If you're a newcomer to the world of Nintendo's Punch-Out!! this week as you enjoy the new Wii game, you may wonder just who these bizarre boxers are and why they insist on beating you senseless. While it hasn't yet been updated to cover the new game, Hardcore Gaming 101 has an interesting article about the history of the Punch-Out!! series that covers the two arcade games, the timeless Nintendo Entertainment System classic featuring Mike Tyson, and the Super NES sequel that it seems nobody has played. There's also a look at the dismal Power Punch II semi-sequel and a selection of Punch-Out!! rip-offs and imitators.
Nintendo's take on the boxing world is quite interesting. While not the first boxing video game, it's certainly the first one to become a successful hit. It's really no surprise either, as the game boasts incredibly tight controls and memorable characters (sometimes however, they borderline offensive with the game's excessive use of stereotypes. The Italian boxer named Pizza Pasta, the Jamaican boxer named Bob Charlie and others immediately come to mind). While the arcade games were relatively popular, it was the NES outing of the series that brought it to the forefront of gaming, with the sponsorship of professional boxer Mike Tyson.
Unlike most boxing games, putting yourself on the offensive is a bad idea. A majority of the time, you'll need to wait until your opponent strikes, dodge, and then knock them while they're stunned. Each character usually has a set pattern that can be learned, but you must be able to react quickly against them to truly win. A few of the more colorful boxers have some truly outlandish attacks, some of which bordered on the supernatural (Indian boxer Great Tiger teleports around the ring) or flat-out illegal (Chinese boxer Dragon Chan can jump kick you), but the game is obviously not meant to be taken seriously. Naturally, you'll need to quick reflexes to succeed, along with some elementary puzzle solving skills.
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was one of the moderately popular games on the playground back in my elementary school years. There was a clear dividing line between those of us who enjoyed Nintendo games; either you were a Super Mario / Legend of Zelda fan or you were nuts for Punch-Out!! and Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf. As a Mario booster, I crossed the line a few times to play Punch-Out!! at a friend's house, but never did get very far. My sports-gaming friends would mock me for falling to Piston Honda and would proclaim themselves the best video game players ever, but the trash talk came to an abrupt end when Mike Tyson demolished them time after time. We learned at a young age that if you're going to talk trash, you'd better be prepared to back up your claims. Then, after we learned the lesson, we went back to Fighting Golf where Tyson couldn't hurt us anymore.