Any game that features combatants from around the world tends to play up the differences between cultures. The Mexican dude will probably have a luchador mask and love maracas, the Aussie wears a boomerang for a belt, stuff like that. It’s understandable to a certain degree, but we have to admit, Punch-Out!!, as a series, has a lot more (good natured) fun with stereotypes than any other game we can think of.
They say laughter is the best medicine, so what better way is there to sooth racial tensions than with friendly jabs at everyone’s equal expense?
The French: Are wimpy cowards who love expensive coffee, fancy baguettes and apparently must live within 100 feet of the Eiffel Tower at all times.
Glass Joe has forever been the lamest boxer in the series. He can barely throw a punch, let alone win an actual fight (cowardly), and in his opening scene we see him sipping an elite-brewed cup of fancy coffee (probably way better than the swill we Americans are forced to drink).
In between rounds most of Joe’s comments are simply counting to 10 in French, likely because that’s all we learned about France in high school.
Above: You actually beat the croissants out of him
Tasteful French trivia: The world-famous Louvre museum (that houses works like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo) has a cutoff date for its permanent collection. Nothing produced after 1848 will make it into this prestigious area. Modern exhibitions are still welcome, though temporarily.
Germans: Are militaristic, goose-stepping nationals obsessed with victory to a fault. And c’mon… his name’s Von Kaiser, of all names they could have given him. Might as well be Wolfgang von Sauerkraut.
Kaiser has always been just above Glass Joe in the Punch-Out!! hall of infamy, usually succumbing to well-timed body blows. He has a very proper march to his step, and his opening movie plays “Ride of the Valkyries,” a piece of German classical music often paired with one-sided military excursions (see The Simpsons, Apocalypse Now or the Vietnam scene in Watchmen). Basically, they’re trying to imply he’s a goofy Nazi without actually saying he’s a Nazi.
Above: Might have been photoshopped
Tasteful German trivia: Baseball may be America’s pastime, but German-blooded Honus Wagner aka “The Flying Dutchman” is on the world’s most valuable baseball card. How much is it worth? A cool $2.8 million.
Black Americans: Love tricked-out cars with huge rims and insane bass, and also spend a lot of time in the club scene.
Disco Kid is the only new Punch-Out!! boxer found in the main modes (which is why there are no sprites to show here), and as far as stereotypes go, this is pretty mild. The French had their clothes, cuisine and personality mocked, whereas Kid merely gets a jab for lovin’ the clubbin’.
He’s balanced by Mr. Sandman, the Punch-Out!! champ with no eccentric behavior at all.
Above: Mr. Sandman says NO to stereotypes
Tasteful Black American trivia: We all know Barack Obama is the first black US president, but did you know Shirley Chisholm was the first black AND first woman presidential candidate way back in 1972? She lost the nomination to George McGovern, who then lost to Nixon, who ended up resigning the office in 1974. Whatta country!
The Japanese: Only eat piles of sushi, can intercept swords with their bare hands and always, always bow to their opponents.
The first Punch-Out!! was developed in Japan, a country notorious for laughing off harsh national stereotypes. This one’s from Next Level games though, a Canadian outfit (they’ll get their comeuppance in a sec). Hondo here engages in all sorts of poke-poke wink-wink Japanese moments, each best described by images:
Above: Asians are exceptional martial artists
Above: Traditional byobu screens divide Japanese homes, and apparently boxing rings too
Above: Never lower your eyes to an enemy!
Above: Effing sushi flies out of his head
Tasteful Japanese trivia: The above sushi dish is called tamago nigiri, which is a delicious concoction of sumeshi (rice), tamago (egg omelet) and nori (dried seaweed). We’ll include a wonderfully disgusting sumeshi story on this week’s filthy, stupid podcast (TalkRadar 52!).
Next page – How Punch-Out!! handles Russians, Canadians and wealthy American celebrities.