Retro Respawn – Is Super Punch-Out!! Still a Knock-Out?!

Super Punch-Out!! is probably the game from the Punch-Out series of games that I’ve played the most due to it coming to prominence in the mid-90s after I had already picked up a Super Nintendo console. The son of my child-minder had it for his SNES, and I was allowed to borrow it for a bit in my younger days. I was never really that good at it and struggled to even get past Piston Hurricane when I was a kid. However, when I first got back into the SNES during the early 00s after years of playing the fifth and sixth gen consoles, Super Punch-Out!! was one of the first games I went out of my way to play to see if I had got any better at it.

Thankfully, my skills have improved to the point that I can get as far as the business end of the third circuit without really struggling. With the assistance of save states and rewinding of action that you can do on the Nintendo Switch SNES emulator, I was even able to get as far as final boss Nick Bruiser this time around, although I had no luck with him after some fruitless brawling. Truth be told, I didn’t even know that there had been games in the series already when I first played Super Punch-Out!!, and the series would end up getting resurrected for the Nintendo Wii. In some ways, I think Super Punch-Out!! is kind of the forgotten middle child a lot of the time, with the NES and Wii games seemingly getting more of the attention.

Mike Tyson having his name slapped over the original Punch-Out!! gave that game some considerable pop-culture cred, whilst Punch-Out!! on the Wii came out at a time that was best suited to capitalise on the fact that kids who would have played the original Punch-Out!! back in the day would now have their nostalgia senses tickled by a trip down memory lane. Plus, it includes Donkey Kong as a wacky special boss fight, along with having the most complete roster of all three games. Super Punch-Out!! doesn’t seem to carry the same level of cache as the two other games do, but it is certainly the first game I think of when it comes to the series. After all these years though, is Super Punch-Out!! still a fun game to play? There are certainly aspects to the gameplay that differentiate it from the other two games, and I can understand why hardened classic Punch-Out!! fans wouldn’t like it.

The big difference is that you only get three minutes to defeat your opponent in Super Punch-Out!!, and if you don’t manage it, then you lose the fight. This encourages you to go heck for leather in order to defeat every opponent, but it also makes the game feel less like an authentic boxing experience because there aren’t any rounds, and you cannot win the fight on a judge’s decision. Rather than patiently dolling out punishment and fighting battles with an element of strategy like you would in a real boxing match, Super Punch-Out!! instead wants you to be clobbering guys in under a minute like you’re an up and coming hot prospect working your way through tomato cans. Granted, every game in the series has had wacky and fantastical elements to it, but the original Punch-Out!! especially “felt” like a boxing game in ways Super Punch-Out!! doesn’t.

Super Punch-Out!! is a supremely entertaining game to watch people speed-run, especially when the speed-runner in question gets on a roll and just decimates the opposition with seeming ease. It’s funny to think how much trouble I had with some of the opposing fighters in Super Punch-Out!! back in the day, only to see highly skilled players crush them without even breaking a sweat. Speed and fluidity are the main elements of the gameplay in Super Punch-Out!!, in all honesty. The game moves at a tremendous clip sometimes, and there’s something so utterly satisfying about tearing into one of the wacky opponents with perfectly timed punches.

Super Punch-Out!! has had its critics over the years, notably those who prefer the original Punch-Out!! and didn’t really like the directions that the SNES version of the game went in. The meagre three minutes you get for a fight are not ideal, and some of the trial and error that goes into defeating the CPU sometimes can be really brutal. However, what Super Punch-Out!! has over its predecessor is that it’s brighter, more colourful, pacier and just generally more polished when it comes to the combat. The pace is introduced at the expense of removing some of the more boxing-focused aspects of the game, but if that doesn’t bother, you then I do personally think that Super Punch-Out!! still holds up after all these years, and it’s worth checking it out if you’ve never played it.

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