Game of the Week (11/26/17) – Super Punch Out!!

By definition, to be considered “super”, the person or item in question must be excellent, superb, outstanding. Nintendo went all in with the use of the word “super” to describe their second console and the accompanying games that got their start back on the NES/Famicom but were given the super treatment on this new console. But did they actually meet the textbook definition of “super”? I certainly think that for the most part, they were. Some of the best games on the SNES had the word “super” in the title. Super Mario World, Super Castlevania IV, Super Metroid, Super Contra III just to name a few. Additionally, the game highlighted as my game of the week, Super Punch Out.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was and remains one of my favorite games of all time. To me, it was a perfect mix of humor, strategy and button mashing bliss. It was going to be a very difficult game to follow if/when Nintendo decided to release the long awaited sequel. Released in 1994, Super Punch Out!! came out 7 years after the original Mike Tyson promoted NES title and 4 years after the Mr. Dream version of the same game. Little Mac is back in his pursuit of the WVBA (World Videogame Boxing Association) title. Standing in his way are an array of new fighters while keeping a few familiar faces (Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman, Super Macho Man) around for nostalgia purposes. Super Punch Out!! uses the same cartoony approach that proved so successful for the arcade and NES versions. It also maintains a similar jokey approach to boxing, making it less a boxing simulation and more arcade fun. I like how they keep Super Macho Man’s grey/silver hair, which I always thought was a mistake on the first Punch Out! Your last two fights for WVBA are against the Bruiser brothers, extremely formidable opponents in their own right, similar to Mike Tyson was back in the day.

A few notable differences between Super Punch Out!! and the NES original is that Little Mac isn’t quite as little as he used to be. His diminutive size was originally a result of the NES’s inability to view the action through Little Mac like the arcade versions did. So Nintendo shrunk Little Mac down so you could see his opponents and made him jump in the air to land head blows. With the Super Nintendo’s hardware advances, they could now recreate the original’s translucent third person view which is easy to adapt to if you weren’t familiar with the arcade version. Another difference is the return of the power meter from the arcade. Instead of collecting stars that could be used for special and knockout punches, there is a power meter located at the bottom of the screen that fills up as Mac pummels his opponents without getting hit. Once full, he can unleash a variety of knockout punches. Another less notable difference but was always a meta aspect of the NES port was the presence of Mario as the Referee. Super Punch Out!! is referee free from a visual standpoint but you still hear him perform the ten count when a boxer is knocked down. I can still hear that weird inflection his gives when he says “five”. Go watch a video of someone playing the game on YouTube if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Also missing is your trainer, Doc, giving you advice in between rounds. That actually brings up another fundamental difference from the NES port of Punch Out!! There aren’t any rounds, period. Each match ends after 3 minutes and if Little Mac does not KO or TKO his opponent in those 3 minutes, he loses the match. There is no win by decision. I personally prefer the 3 different rounds and the option to win by decision from the NES title, but it doesn’t really detract too significantly from this particular game.

Super Punch Out!! is just as funny and quirky as its predecessor. There are plenty of new and interesting fighters to defeat, which along with smooth boxing controls, is the key to the game’s success. The combination of fighters with tremendous personality along with figuring out each of their special moves helps keep the game fresh. On top of that, Super Punch Out!! includes a battery to save your progress and your best times, which lends itself to repeat plays. I used to have to write down how quickly I could defeat my opponents on the NES version so this is a welcome addition. While Super Punch Out!! may not be quite as good as the original NES masterpiece in my opinion, it’s still an extremely fun game and worth owning.

Rating: A-

Currently in my collection: game, manual, box

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