This review was published on 06/05/2009.
Little Mac makes his return to the ring for another tumultuous climb to the top in Super Punch-Out, the sequel to the NES games. Mac shows his renewed passion by beefing up his muscles, wearing different shorts, dying his hair blond, and possibly growing a few feet taller. While Mac may not seem as little as before, his opponents have grown considerably, dwarfing Mac even after his growth spurt. Regardless of the odds, he is prepared to bruise some heads once again.
The most apparent improvement will be the visuals. It's not hard for the SNES to output better visuals than an old NES title, so that's not at all alarming, but these graphics are good enough to be worth a mention. It's colorful, well-animated, and there's a neat transparency effect that allows you to see through Mac. Audio isn't as charming, though it still works well enough to establish the mood. A lot of refinement has gone into the game play department, like the addition of the "Super Meter." This meter replaces Little Mac's Star Uppercuts from the last game, allowing him to pull off powerful lower punches or uppercuts if he can keep the meter full, and that is accomplished by not being hit by your opponent. Guarding has been tweaked to be more rewarding, being that you can block against a lot more attacks and that the consequences for doing so are far less. It's easy to perform, too; holding up blocks high attacks and remaining motionless will block all lower attacks. Mac's facial portrait will occasionally become red, giving him a nice boost in speed and power. I'm not sure what triggers that exactly, but it can change the tide of a match. Perhaps the most advanced technique is the counter-punch. Just like in the last Punch-Out, you can alternate between left and right punches. If you use a punch that is opposite to your opponent's, you'll cancel out their attack and hit them while you're at it. These improved combat mechanics lend the game a more brisk pace, allowing any skilled player to beat the computer opponents into a bloody pulp within a few short moments.
As in the last game, your foes are the true stars of the show. The roster is more or less the same as it was, with most characters being replaced by someone with a similar likeness, like Gabby Jay filling in for Glass Joe (both of which are French boxers with large losing streaks). The game continues to feature a cartoony cast of fighters with exaggerated personalities and an occasional stereotype, which it utilizes far more than its predecessor. Some of Little Mac's old enemies have new tricks up their sleeve, and in general, fights are far more difficult. Each fighter's overly eccentric personality isn't just for show, as they'll always leave behind bodily cues that give you a good idea of what attack they're going to pummel you with next. Get to know them well enough, and you'll gain the clairvoyance necessary to defeat them in style. Additionally, fighters will usually have some kind of devastating move that will grind you to a fine powder, often in ways that would be highly illegal in real boxing matches. Case in point: a Chinese boxer will use his awesome Dragon Kick move, a clown boxer will throw the balls he juggles at you, some guy will charge at you with a head-butt, and so on. Suffice it to say, Super Punch-Out is anything but a realistic boxing simulation game. That, however, is precisely its charm: it is the boxing game for people who aren't into boxing.
Nintendo decided to go the extra mile and implement a save feature, something which significantly increases the cost of game cartridges back in the day. It's a bit odd, because it's not necessary for a game like Punch-Out. Maybe they did it for the extensive stat tracking of matches, although that's a bit of a waste. Not like I'm complaining; I never liked inputting those long passwords. There is one other thing this save feature can do for you: a secret boxing circuit will be unlocked if you manage to complete the first three circuits without any losses. Accomplishing such a feat is insanely difficult in itself, so you can bet that this will take you more than a few tries to pull off. You'll come face-to-face with some of the toughest opponents in history, and this is where your boxing mettle will be tested like never before. Good luck trying to overcome this challenge. This is one of the few Nintendo developed games that is actually hard, like Star Fox for the SNES. It goes to show you that the company is more than capable at providing you with a challenging experience. They just happen to be reluctant to do so, most of the time, out of a desire to have a broader appeal.
When it comes to boxing games on the SNES, you can't do any better than Super Punch-Out. It's bigger and better than its predecessor, upping the ante in not only graphics, but in game mechanics as well. The combat is deep, your opponents are huge, and the action is intense. If you're at all into the Punch-Out series or like the idea of a boxing game, then be sure to check this one out. In fact, you might still enjoy this game even if you're not into either of those things, so give it a try anyway.
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