offensive once players learn of his original name. 1UP.com listed Punch-Out!! as the fourth most racist video game due in part to Soda's "Soviet roughneck" stereotype GamesRadar's Dave Meikleham included him in his "top seven biggest drunks in games" article. He specifically calling him the "drink to feel invincible" type of drunk and a "true pioneer of 8-bit drunks." Fellow GamesRadar editor Brett Elston discussed Soda Popinski in his "Fun with Stereotypes: Starring Punch-Out!!" article. He discussed Soda's vodka consumption in the original and resistance to cold weather seemed intentional due to the conflicts between the United States and the USSR in 1984, and noted that Russians were considered "anti-American villains." In his "Nintendo: Banned in the USA" article, Chris Antista of GamesRadar listed an example of Nintendo's censorship of alcohol in video games but noted that his mid-fight quotes still referenced drinking.
A bar located in San Francisco, California was named after him. The name was chosen so it would "feel like a USSR-era Siberian hunting lodge." A drink described as a "double shot of Russian vodka served neat" was named after his original name.
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- Goszkowski, Rob (2013-02-07). "Soda Popinski’s enters the San Francisco bar ring". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2014-05-30.