The Story of Punch-Out!! | Gaming Historian

September 8, 2019

[Music] Nintendo has released punch-out games for more than 30 years but it isn’t one of their most successful franchises it doesn’t even crack the top ten but it continues to be one of the most memorable series in Nintendo’s vault why what made punch-out so appealing perhaps it was the colorful cast of opponents glass Joe King Hippo bald bull maybe it was the underdog story of Little Mac a street fighter with dreams of becoming a world champion it could have been the endorsement of Mike Tyson one of the greatest boxers of all time or maybe it was just the basic allure of boxing [Music] you [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] in 1983 Nintendo had a problem they had too many arcade monitors there Donkey Kong arcade games had sold extremely well but as the years went on sales slowed but Nintendo continued to purchase monitors at the same high rate as before instead of tossing the extra monitors Nintendo thought they could use them they came up with an idea make an arcade game that would use two monitors instead of one Nintendo gave the project to their research and development three team in his book game over David Sheff described R&D 3 as a band of otaku computer hackers and nerds they were the consummate eggheads and dweebs R&D 3 was primarily responsible for hardware they came up with technologies that would push games beyond their technical capabilities a talented engineer named Gallo Takeda led the group of 20 [Music] he made a name for himself when he joined Nintendo more than a decade earlier as a young college graduate Takeda quickly rose through the ranks and became one of Nintendo’s first game designers in 1975 one of his projects changed the course of Nintendo forever he designed one of Nintendo’s first video arcade games EVR race a racing game for up to six players it was the beginning of Nintendo’s pivot toward the video game market he has a very active imagination that’s why there was a lot to learn from him for example when given a difficult new request a lot of people would think how am I supposed to do that Takeda sanas a kind of person who thinks let’s somehow find our own way to do it she get on Miyamoto he was described as humble forward-thinking and brilliant his success at Nintendo earned him the job as general manager of research and development three it was the perfect position for him Takata boasted we have to have the more talented people because we are given unthinkable tasks it was a true statement their latest task was a big one make an arcade game that used two monitors around the same time R&D three came up with a new technology that allowed developers to zoom in on an object sprites could be expanded or minimized without a loss in quality their goal was to make a dual monitor game that would take advantage of this new zooming technology their first idea was a racing game using two monitors side-by-side but the machines weren’t powerful enough to process the game and only one image could be enlarged at a time Takeda made a proposition if we can only use one image how about making it a person with that mindset a boxing game was born [Music] [Applause] in the 1980s boxing was a huge sport in North America Takeda was enamored with the Western market and saw it as a goldmine for video games a good boxing game would do great in North America it seemed like an untapped genre in the arcades boxing games were lacking in 1976 Sega released heavyweight champ the basic boxing game in black and white in 1978 Atari developed an arcade game simply titled boxer but it was never released an Atari 2600 version came out in 1980 it was settled R&D threes new game would be about boxing when Takeda assembled his team to begin development he noted someone was missing an artist to draw the characters he called Nintendo’s planning department for help they assigned Rising Star Shigeru Miyamoto to the project Miyamoto would go on to create The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers he would become a Nintendo Legend but at this point in time he was just a designer in the planning department he worked on advertisements character designs and more if anyone at nintendo needed design work they called him Miyamoto and Takata were no strangers to each other the two worked together on several arcade titles including sheriff and space Firebird under taqaddas watchful eye Miyamoto learned many of the ins and outs of game design by the time he started working with Takeda on the new boxing game Miyamoto was hot on the heels of his first big hit he’d struck gold when he directed his first game Donkey Kong the game would go on to gross more than 180 million dollars for R&D three’s new boxing game Miyamoto joined the project as an artist but he wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion on game design he quickly pointed out that a boxing game didn’t need two monitors but rd3 came up with a way to make it work while the lower screen would display the actual fight the upper screen could display the player score and power meters lights and banners could be strewn about just like a real boxing arena originally Takeda wanted to experiment with a glove interface as the controller Miyamoto once again stepped in as someone who plays video games I told him that I didn’t like ambiguous interfaces or ones that were hard to figure out he said Takeda went back to the standard joystick and buttons while Takeda and our nd3 worked on the game’s mechanics Miyamoto worked on character design but this was new territory for him the sprites were much larger than usual and Miyamoto felt he lacked the skill to draw the giant boxers so for the first time ever he sought help for his art from outside the company Miyamoto took his ideas to studio Junio an animation company in Tokyo that worked on many animation projects in the industry studio Junio took Miyamoto’s initial sketches and finalized them turning them into large beautiful cel drawings once back at Nintendo developers begin the painstaking process of converting the art to sprites Nintendo of Japan was solely responsible for game development but Takeda with his eye on the Western market made the unusual decision to involve Nintendo of America at the time Nintendo of America was primarily a shipping and marketing center games came in from Japan got assembled tested and distributed throughout the country but a few employees were hungry to get involved in development one of those employees was Jerry ma Mota mamonas official job title was market research analyst but he was essentially Nintendo’s first Game Master as new games arrived mimoto would evaluate them and provide feedback to the developers Takeda began faxing design documents to Mom Oda asking for ideas to make the game more appealing to the American market this was a first for mimoto I look back on that fondly because he extended the proverbial olive branch in a time when it wasn’t common to do so he said taka del wanted feedback on the main character specifically his look he sent mimoto several options if the character was solid it was graphically better but it made it hard to see the opponent and telegraph punches they could also go with a wireframe body in different colors too many wires obstructed the view but too few wires made the character less detailed mimouna gave his feedback a straight-on view would make the player feel more engaged and a wireframe body was necessary to see the opponent in anticipate attacks Takeda also wanted help from Nintendo of America with voiceover work Nintendo’s new arcade game would feature an announcer narrating the action a rare feature in arcade games several Nintendo of America employees auditioned the winner was Don James the warehouse manager with the game nearing completion Takeda and a couple of engineers flew to the United States together with Nintendo of America they began showing the game at trade shows in October of 1983 at the amusement and music operators Association show in New Orleans in tendo’s showed off their new boxing game titled knockout Nintendo invited distributors up to their hotel suite to try out the game mimoto was on hand to demo the game as people played knock out Takeda and his crew observed and took notes soon after the show the game was renamed to punch-out and Nintendo began working on marketing for the flyer LaMotta came up with an idea of an arcade machine defeating a boxer senior executives loved it Nintendo rented a boxing club in downtown Seattle to take pictures complete with a real boxer and referee members of the crowd were all friends and employees at Nintendo punch-out made its debut in North America on February 17 1984 at the first amusement showcase International Show in Chicago in Tendo hired heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes to promote the game each day Holmes gave the highest scoring player an autographed boxing glove the game was a hit with the press March 1984 without question the most impressive equipment exhibit at the ASI show belong to Nintendo of America not just for appearance nor for the fact that boxing champ Larry Holmes signed autographs there for four hours but for the product they debuted replay magazine punch-out challenge players to beat six fighters each fighter more skilled than the last there is only one round each fight lasting three minutes long the main character was an unnamed fighter seeking to become the world video boxing Association champion the game’s title song was the theme from the Gillette cavalcade of sports an old radio and television program that primarily focused on boxing matches players move their boxer with a joystick dodging left and right or moving the boxers arms up and down along with left and right punch buttons there was a big blue knockout button when the players ko meter filled up they could smash the knockout button to deliver a devastating hook or uppercut as the player delivered punches an announcer commentated the match a large crowd cheered on and included several characters from past Nintendo titles the six opponents in the game had various skills and fighting traits and their names reflected their abilities there were also a few stereotypes thrown in the first opponent glass Joe had a weak chin a glass jaw piston hurricane was a young fighter from Cuba who had a fast hurricane rush attack bald bull was not only bald but had a devastating attack where he bull rushed the player with a punch kid quick was an American who although skinny was extremely fast the Italian fighter pizza pasta stuck around and was hard to knock down and finally there was mr. Sandman the world champion who through devastating uppercuts if players could knock out all six fighters they were crowned the wvb a champion the game would then loop on a higher difficulty punch-out was a major success in North America later that year the game made its way to Europe thanks to everyone punch-out was a big hit we were getting lots of reports saying that they were getting a lot of coins put in them so people were asking us to make a sequel Jenny o Takeda a punch-out sequel presented Takeda and his rd3 team with a new problem how do you make a sequel to a boxing game different we did everything we could do with boxing said Takeda after throwing out an idea to give the boxers weapons the team settled on illegal moves development of the sequel went much quicker than the original rnd 3 had all the tools ready to go all they had to do was create new opponents super punch-out introduced five new characters more stereotypical than ever before there was bear hugger a massive Canadian with a two-handed smash attack dragon Shan a martial artist with deadly kicks vodka drunk in ski a towering powerful fighter from the USSR great tiger the champion of India in super macho man a strong fighter with a 360 degree roundhouse punch in addition to the new fighters rnd 3 added ducting to the game by pulling up on the joystick players could avoid several different attacks [Music] super punch-out was released in September of 1984 in Japan in 1985 in North America it was available as a standalone unit or as an upgrade to the original game by the end of 1985 Nintendo was ready to shift focus away from the arcades and toward the home console market the Famicom their latest home video game console was taking off in Japan its American counterpart the Nintendo Entertainment System had officially launched in the New York New Jersey area they planned a nationwide launch for the following year soon enough punch-out would make its way onto Nintendo’s new system but with a whole new look [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] thanks to punch-out success Nintendo expanded the franchise with a spin-off and a handheld in 1984 Nintendo released a new game and watch boxing when they released it in North America they renamed it to punch out the micro vs. system was a simple sideview boxing game with two controllers built in in 1985 after the release of super punch-out rd3 developed a new arcade game it was called arm wrestling it would be the last arcade game Nintendo would independently develop and release it was available as a conversion kit for punch-out cabinets or as a standalone game armwrestling featured music from the punch-out series and a cameo from bald bull but one punch-out spin-off was not endorsed by Nintendo at all in 1985 European developer elite systems released a new game for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum Frank Bruno’s boxing gameplay was almost identical to super punch-out and featured several boxers from the game bear hugger was named Canadian crusher dragon chan was called fling long chop and vodka drunk in ski became Andhra Punch Rudolph Frank Bruno’s boxing makes no mention of punch-out or Nintendo at the time elite systems was known for making ports of Japanese games such as Capcom’s ghosts and goblins but they failed to secure the punch-out license from Nintendo an odd footnote in punchouts history [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] in 1986 Nintendo was riding high on the success of the Famicom in Japan and the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America they began looking at their back catalogue of games for potential console ports punch-out immediately came to mind but there is a major problem the memory on the Famicom was much smaller than in arcade machines how would Nintendo be able to render such large sprites ganyo Takeda and R&D 3 got to work they came up with the MMC to chip the chip allowed the Famicom to access more memory allowing the game to render larger sprites meanwhile in North America Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa was attending the Consumer Electronics Show during the event he watched a boxing match of a young heavyweight fighter with incredible speed and strength his name was Mike Tyson [Music] takes two steps forward let’s go the collection of all the kinds of athletic power that makes the paying public swoon none is quite so hypnotic as that of a fighter who can pulverize and young master Tyson it has been established is devastatingly capable of knocking down people not to mention livestock and quite possibly sizeable buildings as well bill Lyon Philadelphia Enquirer Iron Mike Tyson made his professional debut as a heavyweight only a year prior but he quickly made waves in the boxing world he was only 19 years old Tyson easily defeated his opponents in his first year as a professional boxer Tyson went 19 and OH winning by knockout or technical knockout everytime twelve of them were in the first round Arakawa was enamored with the young fighter he wasn’t the heavyweight champion not yet anyway but there was no doubt he was a star Arakawa knew Nintendo of Japan was working on a console port of punch-out he quickly phoned Gallo Takeda if Nintendo could license Mike Tyson and include him in the punch-out game it would be huge Takeda liked the idea as well it would be the very first endorsed Nintendo game Nintendo struck a deal with Mike Tyson for a three-year licensing agreement worth a rumored $50,000 Nintendo’s investment paid off quickly on November 22nd 1986 Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick earning the WBC heavyweight title the following year in march tyson defeated james smith winning the WBA heavyweight title by the time he was programmed into punch-out Tyson’s record was an astonishing 31 and Oh [Music] the console port of punch-out was much different than the arcade version it had a backstory new opponents and new gameplay mechanics players took control of Little Mac a 17-year old boxer from the Bronx his trainer was Doc Lewis a former heavyweight champion down on his luck when he spotted Little Mac fighting on a street corner he saw potential in the young fighter together they began their quest to win the world video Boxing Association title little Mac lacked a wireframe body he was much smaller than his opponents mostly due to memory limitations on the Famicom into NES but rd3 made the best of it Little Mac wasn’t small because of technical limitations he was small because he was an underdog Nintendo’s rd3 team made significant changes to the core gameplay but their ideals remain the same gameplay had to carefully balance frustration and reward with the previous arcade titles the goal was to get the player to drop in just one more quarter with consoles it was to get players to press Continue Takeda suggested a memorization element to extend gameplay time more puzzle elements were included sometimes players had to wait for specific opportunities to throw punches visual cues such as a camera flash from the audience gave a clue when to attack players now had three rounds to win instead of just one earning stars during fights allowed Little Mac to deliver a powerful uppercut punch-out included several characters from the first two arcade games as well as some new original characters the new characters were created by Makoto wada R&D three’s first full-time designer on staff there was don flamenco a cocky fighter from Spain piston honda a powerful fighter from japan who sports a Hachi machi von kaiser a german boxer who prefers to wear pants in the ring and finally King Hippo a massive fighter from the fictional hippo Islands some characters were updated to adhere to Nintendo’s family-friendly content policies vodka drunken ski became soda pop in ski makoto wada also added Mario as the referee in the ring back then Nintendo didn’t require approvals before adding Mario to a game wada recalled he drew a slightly strange-looking Mario in the summer of 1987 Nintendo completed the console port of punch-out but instead of releasing it to stores in Japan they held a contest players who purchased golf US course on the Famicom disk system could bring their game into stores and submit their high scores to Nintendo the top 5,000 scores won an exclusive gold cartridge of punch-out 5000 more were given away in raffles in September of 1987 winners received their prize the gold punch-out cartridge was the series very first console release although Mike Tyson was programmed in the game his data couldn’t be accessed so he was never actually visible instead the final opponent is super macho man winners of the gold punch out cartridge were delighted with their prize people called Nintendo to ask if the game would get a retail release fans would get their wish but with a big new addition Mike Tyson’s punch-out was officially released on October 18th 1987 in North America November 21st 1987 in Japan and December 15 1987 in Europe [Music] Mike Tyson’s punch-out included minor color and music changes from the gold cartridge and of course Mike Tyson not super macho man was the final opponent Tyson was an extremely difficult matchup if he landed any punch in the first 90 seconds of the match it was an instant knockout one schoolyard rumor suggested if players pressed the right buttons a spectator would pull out a gun and kill Tyson beating Tyson became a badge of honor Nintendo launched a 20 million dollar ad campaign to promote their new lineup of games on the Nintendo Entertainment System including Mike Tyson’s punch-out you’ve gotta beat Mike Tyson Mike Tyson’s punch-out from Nintendo now you’re playing with power Mike Tyson’s punch-out was a smash hit stores couldn’t keep the game in stock in an article from May of 1988 one mother complained she had been looking for Mike Tyson’s punch-out for more than two months it was a contrast to some critic reviews computer entertainer called Mike Tyson’s punch-out adequate if you want a boxing game ring King should be your choice regardless Mike Tyson’s punch-out would go on to sell more than 3 million copies and become one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises punch-out toys comics and cartooning PSA’s soon followed [Music] in 1989 mike tyson’s licensing contract with nintendo expired Nintendo chose not to renew it for several reasons bunch out had received its recognition already and its market appeal was declining there was no need to pay a high-profile athlete to promote the game mike tyson was now the heavyweight champion of the world renewing the contract would cost significantly more money there was also the issue of Mike Tyson’s life outside the ring in February of 1989 he went through a highly publicized divorce with actress Robin Givens Givens accused Tyson of physical and verbal abuse in an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20 Givens said her life with Tyson was torture pure hell worse than anything I could possibly imagine Tyson alleged that Givens had only married him for his money their divorce was finalized on Valentine’s Day [Laughter] [Applause] On February 11th 1990 Tyson lost for the first time in his career to James Buster Douglas it was considered one of the biggest upsets in sports history [Music] in the November December 1990 issue of Nintendo Power Nintendo announced they were re releasing Mike Tyson’s punch-out as simply punch-out it was the exact same game but Mike Tyson was replaced with a new character mr. dream [Music] [Applause] in March of 1991 electronic gaming monthly magazine previewed a new NES game Mike Tyson’s intergalactic power punch the game featured Mike Tyson fighting aliens in space to become the best boxer in the universe it was developed by Australian developer beam software and published by American soft works theme software’s previous titles included Back to the Future and the Punisher gameplay was similar to punch-out though not as polished there were also training sessions in between rounds to increase stats for months later Mike Tyson was in the news again grad jury selection begins one week from tomorrow in the case of boxer Mike Tyson who is accused of rape the former heavyweight champion is accused of raping an eighteen-year-old beauty pageant contestant during a visit to a black Expo lack’d last month Marion County authorities say they want the grand jury to consider the matter before any charges might be filed Tyson has issued a statement through his attorney denying the rape On February 10th 1992 Tyson was convicted of rape and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison developers of Mike Tyson’s intergalactic power punch scrambled to change the game by the time it was released in June of 1992 the game was renamed power punch to beam software removed all references to Mike Tyson they also changed the main character’s name to mark Tyler for years rumors spread that power punch 2 was supposed to be a sequel to Mike Tyson’s punch-out and that after Tyson’s rape conviction Nintendo cancelled the project however there is no evidence to suggest this previews at the time make no mention of it being a sequel to punch out the only reference to punch out was that the gameplay was similar most likely beam software and publisher American soft works were hoping to capitalize on the success of Mike Tyson’s punch-out by licensing him for their own but after his rape conviction they changed the game power punch to received average reviews and was quickly forgotten [Applause] [Music] [Applause] I think it’s every parent’s dream maybe to have a doctor in the family by 1994 Nintendo was neck deep in the videogame console wars with Sega Nintendo pitted its 16-bit Super Famicom also known as the Super Nintendo against Sega’s 16-bit Mega Drive or Genesis in North America the two companies were almost dead even with Sega having a slight edge Nintendo hope they’re strong software titles would give them an advantage over Sega’s multitude of Hardware accessories in Japan ganyo Takeda and his team at R&D 3 had grown the past several years they worked on several new software titles including the startropics series they were also developing nintendos next console a 64-bit machine with the codename ultra 64 somehow they found time to develop a sequel to punch out a [Music] sequel made sense Mike Tyson’s punch-out was one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo Entertainment System R and III had a catalogue of characters they could choose from and the power of the Super Nintendo allowed them to develop a game that more closely resembled the arcade games super punch-out featured 16 opponents several characters from the arcade games made their return including bear hugger and piston hurricane by this point makoto wada was no longer the lone designer at rd3 he and his team created 10 new opponents for the game in many ways super punch-out felt more like a remake of the arcade game than a direct sequel to the NES game there was only one round lasting three minutes the players position was directly behind the fighter again but instead of a wireframe body it was transparent the KO meter was back as well Little Mac and Doc Lewis were gone and there was no story either early previews of the game did show a fighter who resembled Little Mac but he was replaced in the final version with an unnamed fighter sporting blond hair the game featured battery saves a first for the series players could save their progress in the single-player game as well as compete for the fastest knockout in a time attack mode [Music] super punch-out was released to stores on September 14th 1994 in North America and January 26 1995 in Europe it wouldn’t come out in Japan until 1998 and even then it didn’t see a retail release it was available for download on the Nintendo Power Flash cartridge players could bring the cartridge into stores and have games written to it super punch-out received favorable reviews and sold more than 1 million copies but it never matched the success of Mike Tyson’s punch-out it would be more than a decade before players would see punch-out again [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] throughout the late 90s and 2000’s ganyo Takeda and rd3 developed the majority of Nintendo’s new hardware many of their creations would significantly change the industry the Nintendo 64 the rumble pack the Nintendo Wii their game making days were behind them the last time they developed a game was pilot wings 64 back in 1996 any hopes of R&D 3 making a new punch-out game were slim but in 2007 everything changed when Ken skate on eBay a producer at Nintendo asked Jen yo Takeda for permission to make a new punch-out game tana BAE was a veteran at Nintendo he had been with the company since 1987 in his early years he quickly earned the trust of his managers Tana Bey was given director duties for you Mako Jo doki doki panick which eventually became Super Mario Brothers 2 in North America his career took off but as the years went on Tana Bey burned out he admitted he was drinking too much intended to play hooky while Tana Bey was working on the Japanese script of Donkey Kong Country he would frequently fly to developer rares offices in the UK being in the presence of people outside of Nintendo made Tana Bay more focused his bosses took notice and assigned him a new role he would be a producer working closely with outside developers on Nintendo games Tanabe injected Nintendo’s development methods into companies around the world under his eye Nintendo and developer retro studios put out several hits including Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns in 2007 tana Bay met with next-level games a developer based out of Vancouver Canada they had just wrapped up work on Mario Strikers charge and Tana Bey asked them what they would like to work on next their answer was a surprise they wanted to make a new punch-out game the idea made sense although the series had been dormant for many years evidence suggested that players were ready for another great boxing game Wii Sports the pack in title for the we had an extremely popular boxing game plus the punch-out series had been a consistent seller in North America and with the Wiis motion controls it seemed like a no-brainer Tana Bey relayed the news to his old boss Shigeru Miyamoto but Miyamoto replied that it wasn’t up to him to make that decision Donna Bey would have to ask the game’s creator so Tana Bey found himself in the office of Gen Y o Takeda asking permission to make a new punch-out game Takeda was hesitant punch-out was originally an arcade game so it has simple elements that are meant to show the customer the fun the game has to offer within three minutes if everyone enjoyed the simplicity of the game that would be fine but when I first heard this I wondered if that would be enough now Ken yo Takeda ultimately Takeda gave his blessing you can change anything you want he told Tana Bey China Bey past the news to next level games they were excited to get started several members of the development team fondly remembered playing punch-out as kids next level games wanted to ensure the new punch-out game retained the simple arcade gameplay that made the original NES game so magical their design philosophy was to please longtime fans but still make the game feel new next level games incorporated a cel shaded cartoon graphic style along with Wii Balance Board support they also added a multiplayer mode a first for the punch-out series in May of 2009 Nintendo released punch-out on the Wii in North America and Europe the developer stayed true to their word punch-out was almost a direct update of the original NES game many of the characters from the NES game were back including underdog Little Mac and his trainer Doc Lewis only two new boxers were added disco kid and a surprise cameo appearance by Donkey Kong originally tana Bay wanted to add Princess Peach as a fighter but decided a game where you beat up a woman would not be a great idea later that year on October 27 2009 next-level games in Nintendo released Doc Lewis’s punch-out a downloadable title exclusive to Club Nintendo members in the game players could take part in sparring sessions with trainer Doc Lewis punch out on the we received overwhelmingly positive reviews for fans of the series it was a perfect piece of nostalgia [Applause] [Music] it began as a simple solution to use up monitors but 30 years after its debut punch-out continues to be in the hearts and minds of those who played it after all these years fans continue to look for secrets in the games speedrunners can play it blindfolded Nintendo hasn’t forgotten about the series either punch-out heads staying power perhaps because it’s subject was at once known and unknown familiar and unfamiliar everyone knows about boxing and I think it is something that many people know well but a sport they probably haven’t participated in the excitement felt when showering an opponent with blows and knocking him down to the floor is the real thing I think the biggest reason the game was appreciated was the basic allure of boxing ganyo Takeda you [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] you funding for gaming historian is provided in part by supporters on patreon thank you [Music]

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