Da Skool of Hard Knocks – Tyson STYLE!

It was not until much later in my life that I had come to the realization that I had played Mike Tyson’s Punch out before I ever owned or rented the game.  I must have been only four or five when I first played the game at the local arcade.  The game caught my eye because of the unusual green wireframe character on the screen that represented Little Mac, or in this case, "The Challenger."  Me and my young mind, however, translated the images based on the formula: ugly is bad and not so ugly is good.  I suppose it was the color, but there was something about that wireframe challenger that instantly spoke "bad guy" to me.  Once I found a chair to stand on, I popped in a quarter and pounded those punch buttons like there was no tomorrow. 

With every open hand smackdown on the punch buttons I was certain I was moving closer to victory.  The green monster was getting hit more and more and I, the more human-looking boxer, barely had taken a scratch.  Left, Right, High, Low, I was throwing everything at the evil wire man and then, with one final flurry of blood-vessel-breaking smacks, the green wire monster went down…and did not get up.  I thought for certain I had won, but now the machine was asking me for more money, which I did not have.  How could an arcade machine ask you for more money if you didn’t die?  It seemed to make no sense.  Thankfully my older cousin was there to explain the situation.  This is the same cousin who would also eventually inform me that Santa Claus is not real, so I’m sure she took some twisted pleasure in enlightening me and my five-year-old ignorance.  "Um George, you do know you’re actually the green guy on the bottom…?"  My eyes widened as reality sent a sudden jolt through my body. It was as if someone had just kicked me in the head with the "You idiot" boot.  OUCH!

arcade punchout
Maybe I’m not the only one who finds it confusing to put the computer on the left side.  Player one always gets the left!


Mike Tyson’s Punch Out: First game to give you "NINJA HANDS"

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was the first good boxing game I ever played, with characters like Glass Joe, King Hippo, and of course, Little Mac.  I may be going out on a limb, but I think I can say with a fair amount of confidence that this game is timeless.  This game was fun when I bought it and was fun again in college some ten years later.  Once you get good at this game, your hands become quick and precise as they dance across the gamepad.  At its most frustrating, this is a game where a player can get stuck losing to the same boxer for an extended time.  I may have first played the game when I was ten, but it was not until ten years later that I could actually claim to have beaten "Iron Mike."  Despite the game’s gradual rise in difficulty, reaching its height with the previously mentioned "Iron Mike," there is something quite addictive to throwing the one-two to the same opponents over and over (or in my case getting laughed at by all the opponents I lost to).

Little Mac is a Weaky Baby

The game itself is pretty basic.  Mac has an arsenal of face and body blows that he can throw left or right handed, along with a super punch that you only can use if you are awarded a star.  For defensive purposes, Mac can dodge left or right, duck, or block.  Little Mac is just that — little — and his punches’ lack of damage reflect that.  In fact, most of the punches that you land will only take a sliver of damage from your opponent.  In order to take each opponent down, you usually have to exploit some sort of weakness to do big damage.  Although the super punches do cause a significant amount of damage, getting the stars required to throw them is not always easy. Some of your opponents will dodge your super punches, sometimes even if they were stunned while you perform the attack! (I’ve seen this with Bald Bull #1, Piston Honda #2, and Soda Popinski.) Most opponents have some sort of special move which they are pretty much guaranteed to do at least once in a fight.  When properly evaded, most of these special attacks leave your opponent vulneralbe to heavy damage or a one-hit knockout.

Bald Bitched UP
Bald Bull caught the bad end of one of Little Mac’s fierce body blows and took a dump in his pants!

The beauty of this game is that once you get familiar with the gameplay and the nature of the opponents, you can really go about winning in different ways.  The most basic tactic is simply to react to every punch that your opponent throws by dodging and then countering with your own punches.  If you’re good at this, you pretty much have the winning formula.  However, as the game moves up in difficulty, the reaction time decreases and you will not see your opponents’ punches telegraphed for as long.  I picked this tactic up pretty early in my playing days, but knowing it and executing it are two different things.  I often find myself wanting to dodge at a certain rhythm, which gets me into trouble because the harder guys always change up their delivery timing. 

Once you get the basic dodging and countering tactic down, if you are observant enough, you can really start to notice that some of the opponents leave holes in their defense, especially right before they throw a punch.  If you can time your punches properly and hit these holes, you can keep some fighters from even throwing their punches.  This also opens up a whole new world of super punch stars that you may not have had access to before.  Some opponents who used to give me fits when I younger, I utterly destroy now.  Take Great Tiger for example.  Once you get the hang of blocking his Tiger Punch, he’s pretty easy.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I could beat him consistently.  When I came back to the game as an adult, however, I figured out how to pick him apart. Now I can get so many stars on him that I knock him out before he even has time to throw his Tiger Punch.

Each fight lasts a maximum of three rounds, and if you scored enough points, you can win by decision against certain fighters.  Not every opponent can lose by decision, and no championship fights can be won by decision.  It is, though, another interesting option for victory for those who wish to explore every facet of the game.


Gay Don

Don is more concerned with his hair than with the fight.  The "Rose in the Mouth" pre-fight dance routine clearly shows where his focus is.

Every character portrays some sort of exaggerated persona, and this is usually reflected in their pre-fight introduction and what they say between the rounds.  Some people find the fighters’ comments tto be absolutely halarious, but when I was looking for a good quote nothing stood out to me as being that funny.  Still, explore if you are curious.  Maybe your tastes differ.  So there you have it.  If you have this game, play it, if you never did, go get it, and if you beat it, try it again.  This game is still fun and challenging and it did not take amazing graphics to make it so.

Pass keys are important
Little Mac has it all going!  Not only does he have superb fashion sense, he’s also a hard worker.  Mac has become so strong he’s become as large as King Kong!

Being the dedicated OLD SKOOL reporter that I am, I decided to play Mike Tyson’s punch out on emulator just to make sure it was still fun. I played through it twice, the first time through I lost to Soda Popinski and the second time to Mr. Sandman.  The keyboard just doesn’t compare to an actual Nintendo controller, and although I was able to pick apart some of the easier opponents, the lack of response got me whooped by the better fighters.

Soda Laugh

Here’s me in a familiar position; on the floor and getting laughed at….  :(


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Author: George Brandes View all posts by

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