It’s 1984 and Nintendo releases the innovative dual-screen arcade boxing game “Punch-Out!!” The great Genyo Takeda was nice enough to involve me in its iterative design process. I look back on that fondly because he extended the proverbial “olive branch” in a time when it wasn’t common to do so.
In early development, there were a couple issues that would affect playability. One was the players character. If he was a solid form, he would visually impair the view of the opponent. Important because an opponents appearance and behavior were cues to their fighting style. This was important, as players could anticipate an opponents patterns.
Mr. Takeda sent printed images of wireframe fighters, depicting a variety of options. I recall them being blue and green and varying degrees of wireframe complexity. Too much and it was hard to see the opponent. Too little and you couldn’t see muscle definition of your own fighter.
The camera angle also would affect playability. A straight-on view better engaged players, because they felt like they were in the fight. But positioning the players fighter more left or right allowed a better view of the opponent. The straight-on view encouraged players to use more side-to-side dodging. Mr. Arakawa was an agreeable man, providing you could provide good reason for your decisions.
The voice-over was recorded in Japan, and I did a little script editing. Punch-Out was an early pioneer in the use of synthesized speech in video games. I believe it was the first video game to use a voice-over announcer in a sporting event.
From humble beginnings, we had a start-up mentality and we all pitched in wherever we could. Our advertising manager Debra liked my cover concept for what became the two-sided sell sheet (see above). We staged it at a Seattle boxing ring with a real boxer and referee. Everyone else in the photo were NOA employees. We all dressed up and had a blast that day.
With the Champ
At the 1984 ASI Show Nintendo debuted Punch-Out!! Even back then gaming companies looked to celebrities to help promote products. We had the great pleasure of working with boxing’s then heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes.
What a memorable experience it was! After the show the Champ and his entourage took time to relax in our suite. Below is a photo of him hamming it up with Howard Lincoln, then Senior VP. Howard later became Chairman of Nintendo of America and is currently the Chairman and CEO of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Howard’s career is an amazing story. That’s me in the middle photo and the right photo is Larry, Genyo Takeda and key team members.