One of the more forgotten about series’ in Nintendo’s catalog, Super Punch-Out!! was super-fun, video game boxing perfected.
I used to stink at Punch-Out!!, and I mean any form of it. I was terrible at the NES original, and not great (better, but not great) at the SNES edition, which we’re looking at here. Here’s the thing though, and this is important to keep in mind, that didn’t stop me from playing the hell out of either version. The Punch-Out!! formula is just that much fun.
I remember many a time playing Super Punch-Out!! with my friends, seeing who could get the better times, and more often – just seeing how far we could get. It was a pretty tough game, not as rough on gamers as something like Mega Man, but tricky nonetheless and it would prey on impatient gamers like nobody’s business. If you were a button-masher, Punch-Out!! would finish you off right quick.
For the most part, all of this still holds true today, as I went back and played the SNES original for this Retro Review and found it to be everything that I remembered. There’s a big difference between then and now though, and that’s that I’m a lot more patient these days.
Much of the game’s difficulty comes from throwing massively different fighters at you in rapid succession. So you”ll fight someone like Dragon Chan one minute, who leaps around the ring throwing kicks at you (how is that not illegal?!), and then have to battle bruisers like Masked Muscle and Mr. Sandman after that. If you tend to want to wail away at your opponents, it’s very easy to be outclassed with almost any of these guys and have to ‘retire’. Let’s put it where it is, this might not be a boxing ‘sim’, but it sure ain’t no fighting game either. And if you’re patient, Punch-Out!! becomes a whole different experience, and is a ton more fun too.
Working out the patterns that all of the opposing boxers have is half the game’s appeal. Sure you’ll definitely lose a few times (maybe more than a few), but as I said, somehow it’s still fun to step back into the ring and duke it out with the same guy over and over. This game has some of that old fashioned Nintendo magic, plain and simple.
Speaking of, the graphics are 16bit bliss. Big, colorful characters battle it out across the screen, and punches all look cool, with some pretty neat special effects here and there. Nothing is overused either, and stuff like the super-punch that Mac does, while actually pretty simple in execution, both looks and feels like it lands like a ton of bricks.
Controls, by the way, are extremely easy, though tough to fully master. One button hits right, one for the left. Pressing up on the control pad when you hit either will throw high, while just tapping the button swings to the gut. Pressing left or right on the pad will dodge in that direction, while pressing down will duck, and pressing up (with no button press) will block high. Not touching anything will automatically make Mac block low if a punch is thrown at his mid-section. Took me a while when I first go the game to figure that last one out by the way.
Yes, that’s very simple, but as I said, that doesn’t make Super Punch-Out!! a cruise – especially the first time through. While half the game is figuring out patterns and not being distracted, the other half is figuring out which direction to dodge, when to block a crushing blow, and when to swing away with that right hook.
While I’ve been having a great time in this review expounding on the virtues of this little gem though, not everything is so fantastic in this squared circle. All of the arenas look more or less the same, which isn’t great and isn’t much like Nintendo either, yet it’s stayed that way throughout the series’ history. I haven’t played much of the Wii incarnation, but from what I remember it’s the same thing there.
Also, the sound is almost completely forgettable. Some (some) of the boxers vocal work is neat and memorable like Bear Hugger’s aggravating laugh, but all in all there isn’t much and what is there is nothing to speak of. Likewise, the music has never been all that interesting, but man is this picking.
There are minor quibbles to be had with Super Punch-Out!! for sure, but they’re just that, minor. The majority of this game is fantastic fun, and it’s honestly home to some pretty endless re-playability. Even now, decades after Super Punch-Out!! hit the SNES it’s just as much fun as it was all those years back. Actually, it might be more fun since I can actually appreciate the pacing and strategy that you have to take into each and every fight.