A Plea for Pugilism
I have a lot of fond, childhood memories of playing games. These memories are strong and come to me often, especially now as I raise my own children. One of the memories that plays back in my head the most is the way I would sneak downstairs early in the morning when I was a kid. I was about 8 or 9 years old at this point. My parents would still be sleeping and I would carefully creep down the wooden staircase in the morning to our TV room. I would only later find out that my “sneaking” was not that sneaky and my parents would laugh about it each time I attempted to slip by unnoticed. I would slink into the TV room, thinking I had pulled off the heist of the century, and I’d fire up the NES. Every time, without fail, there was one game that I would grab to get the neurons firing early in the morning. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.
My love affair with Punch-Out started at that young age and continues to this day. I have played the three, *sigh* yes only three, titles in the franchise more times than I can count. I have a group of friends that still gets together to this day to play through each game, switching off the controller from fight to fight, laughing and taking down the ridiculous cast of characters set before you. I am grateful to have these games readily available to play but every Nintendo Direct, every bit of news, every press release that comes out brings me disappointment after disappointment. Why haven’t we seen a new Punch-Out game?
My first question is maybe the most obvious. Do these games not sell well enough? I find that hard to believe with the popularity of the original two games. Those games were almost pack in games for those systems. I barely knew a person growing up who had one of those two consoles and didn’t have those games. According to Wikipedia, the Wii version of the game sold over 1.3 million copies, not counting the digital sales of the title on Wii-U, which I’m sure were only marginal. Either way, to say it was a success would be a bit of an understatement. There doesn't appear to be a financial reason to not do so.
Are these games hard to make? I know nothing about game development, so I won't speculate on how difficult it is to make a Punch-Out. What I do know is that this is a series that Nintendo has already shown willingness to outsource. If Nintendo could make this game without actually having to make it themselves they could, at minimum, offset the resources necessary for development. The success and quality of Wii Punch-Out shows that this is an already successful formula for development. It feels like this trail has already been blazed with positive results, so why not try this again?
Some may suggest that Punch-Out games would struggle to find an audience in modern gamers but I would suggest quite the opposite. I will use Cuphead as the example. Cuphead is essentially a Punch-Out game. It is a game where the recognition of patterns and phases becomes even more important that developing the motor skills necessary to input commands. They are rhythm games more than anything else. It is about feeling the flow of the fight, learning when attacks are going to come, strategizing what approach you should use to counter attack. The popularity of Cuphead tells me that there is a huge audience out there for well made games like Punch-Out. Combine that with the wild popularity of the Switch, and you could have a monster on your hands.
Hope is a hell of a thing. I'm not someone who speculates about Nintendo Directs and what they might bring. When they have neat surprises, looking at you Super Mario RPG remake, I am as thrilled as anyone, but I don't live with the belief that video game companies "owe" me anything. So, I try to apply my logical, non-emotional brain to the situation and ask "why wouldn't they want to make another Punch-Out?" Even with all of my emotional attachment to the series, I can't think of a good reason. Maybe they don't have any fresh ideas worth exploring. Maybe they tried already and it didn't feel right, so it was scrapped. A disappointing Punch-Out would be worse than no Punch-Out at all, and I would respect that decision. However, with the recent announcement and imminent release of Everybody 1 2 Switch, I find it hard to believe that Nintendo got to the finish line with a Punch-Out game and just said "nahhhhh."
To say that I love Punch-Out is to say that a fish loves water or that birds love to fly. Punch-Out, to me, is a natural extension of who I am. They have fused with me. Right now, typing this, I can anticipate Super Macho-Man’s hurricane punch. I can stop Bald Bull’s Bull Rush with a well timed gut punch. I can articulate, in detail, the difference in strategies for the Mr. Sandman fights in both the NES and SNES games. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out are games that are a part of me. The Wii game was such a breath of fresh air when it came out and it is a game I have devoured ever since, giving my Wii-U a permanent place on my current console shelf. Hopefully it won’t sit there forever, waiting for me to replay these games for the millionth time. Hopefully we will get a new game in the series. The time is now, Nintendo. Ring the bell. Let’s get it on.