A few decades ago the masses believed video games were a waste of time for lackadaisical youths to pacify themselves while ignoring their responsibilities as both kids and young adults. As more and more people started understanding the benefits of gaming so too did the perception of what a video game is and, most importantly, the benefits gaming can bestow on a person’s life changed. Hi, my name is James Bullock and I am a gamer who has spent the better part of his existence testing the laws of physics, exploring the vastness of a world ruined, and been a champion inside various arenas courtesy of digitized worlds both driven by reality and created through pure unbelievable ingenuity unlike anything seen by human eyes. And as a gamer I’ve discovered something else video games provide: life lessons. Today I examine the game that made people think they could knock out Mike Tyson, “Punch-Out!!”
There’s Always a Combination For Success (“Punch-Out!!”)
Due to the year of my birth I found myself pretty late to the party when it came to owning an original Nintendo Entertainment System. My first foray in gaming began in 1989 – less than a year before the SNES was released in Japan & North America for people who were either older than me or had a subscription to “Nintendo Power” magazine to keep up with everything Nintendo was offering at the time. But before the NES went the route of being obsolete, the system still had some fantastic games coming down the pike including remasters of games either out of print or having an expired license in terms of utilizing the likeness of someone famous – “Punch-Out!!” the 1990 version is an example of the latter.
In 1983 (some six years before I even owned a NES), the original “Punch-Out!!” was released in arcades across Japan that caused gamers to rally behind this one-of-a-kind boxing game that would eventually feature a true megastar in the making, Mike Tyson. Shortly before Tyson became the World Boxing Council Heavyweight, Nintendo of America’s founder and former president Minoru Arakawa saw “Iron” in action and became enamored with the pugilist’s punching power to the point he convinced Nintendo to pay for Tyson’s likeness so the American release of “Punch-Out!!” on the NES (a re-release followed for Japanese gamers) would have a great reason to play. I had a chance to rent the original, but I didn’t become a “Punch-Out!!” master (as a kid; certainly not now having not played religiously in twenty-five-plus years) until the re-release of the American version dropped in the summer of 1990 – entering my home the Christmas that year. Going through each fight it became obvious that, just like in real boxing, understanding your opponent, learning their strengths, weaknesses, and, most importantly, patterns were the only keys to victory. “Punch-Out!!” was and still is less about the aggressive style “Iron” Mike made famous, and based more on counterstriking, taking your time, and finding the right combination to force the little referee with the mustache to call it a win in Little Mac’s – the gamer’s avatar – favor.
While trial & error, pattern learning & strategy changes were the norm in regards to a majority of the games during that era, “Punch-Out!!” felt was different mostly thanks the visceral nature of boxing being animated, yet still appeared incredibly devastating due to the pixilated fighters bobbing, weaving, throwing hooks & uppercuts aplenty while making crazy faces whenever someone got punched in the belly. But the only way to become the best is to practice, learn from your mistakes, and never stop trying until you find that winning combination even if it means getting concussed by a man with the last name of “Bull” or soaking your underwear in fear for having angered Mike Tyson because you wouldn’t stand still.
Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Punch-Out!!” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.