Thursday, August 09, 2007

"One Two, One Two Punch, Mac!"

I thought I should break the monotony of the last couple of entries and write something that doesn't involve me losing a game show. So I figured I would write about my recent attempt to go all the way in the classic NES boxing game "Punch-Out!!". "Punch-Out!!" (or "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" pre-rape conviction and loss to Buster Douglas) is one my all time favorite NES games. It was a game that managed to be both fun to play and be, at times, frustratingly difficult. The game becomes fairly easy if you play it enough to figure out the different opponents' gimmicks and weaknesses, but towards the end of the game it's just a battle of quick reflexes ( a battle made all the more difficult if your controller is about a decade old and sticky with spilled beer). By the time you reach Tyson/Mr Dream, one of the most impossible final bosses in video game history, forget about it.

So until this afternoon I haven't sat down and played an actual full game of "Punch-Out!!" since the days when I would hang out at my old friend's basement in Long Island playing his NES around the late 90s, at my best I made it all the way to Mr Sandman the third to last fighter. The game I played today was on my computer via emulator, but you can be assured that there was no save state funny business. No continues or redos, I played it straight through to see how far I could go before I got beat.

Glass Joe

Glass Joe is one of the easiest video game characters of all time. He's like the first goomba you meet in Mario Bros., in fact he's probably easier. With the goomba you at least might accidentally run into it and lose a life, you really have to put in an effort to lose to this guy. He long distance telegraphs his punches and in the rare cases he lands something does a pathetic amount of damage. Even if you didn't fight back and let him pound on you in the first round, he still won't damage you enough for the match not to get into the next round. It makes me wonder who that 1 KO was. Suffice to say I got the three knock downs in the round to force the TKO a little over two minutes into the three minute first round without him landing a single blow. In relative Glass Joe terms this was a mediocre victory, many times he won't get up from the first knockdown. I give some credit to his somewhat valiant effort.

Von Kaiser

Old school German boxer and suspected Nazi sympathizer Von Kaiser is the first "real" fighter you meet and by real I mean he actually throws punches. Chances of actually getting hit in this match go up a little bit depending on how sloppy you're fighting. He managed to get one punch off on me. His compulsion to shake his head before throwing a punch still makes him a walking punching bag. His arsenal of punches is also quite lacking. It was another three knock out TKO just under the 2 minute mark in the first round, pathetic. I do however dig his Cecil B. DeMille puffy director pants and boots, quite the dandy.

Piston Honda

The learning curve suddenly takes a sharp spike upward when you meet Honda for the Minor Circuit title. You actually have to pay attention to the match when fighting this guy. He has his give away eyebrow furrowing but he also throws into the mix a body blow and a sharp uppercut that'll totally nail you if your timing's off. He's also the first guy to have a "special move", his being this Bonzai rapid punch sequence that I to this day never figured out how to avoid aside from blocking. I knocked him down twice in the first round but I ran out of time so for the first time it went into the second round (in between rounds he declared he would give me a "TKO from Tokyo"). I was able to knock him down again twice and by the second time he stayed down for the 10 count, giving me my first official KO (although the game counts all TKOs as KOs too) and the Minor Championship.

Winning a title means one thing...dramatic training scene please!:

Don Flamenco

The Minor circuit is basically like the first 5 questions in a game of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire", they should just be easy obligations to get out of the way before the higher stakes appear. The first fight in the Major circuit pits you against the cocky Spaniard Don Flamenco, who comes to the ring with a rose between his lips, which due to the limitations of the NES, he appears to eat right before the match starts. He has an interesting quirk where he first motions for you to hit him and you sort of have to to force him to make his attack which you have to quickly counter. However once you counter his attack, you can keep giving him a combination of alternating left right punches until he gets knocked out. It's a weird flaw that makes him one of the easiest guys to fight in the game. Two knockdowns and 46 seconds into the first round he was KO'd, by far my quickest match. This made the Glass Joe match look like the Thrilla in Manilla.

King Hippo

The next match is against the most famous Punch-Out character, noted enemy of Captain N and Mother Brain henchman King Hippo. The character itself is all gimmick, you only have to knock him down once using the one secret method, punching him in the mouth and then punching him in the guy when he's stunned; aside from this lone method, King Hippo is indestructible. Although his weakness is pretty easy to exploit if you're not careful he'll land some hard punches on you, and you can only take so many of those shots. He also annoyingly covers his mouth sometimes so you have to pay a bit of attention. About two minutes in I got the necessary hits in to bring him down. Is it me or is Butterbean basically a real life version of this guy?

Great Tiger

The Great Tiger used to be the end of the line when I was younger. His regular fighting style was easy enough to deal with, standard jabs and uppercuts telegraphed by the flashing jewel on his turban (you wonder why he just doesn't cover that up when he fights), but then he breaks out his cheap ass special tiger punch where he disappears and does a perpetual sequence of quick punches that you can't dodge. The trick as I later learned was to forget dodging and to block the punches five or so times in a row which will cause him to stop and remain momentarily dazed allowing you to knock him out in one punch. I only managed to knock him down twice in the first round so it went on into the second round. By the second round I had made some mistakes but his unexplainable (hubris perhaps?) reliance on a high risk maneuver that he obviously knew that I had learned to counter caused him to be TKO'd by the end of the round.

Bald Bull
First off I want to know what sort of legitimate boxing organization would sanction a fight between a 107 lb fighter and a 298 lb monster (that and a fighter that's listed at "??" in the case of King Hippo)? Nevertheless the Major Circuit title bout pitted me against another classic "Punch-Out" pugilist in Bald Bull. His standard fighting style alone is a bit of a handful, his jabs and uppercuts are quite fast and he'll definitely make you pay if your timing is off. Actually the only reason a fight with this guy is winnable is due to his bull charge special move where he charges at you from one end of the ring. If you can hit him in the stomach at the specific point of his charge you'll score an instant knockdown, if you fail he will score an instant knockdown. Normally a fight with Bull lasts at least into the second round but I managed to knock him down early and got extremely lucky on two of his rushes to finish him off towards the end of round one, thus capturing the Major circuit title!

This calls for a celebration, how about training night!:

Piston Honda II: The Revenge
The final circuit, the World Circuit is where the difficulty really ramps up. It's also a breeding ground for fighters I've beaten to come back demanding rematches, case in point: Piston Honda. On the surface the guy hasn't changed too much since I beat him way back in the Minor Circuit, but he's definitely a beast this time around. He doesn't have any new moves but he's significantly faster and stronger. By this level it's extremely rare to have boxers getting KO'd, so its just a race against the clock to get your 3 KO's in. This is sort of what makes Honda all that more difficult, since he lacks a high risk instant knockout maneuver to take advantage of. The first round had him knocking me down once and me knocking him down twice. The second round was similar except he knocked me down twice as well. As the match came into an unprecedented third and final round I was still holding out hope that I had knocked him down enough times for the next one to be the KO. As the round was drawing to a close I found myself much like in previous rounds unable to deliver that elusive third knockdown for the win. I basically now looked to make it through the round and hope for the split decision (which I had a good chance of getting since I knocked him down more overall). However 15 seconds from the end Honda connected on his second knockdown and despite my button mashing I was unable to make it up in the 10 count. Thus, my drive for the World Title ended there and my only parting gift was the lasting image of Honda's flexing and showboating. I could have accepted a rematch but I wanted a perfect record to the top (that and my fingers were starting to get sore).


  1. I haven't thought of that game in years...

  2. so-so entry. i think you need to stick to what the masses want. you're little punch-out opus, while epic and sweeping, is so far your Barry Lyndon. Lets get some Nicholson action to liven things up, eh?

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  4. Until the time when some one actually pays me to blog and that I can actually live out the title action of selling out...I blog for myself.

  5. Well said Stud! Not that it matters by I enjoy your blog.