Punch-Out!! features a boxer known as Little Mac, fighting his way up through ranks of the World Video Boxing Association. After facing a series of colorful fictional opponents in three main circuits, with one hidden one called Another Wolrd Circuit, the goal is to win a final “Dream Fight” against a highly skilled boxer. In the Gold Version, this is Super Macho Man, who was also the final opponent in the arcade game, “Super Punch-Out!!; in the original version released in the West, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, this is the real-life Mike Tyson, then-World Heavyweight Champion; in versions released in the West after the license to use Mike Tyson expired, this is the fictional Mr. Dream.
Little Mac has a limited repertoire compared to most of his opponents. His punches are limited to left and right jabs, left and right body blows, and a powerful uppercut. The uppercut can only be used once the player earns a star, which is typically accomplished by counter-punching the opponent directly before or after certain attacks are launched. The player can acquire up to three stars. To perform the uppercut, the player needs to press the start button once a star is earned. To defend, Mac can dodge left or right, duck, and block punches by putting up his guard.
Little Mac also has a heart counter, which decreases upon being hit, blocking a punch, or throwing a punch that the opponent dodges or blocks. When the counter decreases to zero, Little Mac temporarily turns pink and appears exhausted, leaving the player unable to attack but still able to dodge, duck, and block. At this point, Mac can regain some hearts (and his normal color palette) only by avoiding the opponent’s punches. He immediately loses all of his hearts upon being knocked down, but can regain some by getting up.
A bout can end by knockout (KO), if a fighter is unable to get up within ten seconds after being knocked down; by technical knockout (TKO), if a fighter is knocked down three times in one round; or by decision, if the bout lasts three full rounds without a clear winner. In order to win by decision, the player must accumulate higher than a certain point total by punching the opponent and/or knocking him down; the needed total varies from one boxer to the next. However, some bouts cannot be won in this manner and will automatically result in a loss for the player if the opponent is not knocked out. Mac can only get up two times during any one bout; if he is knocked down a third cumulative time, he will be unable to rise and thus lose by knockout.
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