It might not be uncommon to remake a game twice, but this sequel to the original Punch-Out!! is yet another interesting special edition that combines aspects from the arcade versions, with some alterations in the mechanics and a bunch of new characters added in for good measure. In fact, this SNES title is in many ways the closest console take on the cabinet entries, to the point of even having a transparent protagonist. While it seems to be not as equally remembered as its predecessor, there is probably a reason for why it was included in the SNES Classic Mini, right?
A friendlier boxing tournament
Similar to the last instalment, there is no story in Super Punch-Out!!, since it is all about you reaching the top. Luckily, this one still brings in opponents with strong personalities, both when it comes to their visual designs and commentaries, making every fight exciting and memorable. There are some stereotypical tropes representing their origins once again, but none are done in a distasteful manner. Since you have to battle through four circuits that each contain four competitors, it is great that all the 16 foes have something to offer outside of satisfying challenges.
Each match in this boxing game is won by either knocking down the rival’s health bar to zero three times in one round (which lasts three minutes), making them unable to get back up before ten seconds have passed or having the judge decide the champion based on performance if neither of the former has occurred within three rounds. You will yet again play as Little Mac, who is still able to punch with left and right hooks in high and low altitudes, as well as dodge left and right. His blocks have been remade to let him block high attacks with the push of a button and low whenever he is not moving, with ducking also being a new addition for evading dangerous swings.
All of these are nice inclusions for forcing you to be more aware of your surroundings, which is further supported by the varied enemies to take on. You will similar to the predecessor have to read their subtle animations, be defensive at the right time to hit them back with quick counters or look for an opening. Despite that jabbing at clever moments, like before your foe attacks you, can be worthwhile for stunning or damaging them, gone is sadly the ability to gain stars from landing such blows. Instead, by striking the adversary in general, you build up a super meter that when full, can be used for delivering hard punches or a barrage of them.
It is a neat idea and I like that the hits you take will decrease it, though I never found the multiple jabs more useful than the powerful swing. Combine this with the stamina bar being also missing and your profile picture becoming randomly red in order to make you deal more damage, and this is overall a more approachable Punch-Out!! game. You can really go all out and be as aggressive as possible, since it will be the best way for getting out victoriously. If that was not enough, you can even gradually heal yourself by mashing the B and Y buttons when your opponent is down on the ground.
Thankfully, this sequel will demand your attention, as the antagonists will test your reflexes continuously. Some of the rivals can jump around and even try to take you off guard, though the crowd will also shout in order to give you subtle hints for what to be aware of, adding to not make the battles feel like trial and error. It is far from an easy journey and rather one of the more difficult ones on the system, but undoubtedly more forgiving compared to the previous entry.
Not just because of the helpful moveset, but also due to how you automatically save your progress after each circuit and the fact that a match lasts usually within two rounds if you are a confident fighter. In other words, you are in for a tough but fair experience. You will not have to face a prior competitor should you lose and instead have lives that you can increase by earning points, which is a welcoming change. Use up all your chances though and you will have to restart the circuit.
Super Punch-out!! is neither better nor worse in its mechanics when put up against the first console entry, but simply different and friendlier towards beginners. It will definitely deliver a beatdown, so veterans will not be disappointed, even if there are some similarities in a few of the foes you will encounter. While I do miss some additions and find the vast abilities too supportive to what challenge it could have had, this is more a matter of taste than lack of quality since I can still feel the tension whenever I set out to become the champion in this instalment.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
Getting knocked out by these colours!
Being on a 16-bit hardware, the visuals have gotten a huge upgrade from the NES title. Little Mac is even transparent now as mentioned, making it more immersive when you play as him. Furthermore, everyone is incredibly expressive and entertaining thanks to their impressive designs. Be it the big Canadian Bear Hugger, the teasing Irish boy Aran Ryan or the chill Bob Charlie from Jamaica, all have iconic styles that make them memorable. Of course, their twitches and subtle motions to read are fantastic and represent their personalities cleverly, which also forces you to admire everything while reacting accordingly to win each battle.
It should be noted that two models are reused with slight alterations, but this is a small issue to the point that the game itself makes fun of the twin brothers towards the end. Likewise strengthening this experience are the details around, such as the boxing ring having an emblem in the centre and the crowd coming with plenty of animations while holding equipment such as cameras. It is all a graphical treat that I cannot get enough of.
Charles Martinet was credited for providing all of the voices in this project, including the opponents and the solid announcer. Despite that these are minor additions, his performances enhance the overall atmosphere and show that he could already take on a diverse amount of characters in his earlier days. The sound effects are the real star though, with the punches sounding painful and fast, even when just hitting the air. Blocking and dodging offer appropriate cues, with knocking out your foe being always satisfying.
However, I am not a fan of the music here. The composers from the last instalment were completely changed out and I have no idea of why. Super Punch-Out!!’s soundtrack consists of a harsh el-guitar, delivering a lot of generic rock. There is a huge variety of melodies within this entry though, with every fighter getting a unique intro, but they are extremely repetitive due to containing few notes, having short length, and how they all use the same bloody string instrument.
Despite that some are good and reflect the competitors’ heritage or style, I can merely think of two out of the 16 themes that I cared for. The matches for the different circuits also have unique songs and while they are also not long, they add more diverse tones and rhythms, which in turn provides more tension and entertainment to the playthrough. Unfortunately, with the problems mentioned and none of the pieces containing interesting buildups, they easily blend in with each other. This is a shame as they are not really bad, just too similar.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Going for the fastest TKO!
There is a time attack mode that is surprisingly fun, since finding the best manner for taking down the enemies offers a lot of strategic and swift thinking. Even if beating the high scores can only go so far, having it here in a product where you want to knock rivals down as quickly and efficiently as possible, adds to make the battles more engaging. It can also help you in training and make the overall journey easier, should that be needed. Although, this is basically more of the main campaign in all honesty and not much for those not looking to perfect their skills.
Extra Score: 7.5/10
Super Punch-Out!! is certainly worth your time, due to its fascinating change. By being more approachable and having an aggressive setup, it becomes a unique take on the series that is still enjoyable. The added moveset is intriguing too, but it is here I believe this sequel forgets that quantity does not necessarily mean quality. Most upgrades do work because they are designed around the opponents and the presentation is spectacular, despite the underwhelming soundtrack. I personally cannot recommend this over the first one, but surely to anyone who is in for a great challenge and those who had a hard time with the NES classic.