Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

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North American box art.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, later re-released as Punch-Out!!, is a boxing game developed and published by Nintendo on the NES in 1987. It is based off Nintendo's earlier arcade game, Punch-Out!!. The original game features Mike Tyson as the final boxer, but after Nintendo's license expired, Tyson was replaced by Mr. Dream in subsequent releases.

I first played this game at a friend's house in the late 1980s. Having no idea what I was doing, I believe I beat Glass Joe, but lost to Von Kaiser. After being taught how to dodge an opponent's punch and counter attack, I did much better. As my friends and I progressed, I remember us getting stuck on Great Tiger. I had my brother's Official Nintendo Player's Guide, which gives explanations for how to beat the boxers, but I couldn't interpret how to block his Tiger Punches. After we beat Great Tiger, I remember my friend's older brother calling me asking how to defeat Bald Bull's Bull Charge and reading him the hints over the phone. Later, we got to the second Bald Bull, and were amazed that he couldn't be knocked down, though we later found his secret. We had more difficulties with the second Don Flamenco, and his damn taunts. Mr. Sandman was terrifying the first time we saw his ring intro where he does his super-fast punches. I saw Mike Tyson even before Super Macho Man thanks to a password from Nintendo Power. The first time I fought him I was blown away at how hard he was and was TKO'ed by his first three punches!

I've played the game a lot since then and have analyzed the boxers patterns and discovered how to get stars on most of them. Now, I can routinely get to Mr. Sandman. I can usually beat him, but I have difficulties with Super Macho Man, and I have a very hard time with Mike Tyson.

Status

I own both Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and Punch-Out!!. I finally beat Mike Tyson with a TKO on 2017-06-26.

Review

  • Overall: 6/10
  • Best Version: NES

Good

  • The boxing mechanic of dodging punches and counter-punching is a great system.
  • The game gives you very flexible control over Little Mac and allows you to react faster as you become more comfortable with the moves.
  • The stamina stat was a clever way to prevent the player from just mashing buttons.
  • Hidden uppercut stars is a good mechanic that rewards exploratory play styles.
  • While the boxing mechanic is relatively the same throughout the game, each boxer introduces a new element keeping the game fresh all the way to the end.
  • The large flicker-free character sprites were very impressive for video games at the time.
  • The dialog between rounds gives the game more character, and the injured look on both you and your opponents was a nice touch.
  • Although they're quite stereotypical, the fact that the opponents show a great deal of diversity is refreshing.

Bad

  • The game is pretty racist in the way it depicts boxers. The Russian is a drunk, the Pacific Islander is fat with beady little eyes, the French man is weak, etc.
  • Continuing after losing a match is inconsistent. Sometimes you get a rematch, sometimes you're demoted, sometimes you get a game over. This probably should have used a system more like: first loss, rematch; second loss, demotion; third loss, game over.
  • The dodge, counter-punch mechanic becomes very strict later in the game, and there are few opportunities to just punch away, making the game feel less and less like a boxing game.
  • A large portions of Doc's dialogue is useless, even the lines that are supposed to be hints.

Ugly

  • Mike Tyson is too hard. Very few players have reflexes fast enough to beat him fairly, and it hurts the game.

Box Art

Documentation

Graphics

Fan Art

Game Design

This is my commentary about the game's design for each boxer. The Rank column is the order of how difficult I think the boxers are.

Order Boxer Difficulty Commentary
0 Intro / Menus / Controls 0 The game's introduction is pretty great. The unlicensed music is reminiscent of sports commentary, and introduction to the opponent boxers is nice, and the animation of the boxing glove punching through the menu is pretty cool. I like how the player gets to see the bio of each boxer before the game with a larger mug shot and the between round dialogue (and occasional hint from Doc). The menu system while boxing concisely shows the power, stamina, and uppercuts and is clear and unobtrusive. Dodging, punching, body-blows, and blocking are all easy to perform. The only thing I don't care for is ducking, which I've always found to be an inferior defense. I like that you can temporarily accelerate the speed of your punches by dodging and then quickly pushing the return direction.
1 Glass Joe 2 This is a nice introductory fight. Joe is slow, his punches are obviously telegraphed, and he lets through a lot of retaliatory punches. Joe introduces the player to hooks and jabs and awards a lot of exploratory punches with stars so it's likely a first-time player will get to use an uppercut early on (a good design decision). The one thing I don't like about Joe is that he just stands there for the first minute of the fight, which is rather annoying for an veteran player because there isn't enough time to knock him down before he does his "special move" of backing up and then doing a regular punch (punch him here and he'll fall), so the first part of the round is just a waste. In fact, Joe's punches are so slow, I often find myself dodging too soon and taking a hit. It's almost like having to watch a tutorial before playing a game. I rank him harder than Von Kaiser, not because I think he's tougher to beat--they're both really easy--but because I can beat Kaiser so much faster than Joe. If you're bad enough to see Joe between rounds, he has some pretty funny dialogue.
2 Von Kaiser 1 Despite claiming to be a boxing teacher in Germany, Kaiser is painfully easy. You get a star pretty much every time you hit him while he's winding up for a punch, and he's so slow, it's very easy to pull off. If you hit him with an uppercut while he's stunned, it's a guaranteed knock down. Because of this, I can beat him insanely fast. For early players, Kaiser is a great teaching opponent. He introduces the player to his uppercut which will become the most devastating regular punch opponents will use throughout the game. He's also faster than Glass Joe, so he forces the player to increase their reflexes.
3 Piston Honda 5 The first title bout is a pretty cool fight when you're a beginner seeing the animation for the first time. Honda is not only faster than Kaiser, but his taller and more muscular-looking sprite is far more intimidating to look at. Honda also introduces the first impressive special attack, his Piston Punches. By now, players have learned how to dodge punches, but the Piston Punches must be blocked to be successfully avoided. This teaches the player both how to effectively block, and that blocking incurs minor damage so it should be avoided when possible. This is good training for when you have to face Great Tiger.
4 Don Flamenco 3 In addition to annoyingly blocking every non-reactive punch, and forcing you to drain your stamina, Don Flamenco just has a face that demands punching, and his between-round dialogue makes you hate him even more. Flamenco is a pretty demoralizing foe, but he teaches you the importance of dodging an assault even while exhausted. Unfortunately, the developers made an incredibly easy way to defeat him which takes him from frustrating to boring. If you alternate between left and right hooks (as hinted by Doc), he will remain stunned until you knock him down. If you can do that twice in under a minute, he'll be knocked out on the second fall. I would prefer that the trick would only give you a few extra hits rather than pretty much guarantee victory, but I would also prefer a less obnoxious fight.
5 King Hippo 4 Because he dodges all counter and preemptive punches, King Hippo is often a stopping point for players who didn't have access to spoilers, and the hints at his weakness between rounds aren't quite useful enough to illuminate the proper strategy. The nice thing about Hippo is, even when you know his weakness, he's still no slouch. Reacting to his charged punch requires good reflexes, his other jabs are pretty fast, and both of his punches do a lot of damage. He has a pretty nice special move too where he hops around before delivering a volley of punches that must be blocked. A good match, I just wish I didn't need a hint book to defeat him.
6 Great Tiger 6 Great Tiger is another good opponent. His attacks are varied, he awards a lot of stars to exploratory punches, and his special attack is wonderful. Again, you have to know to block his special attack rather than try to dodge it. Each round sees Tiger entering the ring in a different way, and if he defeats you, he disappears from the ring. However, once you know what you're doing, you can defeat Great Tiger so quickly, he won't even have a chance to do his Tiger punches in the first round.
7 Bald Bull 8
8 Piston Honda 2 7
9 Soda Popinski 11
10 Bald Bull 2 10
11 Don Flamenco 2 9
12 Mr. Sandman 12
13 Super Macho Man 13
14 Mike Tyson 14
15 Ending 15

Passwords

The game's password system keeps track of your current title, wins, and losses. The first four passwords in this list will take you to a specific boxer with all wins. However, the developers also added a couple Easter egg passwords that have more interesting results.

Password Result
005 737 5423 Minor Circuit Champ, Don Flamenco.
777 807 3454 Major Circuit Champ, Piston Honda (2nd Fight).
267 812 7538 World Circuit Champ, Super Macho Man.
007 373 5963 Mike Tyson / Mr. Dream
135 792 4680 Press A+B+Select: Another World Circuit, alternate boxer order.
106 113 0120 Press A+B+Select: runs the end-game credits.
800 422 2602 This is the old phone number of Nintendo of America's hotline. It plays a busy signal as a joke because their line was always being called.

Links