When the Super Nintendo came out in 1991, many people eagerly awaited the souped up 16-bit sequels of their favorite 8-bit NES classics. And for the most part, one by one, they poured in. The first was Super Mario World, then you had the likes of Contra III, Super Castlevania IV, Mega Man X, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid and the list goes on. But where was our beloved Little Mac? Finally, in October of 1994, the excruciatingly long wait was over. We were at last gifted with Super Punch-Out!! It proved to be a great game that was worth the wait.
MAC’S COMEBACK (IN AMERICA ONLY)
Nintendo recently announced their upcoming release of the SNES Classic Edition. Of the 21 SNES titles on offer, Super Punch-Out!! made the cut for the American release. It’s interesting to note the Japanese version picked another game in place of Super Punch-Out!! Actually, there was never a Super Famicom version of Super Punch-Out!! ever released. I guess Japan is sticking to their guns. It’s strange but true. I have no idea why but it’s certainly their loss.
If you grew up in the ’80s then you probably had an 8-bit Nintendo or at the very least you knew of a friend who did. For me and many other kids, growing up in the ’80s meant a steady diet of NES, TGIF and WWF. It was Mario and Hulk Hogan. Contra and Randy Savage. Mega Man and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Castlevania and The Ultimate Warrior. Glass Joe and “Iron” Mike Sharpe! Yup, you can’t talk about the best NES games from the ’80s without mentioning Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Nintendo made us wait for Super Punch-Out!! but hey, they did give us fair warning at the end of the NES game. Not sure how many eagle-eyed gamers caught their “hidden” message but they didn’t lie — they held up their end of the bargain.
[Boy, PLEASE -Ed.]
ROUND TWO… FIGHT!!
They say your past has a way of catching up with you. Mac finds this to be true as some of his old ring “buddies” are back for another go. I wish Piston Honda and Soda Popinski made the cut as well but I get the need for new blood. At least we got Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man. It was like seeing a dear old friend, er, or bully in this case. Not that I know what it was like to be bullied growing up. Of course not. Yes… of course not. [Right -Ed.]
I guess King Hippo must be enjoying retirement, eh? I’m not the biggest fan of these new boxers — Gabby Jay is just a cheap Glass Joe knockoff with none of the charm — but I am a fan of Piston Hurricane and Masked Muscle. They’re great additions to the roster while the others felt a little too gimmicky for my taste.
NO LONGER STAR GAZING
In the NES game you receive a star for counter attacks, landing a swift blow and so forth. This acted as your rite of passage to using “super punches.” In this game things run a little differently. Once you fill up your meter, you’ll have access to all the special punches your heart desires… so long as you don’t get hit. I like this change.
Gabby Jay is the SNES version of Glass Joe. Hell, he even graduated from Glass Joe’s School of Boxing. Why anyone would pay top dollar to be trained by arguably the worst professional boxer ever is beyond me, but Gabby Jay does have one win to his name. His victim? Who else but Glass Jo(k)e. At 1-99, the 56 year old Gabby Jay doesn’t have much left in the tank. Then again, he didn’t have much even when he was in his physical prime. Might as well hand him his 100th loss then maybe he’ll retire. Jay opens each fight with a pathetic war cry of “YAY!”
The heaviest boxer you’ll face, what he lacks in boxing technique he makes up for with a punch that packs a mighty wallop! Originally a carpenter, Bear Hugger grew up sparring with the animals in the forest near his home. His pet grizzly bear was his closest rival until he left Saskatoon to begin his pro career. Though not the best, he’s a major step up from the Gabby Jays of the world.
After losing his home to a terrible storm, Piston Hurricane took his anger out on the mean streets of Havana. He soon became known and revered as “The King of ‘Vana.” Nobody dared to even look at him the slightest wrong way. Legend has it he once knocked out his own mom for looking at him funny. Turns out mama had gas. So just imagine what he’ll do to you!
Knocking out your opponent silly and watching him fly back to his corner is one of the game’s pure joys. It also gives you a breather — madly tap the buttons to recuperate any lost health in classic Punch-Out!! form.
Though sometimes they don’t get up, granting you the right to gloat and taunt like no tomorrow. Camera flashes abound and the crowd cheers. It definitely nails down the big fight atmosphere.
Truly one of the most iconic villains in Nintendo history. There are many memorable bad guys in 8-bit gaming history but my two favorites were Abobo and Bald Bull. Universally beloved, it just wouldn’t be Punch-Out!! without Bald Bull as the champion of the first circuit. Not being his first rodeo, some boxing pundits claim his best years are behind him and that he’s more reputation than dominance at this point…
The infamous “Bald Bull flat on his belly” look. You know you love it. Don’t feel sorry for him. He’s had a heck of a career. But now is the time for the new generation.
I like the detailed stats you get at the end of each fight. Gone is the round system. Instead you get 3 minutes to duke it out. Some prefer the old style but I didn’t mind this too much. I do miss the funky little tips Doc Louis would give Mac in-between rounds, though.
The battery backup memory records the top 8 times. The NES game didn’t have this. It was fun to try and top your best time. Funny how addicting trying to shave half a second off your best time is.
These little touches add to the game’s longevity.
Bob loves to juke and jive. In fact, back home he was crowned the “Jive King” of Kingston. Now he’s in the States looking to make a name for himself. Speaking of names, he’s rumored to be boxing under an assumed name but no reporter has dared question him since the, ahem, Columbus incident. Tony Ellis, you’re in our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery…
Bob Charlie may seem to be drunk but the bastard knows what he’s doing out there. Unfortunately for him, you’re no ham-and-egger (R.I.P. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan). THIS ONE IS FOR TONY ELLIS, DAMNIT!
The Major Circuit’s youngest boxer, scouts are impressed with Dragon Chan. Only 22 years old, he quickly ascended the ranks of the boxing universe. He makes for a terrible interview, though, since he speaks not a lick of English. Pain, however, is universal. Trained as a kick boxer, Dragon Chan is infamous for pulling into his bag of tricks. If you thought Bob Charlie to be a little unconventional, you haven’t seen anything yet my friend!
Masked Muscle follows the classic Punch-Out!! tradition of big beefy boxers imposing enough to make you contemplate a change of careers. Take a steroid-injected masked wrestler, slip on a pair of gloves, give him a purple mist dirty attack and you have instant magic. Muscle was banned from pro wrestling for spewing a lethal mist into his opponents’ eyes that caused permanent eye damage. He’s one tough hombre!
Classic Mr. Sandman returns from the NES game. He looks superb in 16-bits, eh? The first seven boxers are easy to dispose of but Mr. Sandman is the first real challenge for newbie players. With his mighty powerful punches and near mythical aura, Mr. Sandman confidently reigns as champion of the Major Circuit. There’s a reason why some call him “Chocolate Thunder.” He might make you call him daddy!
I COULD BEAT YOU IN JUST A MINUTE!
Ahem, um, sorry about that. Mr. Sandman takes Mac to the distance but David slays Goliath in the end. Look at all that spit coming out of his mouth. Love the attention to detail! You had a heck of a run there, Sandman, but this ain’t the ’80s anymore. It’s time to graduate to the World Circuit and take out another old friend… Super Macho Man!
Aran was teased and bullied for his name growing up. Being scrawny didn’t help. He skipped college and instead devoted his time to lifting weights and he picked up boxing along the way. As his muscles developed so did his boxing skills. Known for his unrelenting scrappiness, Aran Ryan now takes out his childhood angst on anyone standing across the ring from him.
At just 19 years old, Heike Kagero’s future is bright but he has already established himself with a respectable 14-8 pro record. Rumor has it Heike dabbles in the occult, and that his hair is actually the spirit of a samurai protégé who died far too young centuries ago. Mind you, that’s just a rumor. But those who have been whipped by Heike’s hair will tell you differently!
Mad Clown wasn’t always a clown, and he wasn’t always mad. In fact, he had a budding career as an opera singer. But on the biggest show of his life, he froze on stage. From that point on he ran to the circus but it wasn’t long before they rejected him on account of mental instability. That’s when he turned to boxing. There he excelled. His trick? Pretending his opponent is one of the audience members who laughed at him!
After all these years Super Macho Man’s reign of terror still sits atop the world of boxing. Well, of the World Circuit, anyhow. But don’t tell Super Macho Man that unless you want a couple black eyes. Owning a stellar record of 29-3, his only blemishes came at the hands of the Bruiser twins and an upset victory by Little Mac way back in 1987. The time for the rematch has finally come!
You can’t see it there but Narcis Prince (what a fitting name) has a V on his sweater. People who tease him that it stands for virgin end up in the hospital. The V actually stands for victory. He’s a promising young boxer who shot up the ranks quickly. Narcis showed so much potential that he was promoted to the legendary Special Circuit — a circuit renowned for featuring only the best of the best. He throws a fit whenever you punch him in his “beautiful” face. Hey punk, it’s boxing. What do ya expect?!
Hoy Quarlow (what a name) hobbles to the ring with his trusty wooden cane. But rather than setting it aside, he brings it into the ring to whack you upside the head with. What kind of shady organization is running this thing, eh?! At 78 years old Hoy has forgotten more about boxing than you’ll ever learn. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Yoda, Hoy was appropriately known as “The Beast From Beijing.” Though he may not look it in his ripe old age, he can still knock out fools with the best of them! And then he’ll get the senior discount at the local Denny’s down the road. Because that’s how Hoy Quarlow rolls.
The Bruiser twins rule the boxing world. Rick Bruiser is universally regarded as the second best boxer of this generation. His one loss came at the hands of his twin brother, Nick Bruiser, in a main event that broke the all time Pay-Per-View sales record. It was a fierce and close battle that many historians have touted as the greatest boxing bout in the annals of history. Rick is as menacing as they come. The deadly southpaw once decimated Bald Bull in under a minute and Bald Bull has been “broken” ever since. Mr. Sandman barely made a dent in this war machine and Super Macho Man quickly learned his place in the pecking order. If by some miracle you’re able to get by Rick, what’s left of you will be easy pickings for the even tougher Nick Bruiser. Damn. The Bruiser twins were born to dominate and destroy.
The Undisputed Champ. Nick Bruiser is the ultimate boxer. No empathy, no emotion. Just a stone cold killer. Boosting a perfect 42-0 record, boxing pundits often argue who would win between “Iron” Mike Tyson and Nick Bruiser. Opinions differ but consensus says Nick Bruiser would ANNIHILATE Tyson. It’s hard to argue. Bruiser strikes fast and hard. The mere sight of him alone is enough to psych out most boxers. Bruiser’s aura is damn near MYTHICAL — he often beats opponents long before the bell sounds. Only one challenger can give him a run for his money, and his name is Little Mac. Bruiser scoffs at the very idea but deep down in his black heart he knows the threat that Little Mac presents. The Boxing Match of the Century has been signed. Who will win and be the Undisputed WVBA Champion? Only you can decide!
CLASS OF 1994
The time attack mode records your fastest times and highest scores. It’s a sweet additional mode that the 8-bit NES game didn’t have.
Once you beat all four circuits, the game’s longevity relies on coming back to the time attack mode to set new highs. It’s always a good time stopping Bald Bull dead in his tracks during his Bull Charge. Or sending Mr. Sandman to the dream world myself. This isn’t the kind of game you play for hours on end. But it’s the kind that you are likely to occasionally play when you only have 15 minutes and want something quick and fun. At least that’s how Super Punch-Out!! is for me.
Believe it or not, I’ve beaten Super Macho Man in under 8 seconds. Look and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. The previous world record was 0’09″43. I submitted this shot to Nintendo for posterity but for some weird reason unbeknownst to me they’ve rejected my submission. Well, either that or they lost it in the mail. Alas, we’ll never know… [You are more delusional than Gabby Jay -Ed.]
MAC ‘N CHANGE
There was a debate going around that the Mac in Super Punch-Out!! is not the same Little Mac from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Actually, it is. In fact, this was his original look before Nintendo changed it. You can see that clearly is the Little Mac we all know and love. However, I guess they wanted to make him look a little bit “cooler” hence the change. Personally, I don’t mind. I still like the final product we got with regards to Little Mac. Besides, it’s mostly just cosmetics we’re talking about here. The gameplay delivers and that’s mainly what I care about. Still, it’s fascinating to recall the difference between Mac’s first form and what he eventually became.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Super Punch-Out!! was very well received by the majority of fans and critics alike. While more people seem to prefer Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! on the NES, very few have deemed Super Punch-Out!! as anything less than a great game in its own right. It graced the cover of GameFan (and what a cover it was) for their October 1994 issue. GameFan’s signature character, the Postmeister, stood in Mac’s place. A bit of a glory hog, that one. EGM gave it ratings of 79% and 86% (given by their two sports game writers as opposed to the traditional four person review panel). GameFan rated it 90, 95 and 95%. Super Play Magazine scored it at 90%. Little Mac’s return was an unequivocal success. Better late than never!
There will always be a special place in my gaming heart for this franchise as well as for Little Mac and all his crazy foes. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was one of my favorites back in the late ’80s. So I couldn’t wait for the inevitable 16-bit “Super” treatment. It was a longer wait than any of us expected, but just like “make up presents” in early January it’s a classic case of better late than never. Nintendo was wise to mix in the new blood along with the return of some old familiar faces. Seeing Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man in 16 glorious bits was a welcomed sight and a tremendous fan service. The jump from NES to SNES made for a major visual upgrade. You can actually see the bulging muscles and watch the spit fly out of a guy’s mouth as you twist his head back with a well-timed uppercut. The visuals have a real arcade-like quality to them. Speaking of which, did you know there’s actually a 1984 arcade game of the same name? Navigating an older and bigger Mac through the boxing ranks presents a certain nostalgic charm, even if Nintendo did alter his look a bit. Best of all, Little Mac controls like an absolute dream. It’s crisp and super responsive. If you mess up, you know it’s on you and not the game.
In addition to the three old faces, there are lots of new foes to scout and take out. You’ll have to learn all their techniques, such as Masked Muscle’s paralyzing purple shower. It all adds to the wacky fun. There’s just something special and sacred about a Punch-Out!! game. Maybe it’s the larger than life boxers. Maybe it’s the comic book-like zany brutality of it all. Maybe it’s figuring out the patterns and tendencies of each new competitor and then exploiting their weaknesses. Or maybe it’s simply a timeless classic from the golden days of retro gaming. I like to think it’s all of those things, along with, of course, the fact that I think all of us can relate to Little Mac in some form or fashion. We all love a good underdog story and I believe there’s a little Little Mac inside each of us. It’s David vs. Goliath, good vs. evil, you against all odds. There’s something simple and beautiful about that. And Super Punch-Out!! captures that feeling to a tee. Each opponent gets progressively tougher and nastier. By the time you reach the Bruiser twins you’ll feel like you’ve been through the trenches yourself!
There are a few blemishes to note, though. Seeing a few more familiar faces would have been nice, especially Piston Honda. Many fans prefer the villain roster of the 8-bit original, claiming the 16-bit roster to be not quite as memorable. Fans have argued over the years about which they like better. The NES one is better overall I think, but there’s something to be said about the 16-bit treatment of Punch-Out!! that took the game to new heights graphically and really brought home an arcade-like quality. The SNES game eliminated the three round format (with breaks in-between where you get tips from Doc Louis) and instead features one round lasting three minutes. I do prefer how the SNES version tracks your knock-out punches (full meter vs. earning stars) and you had four different knock-out punches in Super Punch-Out!! as opposed to just one in the NES game. The Bruiser brothers are brutal but they’re definitely no Mike Tyson in terms of sheer difficulty. By the way, did I mention the awesome battery-backed capabilities of the SNES game, allowing you to store top scores and compete among friends? Oh, but did I mention the legend that is SODA POPINSKI? It’s like being forced to pick your favorite child. I love both games for different reasons. You simply cannot go wrong with either!
All in all, Super Punch-Out!! is no doubt a Super Nintendo classic. It’s aged very well, too. I still love playing it even to this day. Whether you prefer the NES or SNES version, there’s no denying Super Punch-Out!! is a worthy sequel. Having more boxers, seeing ol’ Doc Louis and having some cutscenes would have been great, but I’m more than satisfied with what we got. This is one of those games I envision myself playing well into my twilight years when I’m as old as Hoy Quarlow himself, God willing. Boxing games rarely get better than this. Now if you’ll excuse me, I got me a couple Bruiser bros to beat up…
MAC’S FINAL COMEBACK!
It was a cold and dark night in the Bronx. An old bulldog roamed the streets. If you looked close enough, you’d recognize him as Little Mac. Yes, that fabled boxing teen heart throb from the vaunted ’80s. Made a comeback in ’94 and then disappeared into obscurity. Mac is now in the second half of his life and on this night, something stirs deep within his core. A feeling he hasn’t felt in over 20 years…
The knees are feeling good. The joints are working. The back’s never felt better in years. Was it possible? Could it be? Could Mac return to the ring for one last shot at glory?
It felt like the calm before the storm. Mac’s old trainer, Doc Louis, couldn’t believe it. Mac didn’t tell Doc explicitly, but Doc knew. He had seen that look in Mac’s eyes before. The very same look that Mac had right before he knocked out the likes of Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman and yes, even the brutal Bruiser twins. The Mac man is hungry, and he wants one more fight. One more chance to shine under the bright lights and recapture a flicker from the past.
Mac and Doc got back in the car and drove around town. One by one, they stopped off at each of Mac’s old haunts. Mac peered inside the store as though he were peering down his very soul.
Then they headed over to the old pet shop on 4th Avenue. It was where Mac got his first pet fish. Poor Freddy. He only lived six weeks, as Mac recalls it.
Doc: Hey Mac, you crying?
Mac: Uh, no. No no.
Doc: Looks like tears to me, Mac.
Mac: C’mon Doc, you know I got allergies.
Doc: Of course.
Mac: Damnit Doc, look at this will ya? This is where I grew up. I remember my mom buying me a Nintendo and some boxing game back in 1987. Those were the good old days. Lot of memories here, Doc. You know they say if you live in a place long enough, you are that place…
Doc: I ain’t no talking building. Listen, enough yapping. I gotta get your old ass ready for the Sandman!
Mac: You know what to do. Time to take that ancient bike of yours out of storage.
Just like old times, indeed. Doc’s training regimen was legendary in the ’80s and ’90s. Tonight begins the comeback trail!
Doc: Mac, I gotta be real here. You sure put on a lot of weight in the last 20+ years.
Mac: I’m not the only one who’s changed. You hardly look like the Doc Louis I knew! In fact, maybe it’s the dizziness from all this running talking but I swear you look yellow all of a sudden!
Doc: What?! You must be going blind in your old age.
Doc: Alright Mac, this is your night. You’ve put in the hours. You’ve dropped the weight. Whatever happens tonight, I want you to know, from one old ass fart to another, I’m proud of you for making it this far!
Mac: Come on, Doc. You should know me better than that. I ain’t satisfied making it this far. I didn’t come all this way to finish in second place. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will BEAT you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or NOBODY is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and THAT AIN’T YOU! YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT!
Mac: Whoa, sorry. I get my wires crossed from time to time, you know.
Doc: That one’s probably Nick Bruiser, 1994, Vegas. First round uppercut.
Mac: Don’t worry ’bout me Doc. I still got most of my mental facilities.
Doc: *mutters under breath* Faculties.
Mac: You said something Doc?
Doc: Uh, nope.
*EYE OF THE TIGER PLAYS*
Mac: Hey listen Doc! They playing my music. You know what that means.
Doc: I know what that means. This is your night. Mr. Sandman ain’t what he used to be. Hell, none of us are. But you’re better than him. Always was and always will be. Now you go out there and you leave it all out there in the ring!
Mac: Man, I love you too, Doc Brown.
Doc: *mutters under breath* Soda Popinski, 1987, Detroit, second round hook.
Though he’s been out of the spotlight for over 20 years now, Mac has adoring fans of all generations. Grandfathers have passed Mac’s legacy down to their fathers. And fathers to sons. After all this time, folks still fondly remember. And they’re not shy to show Mac the appreciation he’s due.
For one last time, with the good Doc Louis by his side, Mac made that long walk down the aisle with the capacity crowd chanting his name in ecstasy. The show of adoration sent chills up and down Mac’s spine. Even if he doesn’t win, this moment will forever live on.
Long time nemesis Mr. Sandman paces in the ring, awaiting Mac’s arrival. We haven’t seen Mr. Sandman in decades, either. He still looks good. It’s the rematch everyone’s talking about. Mac Man vs. Sandman — RING THE BELL!
At the end of a hard fought battle, busted and bruised, Mac took a moment to acknowledge his loyal legion of fans. It’s been one hell of a ride. We’ve witnessed here tonight two boxing legends go toe to toe one last time. The sport will never be the same again. As for who won, the fans did. The sport of boxing did. In an era where we push youth and quickly cast aside the old, this was a historic night where tradition was honored and appreciated. Good night everybody!