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30 years ago, before Smash Bros. or even the NES, there was Punch-Out!! in arcades

Developed by Nintendo R&D1--the outfit later responsible for classics like Kid Icarus and Metroid--it featured now-iconic characters like Glass Joe and Bald Bull as well as lesser-known fighters like Pizza Pasta. It was also the first title with music by Koji Kondo, the composer of unforgettable Nintendo songs like the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda themes.

Most gamers remember Punch-Out!! from the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System; but in fact, the series began years before that with an arcade game that more closely resembled the Super NES sequel than the 8-bit version. Like 16-bit Super Punch-Out!!, the arcade game is set from behind a wireframe version of the protagonist--a green-haired boxer meant to resemble the player. The arcade game's mechanics are also much the same as the later versions; two buttons representing the main character's fists, and the third being used for a powerful uppercut. Unlike the NES game though, there are no stars; uppercuts are instead governed by a KO gauge that steadily fills throughout the match.

As is the case with many grand inventions, Punch-Out!! uses two TV screens to show off the action. At the time, Nintendo had a surplus of monitors, which were incorporated into Punch-Out!! as a second display for pictures of the boxers and various vital statistics. In that way, Punch-Out!! was something of an experiment for the concepts the publisher later explored much later on the DS and the Wii U Gamepad.

Another interesting note about Punch-Out!!: It was one of the first games to be developed in conjunction with the then brand-new Nintendo of America. Though little more than an overseas marketing and distribution arm of NCL (the official name of Nintendo’s home office) in 1984, members of NOA were invited to lend their voices to the crowd and the referees, and even offer input on the final design. Years later, a Punch-Out!! reboot would be developed entirely by a North American studio when Next Level games took over the Wii version. There’s actually a pretty interesting Iwata Asks about making the Punch-Out games.

These days, Punch-Out!! is mostly remembered for Little Mac (the newest member of the, pink jumpsuits, and Mike Tyson; but even now it's something of a rarity--the boxing game that can engage even non-sports fans with its simple controls, cartoony action, and battles that worked more like puzzles that actual boxing matches. With so many fuzzy memories attached to it, it's sort of a surprise that it took so long for Little Mac to make his way on to the Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS roster. At long last, the champ is here.

8 comments

  • Fran_Halen - February 17, 2014 2:26 a.m.

    There is an old school arcade in my town that has a lot of the classics. Playing Punch Out last weekend brought back so many great memories. I'm a gamer for life!
  • g1rldraco7 - February 15, 2014 9:03 p.m.

    Thank goodness Little Mac came out before he faded into non existence.
  • universaltofu - February 15, 2014 7:19 p.m.

    I like that punch out has alongside kid Icarus gotten smash-related revivals. It's a shame that each series didn't get a chance to shine as often as other properties. What could have been with an N64 punchout, a Gamecube iteration, what did we lose by keeping the franchise's evolution hidden. Nothing against the Wii title, it was great, but it essentially was the nes game with a facelift, a bizarre regression in spite of the potential set in place by wii sports boxing and the wii motion plus.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 16, 2014 10:24 a.m.

    Last I checked, Punch Out is more as a Puzzle game than simply Punch to Win, Waggle shit wouldn't help it at all, and even then it used Wiimote Nunchuck Motion as a control scheme and it used the Balance board.
  • universaltofu - February 16, 2014 11:06 p.m.

    I didn't mean to say that punch out wii should have been a waggle fest, but rather that it was maybe a missed opportunity to have done something beyond that. I can't quite articulate what, because if I knew I'd be making games or something. I get the reason people play punch out stems from those gratifying 'I have this guy pegged' moments, and I think it's an idea that hasn't had a chance to grow into something bigger having been absent for two gaming generations.
  • brickman409 - February 15, 2014 5:37 p.m.

    I played this one time at the pinball hall of fame in Las Vegas
  • shawksta - February 15, 2014 4:06 p.m.

    I remember that being a thing. Heh, Little Mac's concept collab picture with DK is massively reminicent to the arcade root, even the top shot of him vs DK is in the same exact style, its just the bottom was replaced with Smash. Dat Arcade touch. http://www.smashbros.com/us/images/character/little_mac/illust-modal.jpg
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 15, 2014 6:12 p.m.

    THATS pretty sick, they even added scratches to the sides and they have light reflections, goddamn.

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