At 17th June of 1983, Nintendo releases Punch-Out!!, an arcade game that debuted Nintendo's Punch-Out franchise. Released in Japan in 1983, and in North America and Europe in 1984, it was a technical breakthrough, for its large detailed sprites, over-the-shoulder perspective, and gameplay innovations such as the player stamina meter, enemy stamina meter, recharging health and dodging mechanics.
Boxing games have been around since the early days of gaming. Both Atari Boxing and Intellivision Boxing were released in 1980 respectively, Rocky took a few shots to the head on the Colecovision in 1983 and Nintendo's Punch Out appeared in arcades also in that year. This was the first boxing game to become popular enough to launch its own franchise.
It was a technical breakthrough, for its large, detailed, colourful sprites, and 480p resolution using a dual-monitor setup. It introduced several gameplay innovations, such as an over-the-shoulder perspective and the player stamina meter, enemy stamina meter, recharging health and dodging mechanics.
The player controls an unnamed green-haired boxer who is displayed from a behind-the-back view as a green wire-frame during gameplay - this was done to allow the player to see the opponent more easily. The player can throw high and low / right and left punches using two buttons in combination with the joystick, as well as press a third, larger button that is used for a "super punch" - either an uppercut or hook - when the player fills an on-screen meter via landing multiple normal punches. The player must quickly react to visual cues from the opponent in order to block or dodge incoming punches.
The player works his way through a series of opponents until they earn the right to face the world champion, Mr. Sandman. Like many arcade games from the same era, Punch-Out!! does not have a true ending. If you progress through all of the boxers and manage to win the world title, the game starts you over at the first opponent again. The second time through your green wireframe character is yellow, and the opponents have different colored attire and display more complex and dangerous techniques.
Unlike the later home games in the Punch-Out!! franchise, there is only one round per fight. The player must KO his opponent within that one round. If the time expires it goes to a "decision" which results in a loss for the player. Although there is technically no TKO win condition in the game, three knockdowns (either to the opponent or player) will result in a knockout.
The Punch-Out!! arcade cabinet was somewhat unique in that it used two monitors - one in the standard arcade cabinet position for the field of play and another monitor above it that displayed game data like player/opponent portraits as well as health meters.
Punch-Out!! also featured digitized speech that served multiple purposes, an announcer introduced the opponents before a fight as well as called the action on the fly during a bout (ie "Right! Right! Left! Bodyblow! He's down for the count!") and gave an audio cue to the player when their super meter was full ("Put him away!" or "Knock him out!").
The announcer also encourages the player to "Come on, stand up and fight!" after a defeat. Other brief samples were used for boxer voices, mainly just grunts when the player was hit by an opponent and a laugh that would be heard when the player was knocked out by the computer opponent.
Punch-Out!! had an arcade sequel, Super Punch-Out!! It spawned several home console titles bearing the Punch-Out name with a similar (although not identical) gameplay style. It even had an arcade spin-off Arm Wrestling (which featured Bald Bull as a masked opponent named Mask X).
Punch-Out!! is generally regarded as one of the original iconic Nintendo franchises, although not at the level of Mario or Zelda titles. A true video game classic that brought us into the ring, minus the pain, “Punch Out!!” continues to be a beloved boxing game.
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