Game Review

Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

Heavy Hitter

Boxing is a fascinating sport. Two human beings enter the ring, then skilfully and tactfully beat the tar out of one another using nothing but their own gloved fists. It’s the perfect fodder for a video game, and that’s exactly why the Punch-Out!! series is such a classic.

Originally released in North America as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, then shortened simply to Punch-Out!! after Nintendo’s license to use the famous boxer’s likeness in the game expired, this title remains one of the most lauded NES games to date. Taking the role of fledgling boxer Little Mac, your goal is to work your way up the ranks by defeating a variety of foes with names such as Don Flamenco and Soda Popinski on your way to becoming the world champion. There’s no real plot to discern here — just pure, unadulterated, gaming goodness.

Though Punch-Out!! may be a boxing game, it’s less about button mashing and much more about learning your opponent and using his weaknesses to your advantage. Because of this, it is entirely possible to read it as being more akin to a puzzle game rather than a traditional brawler. Instead of wildly tapping the B and A buttons to deliver left and right hooks — which will inevitably be blocked — your time is much better spent paying attention to your opponents’ movements, and noticing when you have an opening to strike or when you should dodge and counter. Unlike so many modern fighting and boxing games that can be won simply by pounding on the punch button, Punch-Out!! requires a certain grace and finesse.

Like many early NES games, the button commands are incredibly simple, and they’re responsive enough to allow you to execute movements with precision. Using the D-Pad, you can dodge left, right, or block, and pressing B and A swing your left and right fists, respectively. Timing hits perfectly will earn you stars that allow you to unleash devastating uppercuts, and these are performed with a simple tap of the Start button. The NES gamepad didn’t have a wide array of buttons with which to perform complicated combo moves, but this game manages to use the controller to the best of its ability and provide a simple yet intuitive method of control.

Not only does Punch-Out!! play well, but it’s also a great looking game. Because there isn’t really much on-screen at any given time, the characters sprites are much larger than those from other games of the era, allowing for more detail to go into their composition. This additional detail is necessary for paying attention and tracking the opposing fighter's quirks that give their attack patterns away. Whether it’s a shake of the head or an open mouth that reveals your opponent’s weakness, everything is clearly on display.

The one downfall of this game being about memorizing patterns rather than engaging in direct combat is that once you’ve figured out all of your opponent's moves, the challenge is significantly diminished. Finding the perfect timing can take a while, and deciphering the right combination of jabs to the stomach or hooks to the jaw isn’t easy, but after multiple playthroughs, the task at hand can become a little mundane. That’s not to say that Punch-Out!! is an easy game by any means — in fact, it has a difficulty curve that borders on maddening — but its lasting appeal comes from the iconic cast of characters and genuinely fun gameplay that it provides, rather than unachievable victory.

As far as ports go, this Wii U version of the NES classic is spot-on. Everything runs just as smoothly as the original game, and the inclusion of save states is invaluable for those players hoping to make it all the way to the end without having to type in a code just to pick up where they left off. Off-screen play on the GamePad’s miniature display is an added bonus, and the control setup feels perfectly natural as well.


While not a perfect game, Punch-Out!! set the standard for a classic series that is alive and well today. Because of its odd balance between fighting and pattern memorization, it’s difficult to place this one is a specific genre, but that’s also why it appeals to so many players from all across the gaming spectrum. This port won’t disappoint fans of the NES classic, and it’s also the best place to start for newcomers to the series. Boxing puns aside, it’s a real knock-out.

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User Comments (34)



bezerker99 said:

Isn't it insanity that I can't remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday but 20 some years later I can still remember the code that gets you straight to Mike Tyson (err...Mr. Dream)???

Haha, it starts with 007.



nomeacuerdo said:

Third anniversary game I buy, the first one that I'll actively enjoy.
The control with the joystick is a little tricky, btw. As expected, works better with the d-pad



PinkSpider said:

I played this for ages last night, first time I have properly sat down with it. I loved it and agree with the Review



bonham2 said:

This game has really opened my eyes to the poor quality of the gamepad's and pro controller's d-pads. I'm finding the game controls very sluggish compared to other versions. My Wii VC with the classic controller is perfect, and even playing on the 3DSXL is perfect as well.



Nintenjoe64 said:

The combat system in this 25 year old game is so much more satisfying and more difficult than the dire; Press B to Block, Press A to Attack control systems we're getting used to now.



Blue_Yoshi said:

I bought this too and find it pretty amusing for a retro game. I could tell it takes some practice but I can easily see why this was chosen as a part of the sale.



SheldonRandoms said:

I got this as soon as it was on the Wii U eShop, it's one of my favorite Nes games and also my favorite boxing series of all time. Out of all the times I made it to Mike Tyson/Mr.Dream, I only beaten him a couple of times, but still, that felt like an achievement.



Emaan said:

I think the series is very interesting to play. I like trying to figure out each opponent's fighting patterns. Not to mention a lot of character and charm is put into each and every fighter. Glad this was included in the 30th anniversary promotion, as it's a true gem.



Ryno said:

@element187: I don't know about that nonsense.

This is such a wonderful game! So many great memories playing it as a kid. Anybody else hate the blemish of not having an undefeated record or is that just me?



shinobi88 said:

In terms of presentation in an 8-bit title, on a scale of 1-10, this game scores about a 9...900 that is



Omega said:

Why are there three reviews for this game? A 3DS-review, a Wii Virtual Console review and a Wii U review? And also, why are there two reviews of Ghosts'n Goblins (NES)? Aren't they all the exact same emulated games?



AJWolfTill said:

Played it for the first time yesterday, Mr Hippo is currently owning my sorry ass but then again, I found the guy before him hard until I worked out a strategy and now I can beat him without taking a hit.



Ron_DelVillano said:

@Omega Great observation! After much deliberation, we decided it would be best to review all versions of the download games as they come out. Some of the previous reviews were written a few years back, so it's good to get a fresh pair of eyes on the games, especially if they're being released on new consoles for new generations of gamers.

@AJWolfTill PROTIP: Wait for King Hippo to open his mouth, then punch him in the chomper!



Captain_Balko said:

In my humble opinion, Punch Out!! was one of the greatest NES games ever made. I hope Little Mac becomes a playable character in the next Smash Brothers game...



guest37 said:

after a few matches, the game becomes very difficult for the casual gamer.



berenlazarus said:

Never beat Tyson . . . er . . . Mr Dream I mean. Even using Save States. He's that freaking hard



n0body said:

I'm curious, does anyone know why this game is 36 MB on Wii U when it's 2.75 MB on Wii?

Is there any extra content that would warrant such a huge increase in file size?



Tasuki said:

Its was a great game on the NES but I dont know maybe its me but I prefer Super Punch OUt and the Wii remake of Punch Out over this game. I have it on the Wii VC but yeah I find myself playing the other two more.



Ambassador_Kong said:

Super Punch-Out is the best in the series, without a doubt, but I really love playing this thing on the gamepad. My kids look at it and say, "it's sooooo old," but neither of them can get past the first fight.



Ambassador_Kong said:


I believe that the emulator is package in with every game (like the 3DS VC) while the Wii had the emulator built into the system and played the ROM files.



EaZy_T said:

This is a great game
I liked it so much back in the day that I got Sakura Samurai because they play/control similarly.



HawkeyeWii said:

I have all the games in the series and almost always find myself playing this over the new versions. Super Punch Out felt kind of stale and Punch Out!! for Wii gets way to difficult. The original however is the bowl of porage that tastes just right.



Big_A2 said:

@n0body: I think this was brought up in the last podcast of 1Up's Retronauts. It's probably a matter of both the instruction manual and the added Wii U functionality, as well as any modifications Nintendo made in order to assure the emulation runs perfectly.

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