Join us as we review all the games on the SNES Classic Mini Edition in chronological order!
I like to think that people who pick up the SNES Classic Edition because they remember loving Super Mario World, Street Fighter II, and Super Mario Kart as a kid will be pleasantly surprised by one other game on the menu: Super Punch-Out!!.
Punch-Out!! is one of those games everyone played on the NES, at least in North America. Mike Tyson's name was attached to the scrappy boxing title for a long time, which did a lot to move copies. People who plucked the game off the shelf for Tyson's name were subsequently delighted to discover one of the best (and one of the most unconventional) 8-bit sports games of all time.
All that love, and yet comparatively few people heard the good word about Super Punch-Out!! for the SNES. To this day, I wonder why. I suppose the lack of Tyson's name on the box was a hindrance – not that his reputation was sparkling through the latter half of the '90s. I'd also guess Super-Punch Out!! was simply overlooked; by the time it launched in September 1994, the SNES' library was bursting with goodies, and a couple of huge releases (Final Fantasy III, Donkey Kong Country) were just up the road.
But with the SNES Classic, Super Punch-Out!! gets another chance. I'm glad for that. It's a gem of a title that's a good deal of fun to bash through.
Super Punch-Out!! looks and plays a touch differently from its NES predecessor, which may cause a small torrent of confused noises to escape the throats of people who aren't overly-familiar with the Punch-Out!! series' history. That's understandable. Super Punch-Out!! is less of a direct sequel to NES Punch-Out!! and more of a console realization of the series' arcade roots.
While most of us never got to play Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!! in the arcades (myself included), Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES is a good realization of what the games looked, sounded, and played like on arcade cabinets. A generic player character takes the place of bold Little Mac (my biggest complaint about Super Punch-Out!!, frankly). The upper half of the boxer's body is visible across the lower half of the screen, and the full body of your opponent occupies the upper half. You and your rival beat the snot out of each other until one of you goes down for the ten-count (KO) or is knocked down three times (TKO).
Super Punch-Out!! also hews close to its arcade origins by letting you hulk up via a power meter in lieu of earning Punch-Out!! NES's star punches. The power meter charges as you land successive punches without getting hit yourself. Once it's full, you can unleash powered-up attacks at the cost of a small delay. The meter empties if you're knocked down.
I admit Punch-Out!! NES has a charm Super Punch-Out!! lacks; watching tiny Little Mac literally jump to reach his opponents' jaws is still too charming for words. Super Punch-Out!!'s boxer doesn't exude the same "David vs Goliath" air. He's not a warrior or an underdog. He's just a dude who wants a belt.
Thankfully, his opponents are an interesting and diverse bunch (stereotypically so, in some regards). As in Punch-Out!! NES, you start with a real weakling. Gabby Jay, whose wavering "Yay!" is supplied by Charles Martinet, is a meat punching-bag who only exists to oil up your gloves with spittle and blood. The challenge quickly ramps up thereafter, however. Most of your opponents fight dirty; they use sticks, flying kicks, and elbows. Masked Muscle, a disgraced luchador, blinds you by spitting in your face like a masked dilophosaurus. What kind of boxing league is this?
The kind that's fun to punch your way through, admittedly. Super Punch-Out!! doesn't take long to mop up once you know what you're doing, but as with other games in the series, learning each fighter's tricks, moves, and tells is an ordeal. You eat a lot of canvas before you're allowed to lay your gloved hands on that final belt.
Is Super-Punch Out!! as iconic as its NES precursor? Not quite. Does its soundtrack lack the iconic themes of the preceding game? Indeed. However, Super Punch-Out!! lets you punch a clown into unconsciousness. That alone makes it an instant recommendation, and a very welcome addition to the SNES Classic line-up.
Super Punch-Out!! purposefully apes the arcade Punch-Out!! titles instead of directly following-up on the NES classic. As a result, Super Punch-Out!! may play a little differently than you'd expect, but it's still a compelling off-the-wall goof-fest that never takes itself seriously. It also has some of the biggest, handsomest sprites drawn for an SNES game. If you missed out on Super Punch-Out!! in '94, it's time to get caught up.