Video: The Minimum Punches To Beat NES Punch-Out!!

Please forgive the two exclamation points in the title. We writers are only given a limited number of exclamation points to use every month by the shadowy Punctuation Cabal, but Punch-Out!!’s title has two of them in it, so to properly stylize it I have to use two each time. Wasteful! Oops, there’s another one. I’m just going to save them from here on out. But anyway.

YouTuber Pap is a TAS speedrunner, meaning, he deals with absolutes. He knows the state of the machine, and isn’t limited by any puny human reaction times, but works by recording button sequences that can be played back infallibly. He asked a question: what’s the minimum number of punches needed to play through the main game of Punch-Out? The answer is 120, but since the game has significant randomness, it’s really unlikely.

He presents what is probably the definitive answer, but that’s not really the interesting thing about it. His video is a master class on the game’s state, how it determines knockdowns and knock-outs, and how it awards stars. Some interesting things revealed:

  1. If a fighter ever gets up on a count of 1, connecting with a single star punch can knock them back down immediately.
  2. Many star punches are awarded based on successful punches where the opponent is not stunned or knocked down. You get them on a cycle based on a count that differs with each fighter. Special timing doesn’t have anything to do with it; it’s if the hit was successful of not. Late punches after stunning give star punches because the opponent is no longer stunned, not because they’re late.
  3. On top of that, there are random stars that are awarded sometimes. This randomness is significant for the minimum punch count challenge. But these stars can only occur if you already have at least one star! Keeping a star in reserve actually helps you earn more stars more easily.
  4. You having full health affects multiple boxers in significant ways, including sometimes turning knockdowns into knockouts.
  5. Soda Popinski has a trick where, if you hold down while he’s preparing to uppercut, he delays. He can then be gut-punched, and if you do, your next star punch will always knock him down.
  6. In the second fight with Bald Bull, I always wondered why it was difficult for me to counter his bull charge at first. Turns out, it wasn’t just me. The “long” version of his charge has a shorter success window, of just four frames! The “short” version, which happens if you dodge the long version, however, has a window of 13 frames. It’s so long it’s almost a gimmie. (I am resisting the urge to expend another exclamation point there.)
  7. The greatest minimum number of punches needed to beat any opponent is a tie between King Hippo (an atypical opponent in many ways) and Mr. Sandman (not surprising at all) at 20.
  8. The lowest minimum number is one, which can be gotten from Glass Joe (of course), the rematch against Piston Honda (huh) and the rematch against Bald Bull (what?).
  9. Mike Tyson/Mr. Dream can be defeated in six punches.

Long Hidden Two-Player Mode Found In SNES Super Punch-Out!!

The Twitter account Unlisted Cheats searches for and reports on undiscovered codes in classic games. They found a real doozy yesterday, about a secret two-player mode in the SNES game Super Punch-Out!! The news hit Reddit and has gotten up to 4,400 positive votes, so, folk seems really interested.

Bald Bull is one of those memorable characters who’s been in several games, but doesn’t get the respect he deserves. The crowd loves the Turkish Titan! And now you can play as him!
(Image credit: Mobygames)

(Note, for clarity, you have to say the SNES game Super Punch-Out!!, because Nintendo made a different arcade game that they also called Super Punch-Out!! Also, the exclamation points are part of the name. I’m not just really excited.)

To do it, Y+R must be held on controller 2, and Start pressed on controller 1. This loads a screen where any opponent may be selected

The opponent select screen. (Image credit: Unlisted Cheats)

Then, on the character info screen, hold B+Y, again on controller 2, and press Start on controller 1 to allow player 2 to control the opposing boxer.

The code even works on the version of the game on Nintendo Switch Online, so if you have an account there you can try it out without setting up an emulator or digging up an old cartridge.

It’s interesting to note the times that the big gaming sites reported on this. As of this writing (yesterday) and according to Google, Ars Technica reported on it 18 hours ago, followed by IGN (16 hours), Kotaku (15 hours), and then Eurogamer. Reddit says the post went up there 19 hours ago, and Unlisted Cheats posted it 20 hours ago. News travels fast in the videoscape.

The phenomenon of the cheat code has gone kind of out of fashion these days. They still exist, but tend to be more for debugging than anything, especially since interesting features can conceivably locked behind paid DLC gates and bring in more lucre to the mothership. I know of a particularly interesting code that news broke about some time back, but let’s give that its own moment in the sun, tomorrow….