October 3, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 21  

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Once upon a time... Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

By David Lee
Gazette Staff

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.

Players took 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 his corner.

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!"



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