In adapting the coin-op hit for home play, Nintendo added a plot to the bouts players fought.
Trite as Little Mac’s quest for the championship was, it injected heart – complete with those inspirational roadwork runs – into what was merely a game of skill in the arcades.
Most remember the goofy whimsy of the NES boxing classic, which offered an arguably offensive parade of ethnic pugilists to pummel. However, the game’s legendary status was cemented by a sadistic difficulty, which socked that whimsy – and players – in the jaw.
Between the years of 1987 and 1989, Punch-Out!! probably did more to build pattern recognition skills in American grade-schoolers than all their multiplication drills combined. Knowing when to dodge and when to uppercut with each opponent became points of pride and, even today, claims of beating the nigh-invulnerable Mike Tyson in the game’s final match sound like the tallest of tales.
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