Once upon a time... Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
By David Lee
Before the crime, before the scandal, before the ear-biting,
there was Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
For many old-school Nintendo enthusiasts, Punch-Out was one
of the classics. It was simple, straightforward and the synthesized
music kept you mesmerized for hours. Playing the game simultaneously
sharpened your reflexes and numbed your wits.
on the role of Little Mac, a 17-year-old troubled youth from
the mean streets of New York. The role of overzealous coach
was filled by Doc Louis, Mac's mentor and advice-giver. After
earning various belts, Mac would train in a highly masculine
pink jumpsuit, running the streets of New York as Doc Louis
trailed behind, his fat ass glued firmly to a bike.
The actual bouts had Mac at the bottom of the screen battling
men easily twice his size. You could throw a stomach punch
or go high to the face and you could duck or dodge to the left
and right. Somehow this "less is more" approach turned
into an enthralling video game experience.
The big feature though, was you could earn "the star" for
a well-timed counter-blow. Stars could be accrued until you
were hit by the bad guy, at which point you'd lose them all.
To use a star, you pressed the select button, causing Little
Mac to rear back, hop twice (to a "boing boing" sound)
and deliver a monster right hook to his opponent's face. The
star punch, if properly applied, would drop an opponent to
Boxing mechanics aside, anyone that's played the game will
tell you the main draw of Punch-Out was the myriad of colourful
characters you fought as you marched to the WVBA (World Video
Boxing Association) championship. These included a weak Frenchman
(Glass Joe), a narcissistic American (Super Macho Man, who
stated: "my body is just so totally cool!"), a militaristic
German (Von Kaiser, fond of saying "Surrender! Or I will
conquer you!") and a morbidly obese man from the South
Pacific (King Hippo).
King Hippo was one of the few fighters players that had to
be "figured out." The mind-bender eventually revealed
itself to be punching him in his stomach, causing his pants
to fall down. At that point, Little Mac could punch him in
the mouth, as Hippo's jaw was agape with embarrassment/shock.
My personal favourite was Soda Popinski. In a nod to Dolph
Lundgren's character Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, Soda Popinski
fulfilled the game's quota as the evil Russian character. What's
more, Popinski was clearly an alcoholic. His taunts included: "I
can't drive, so I'm gonna walk all over you!" and, "After
you lose, we'll drink to your health! Ha, ha, ha!" When
the game was released worldwide, it was rumoured Gorbachev
himself cried a single tear of vodka.
Of course, no look at Punch-Out would be complete without a
look at the game's star, Mike Tyson. Though oft-maligned in
recent years, when the game was released Tyson was on top of
his game. He was still up-and-coming and the various crimes,
tattoos and in-fight bitings were still years away. This was
the Mike Tyson, vintage 1987.
His taunts were surprisingly tame. There was no "I'm going
to eat your children" or, "I never raped that girl,
but now I wish I had." Instead, Tyson used quotes like, "They
say I can't lose. I say you can't win" to intimidate Little
Mac and Doc Louis.
Like other games featured in past weeks, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
is still plenty of fun to play today. Boxing games are scarce
for any console and quality renditions of the sweet science
are even harder to find. However, if you can get an old copy
of Punch-Out at a yard sale or download the ROM, both of those
concerns can be put to bed. Or, as Mr. Sandman was fond of
saying, "Bedtime for Little Mac!"