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      Game Culture — gaming history

      The History of Boxing and Gaming

      The History of Boxing and Gaming

      What’s the deal with fighting? Who in their right mind would subject themselves to a beatdown in front of a massive crowd for a living? As it turns out, quite a few people. People have probably been fighting since people existed, although not necessarily for entertainment. Now, violence is everywhere. You see it in movies and TV, hear about it in song lyrics, read about it in the news, and perform it yourself in games. People generally look down on the current culture of oversaturated violence. 

      As a sport, however, fighting is seen differently. It’s not necessarily about the violence itself, but witnessing someone overcoming their opponent and themselves both mentally and physically. It is a matter of heart, not violence, and for many, that is where the beauty of the sport lies. That has been the case for a long time. The ancient Greeks used ox hides as gloves to spar each other. Romans did similar with strips of leather. After the fall of Rome, interest in bare-handed fighting waned slightly until its revival in England, known as prizefighting, although there were no official rules. Much further along in world history, President Theodore Roosevelt boxed quite often until he was blinded in one eye. All of this before video games were even conceptualized!

       

       

      Boxing in Entertainment Media

      The sport of boxing is particularly fascinating. It is a more recent development in the history of fighting but has been improved and refined since its inception. Compared to sports like MMA, which are sometimes unfairly viewed as crude and messy, boxing is considered more refined and strategic. As far as pop culture goes, Rocky is the first to come to mind when it comes to boxing movies, and for many sports movies in general.

      The Rocky films have a very specific message of fighting being the great equalizer among humans. The first two movies pit Rocky against Apollo Creed, a rich and famous, yet likable, narcissist. He represents the upper class and those who have been handed everything they want on a silver platter. Rocky represents the underdog, the everyman with whom most of the audience will be able to sympathize. In the end, Rocky proves that not despite but as a result of his hardships, he can step into the ring as Apollo’s equal as long as he gives it all he’s got. 


      Even now the franchise still rakes in cash with the wildly successful Creed movies, where Rocky trains Apollo’s son Adonis. While the story of Rocky was loosely inspired by a Muhammad Ali fight, the movie Cinderella Man is a biographical film about boxer James Braddock. Braddock starts the movie unemployed due to an injury, but slowly rises to fame through his hard work. Also biographical, Raging Bull explores the dark side of boxing, where Jake LaMotta’s inability to connect with those around him is a result of the violence he partakes in during matches. These franchises had a great impact on the general perception of boxing, making it seem honorable and noble. 

      So how does that translate to the medium of video games? Well, to start with, the inherently competitive nature of boxing is key. Sports will always be great fodder for game concepts. There is built-in competition both for couch play or online, and when commonly played games such as football and soccer are adapted, players usually already know the rules, and therefore already know they’re interested in playing a game featuring those mechanics. You can use established celebrity athletes to advertise your game, recreate legendary matchups, the possibilities are endless. Boxing in particular is an excellent subgenre because of the high barrier that comes with real boxing. Anyone can pick up a basketball and play a pickup game in real life, but to give boxing a shot means putting yourself at risk for getting rocked way harder than you signed up for.

       

       

      Early Attempts

      The first attempt at a boxing game came in 1979 with the appropriately but lazily named Boxing Match. Its simple name matches its simple gameplay, however. On a two-dimensional plane, two blobs of color move back and forth throwing out the same jab over and over until one of them goes down.

      This was a product of the limited technology at the time, but compared to other games of the time such as Space Invaders, its aging gameplay is forgivable. A few years later, in ‘83, Rocky Super Action Boxing was released following Rocky III which arrived the year prior. Rocky Super Action Boxing was a step in the right direction with improved character sprites and a whopping two different punch animations, a high and low punch.

       



      The Golden Era of Boxing Games

      Things would shortly be on the upswing for the boxing genre, as 1984 saw the release of Punch-Out!! in arcades in Japan and America. Punch-Out!! made a lot of changes to the formula that helped it immensely, making it not only more reminiscent of a real boxing match but also a great deal of fun for those who played on its release.

      Instead of the side angle of the previous two games, it had an over-the shoulder-view that better placed the player into the action. The gameplay was far more in-depth, there were several attacks, blocks, dodges, and what was known as the K.O. Meter that filled up as the match went on to finish off opponents. The enemies were all far more emotive and exciting than the blobs of the past, each with a distinct personality. Their eyes would flash yellow before they attacked, forcing the player to react quickly to incoming danger. They would react to being punched in a cartoonishly charming fashion.

      It wasn’t necessarily a recreation of the excitement that came with real boxing, but it was a great success nonetheless, winning several awards that year including Game of the Year by certain companies. The series would remain relevant for years, most recently fans of Super Smash Bro’s Ultimate will recognize that the Punch-Out!! protagonist, Little Mac, appears as a playable character, K.O. meter and all. This was the beginning of not only the Punch-Out!! franchise, but of serious interest in the subgenre.

       

      The rest of the ’80s saw several more newcomers, as well as several sequels to Punch-Out!!, including a spin-off called Arm Wrestling just to throw a wrench in the already confusing franchise. There was also the notable release of World Champion Boxing Manager (WCBM) in 1990. While the other games were exclusively about taking control of a fighter and beating down opponents, WCBM chose to focus on the training aspect from the perspective of a manager. You get to decide how your boxers spend their time, when they train, and watch as your athletes gain strength, stamina, and speed. It was an interesting and creative departure from the existing market that called for a strategic approach instead of the timed button presses of its competitors.

       


      Interestingly, as the new millennium arrived and 3D models became commonplace, the more realistic appearance of these games simultaneously improved the possibilities for player input but also reduced the fun aesthetic of older games. The rough models started to lose the charm of the last few decades and tread slowly towards the uncanny valley of too-realistic graphics. The Wii Sports boxing game revived some of that which was lost.  The simple Miis which were customized by the user, utilized motion controls for throwing punches, blocking, and dodging. The most recent Punch-Out!! entry also came on the Wii, featuring more cartoon-inspired graphics and fun characters to avoid the stagnation in other boxing franchises.

       

       

      Modern Boxing Games

      As the ’00s ended and the ‘10s began, the output of boxing games slowed down. The only notable release came in 2011 when we got Fight Night Champion with a mediocre appraisal on Metacritic. More recently, we have seen a shift to Virtual Reality, Creed: Rise to Glory being the most notable. Virtual Reality might have been the last step necessary to fully immerse players in the sport without actually putting them in danger (Unless you consider punching a spectator while blinded by the VR headset danger).


      Boxing’s relationship to video games is long, confusing, and oftentimes straight-up weird, but we’ve now arrived at the advent of something potentially great with the new opportunities that come with Virtual Reality for further immersion. It is even possible that games become the new home of the sport instead of TV. 

       

       

      Saved by the Bell

      For those who are more interested in the strategy behind training for boxing and want to create your montage straight out of a Rocky movie or those who just want a break from the constant action of modern gaming, there are still options. The upcoming World Champion Boxing Manager 2 may scratch that itch for you by reviving what worked from the original and making plenty of additions and improvements to bring it up to modern standards. Not to mention, a closed beta has just been recently announced until March 30th, 2022! Head on to the Ziggurat page and sign up for their newsletter to reserve a spot! 

      Bottom line? There’s never been a better time to get into the genre, as you’ve got a catalog of classics to get through and a lot of potential in the coming years, so tape up your gloves and step into the ring!

      For more on World Championship Boxing Manager II visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more retro-gaming goodness and the latest on our pawesome games. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Mega Cat Discord and say meow! 

       

       

      This Week In Gaming History - November 29th - Dec 5th

      This Week In Gaming History - November 29th - Dec 5th

      Winter is coming and it’s time to dust off that old chest in the attic where your Mum keeps the old Christmas decorations, rummage through it and you just might find that video game memento you’ve been looking for all these years. Lets go ahead and open that secret wardrobe right there and let Catslan the Lion transport you to another nostalgia filled past in This Week in Gaming History.


      As gamers, we’ve all asked the age-old question as to what video game is considered to be the first of its kind and a lot of people seem to agree it’s Pong. They’re not wrong but they’re also not right. See it all depends on context. 

       

      The very first video game produced was in February 1962, made by a group of MIT engineers and was actually called Spacewar!, this was never released commercially despite its popularity in the university where it was developed. This however, inspired the creation of the very first commercialized video game called Computer Space developed by Bushnell who would later co-founded Atari. Sadly, the game never took flight as intended and Bushnell left Nutting Associates to put up Atari. 


      When he assigned Allan Alcorn to make a video game as a training exercise, Pong was born! Bushnell was so surprised at the quality of the game that he decided to have it manufactured. By November 29, 1972, the game was commercially released. In a span of 2 years they sold about 8000 Pong units and it took the fledgling gaming world by storm! In fact it was so popular before its official debut that the prototype cabinet used in a local bar broke down due to the huge amount of coins inside. 


      See popularity also brings with it copy-cats and Pong inspired a slew of bootlegs and ripoffs but this didn’t deter Atari and instead countered them by releasing Home Pong, a console version of Pong and in 1973 released a sequel called Pong Doubles that featured 4 players; another first in the gaming world. So again, was it the first actual video game? No. But was it the first video game that launched a whole new industry centered on entertainment and fun? Definitely!



      Here’s another video game inspired by real life sports, specifically ice hockey! NHL 99 was released on November 30, 1998 for the N64 and was met with high review scores by different gaming publications with an aggregate score of 84%. To make the game more immersive, the N64 version of NHL 99,  faithfully represented the official NHL and NHLPA licence showing all teams and players, including the Nashville Predators expansion team. Talk about bang for your puck, I mean buck. 


      Speaking of immersive, Daryl Reaugh returned from NHL 98 as the new series’ color commentator however, he left after NHL 99. The play-by-play commentary was done by ESPN's Bill Clement. The game also featured Eric Lindros on the cover. Lindros was with the Philadelphia Flyers when this game was released and was ultimately recognized in 2016 as an appointee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Nice, ice baby.

      Here’s something to do in-game if you wanna skate on thin ice while playing hockey. If you type the word “zambo” anytime during the game, a random Zamboni will appear and start driving around on the skating rink even if a game is still ongoing! I hope that doesn’t happen in a real live game though, those things can be dangerous.

       

      We’re all dangerously in love with the Legend of Zelda franchise cause we can’t stop talking about how awesome the games have been over the years! Released on December 1, 1988 for the NES,  Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was a direct sequel to the original Legend of Zelda however it deviated from its predecessor in terms of gameplay, introducing RPG elements and side-scrolling action. In addition to this, the game introduced elements such as Link's "magic meter" and the Dark Link character that would become commonplace in future Zelda games.It was also the first Zelda game to feature invisible enemies and also featured secrets such as being able to get past locked doors without keys by using the fairy spell and flying through the keyhole. Zelda II was slated to be released at an earlier date but due to the 1988 shortage of ROM chips, it prevented Nintendo from releasing most of its games according to their original schedules, including this one.


      Despite the differences it had with its predecessor, what Zelda II shared with it was its popularity,  as the game was met with mostly positive reviews from critics and became one of the most popular NES games of 1988, with many retailers reporting that the game was selling out that year. The game ultimately sold 4.38 million copies worldwide. Now, that’s flashy! 


      Speaking of flashy, the original NES/Famicom releases of this game showed a rapidly-flashing screen whenever Link dies. This was changed in the remakes to a blank screen, as the rapid flashing was known to cause epileptic seizures. Good thing they dialed down that kind of flashiness though. On a happier note, I’m glad they put Link’s name on the title, cause you know, to avoid confusing Zelda with Link. Admit it though before you got to play the game, you thought the main character’s name in the original Legend of Zelda was Zelda.

       

      You know who are masters at confusion, deceit and stealth, though? Ninjas! And who loves ninjas? We do! They have got to be one of gaming’s best tropes and that shows in Revenge of the Shinobi for Genesis. Released on December 2, 1989, it is the sequel to Shinobi for the arcade. Revenge of the Shinobi was a masterclass in design and gameplay and a lot of gamers and gaming critics agree that it is in more ways than one, superior to its predecessor. It has received 5 stars and 9s across the board and was even inducted in a lot of greatest games list, notable of which is Gamespot’s list of the greatest games of all time. 


      The game follows Joe Musashi as he finds his master bloodied and dying and his bride, Naoko, kidnapped by the notorious Neo Zeed. It is a traditional side-scrolling action platformer game that features 8 district levels, with its own set of enemies and unique bosses. Joe Musashi can also perform ninjutsu techniques and attack and jump simultaneously, hurling deadly shurikens at enemies. Now you think the game follows a serious plot line and story but wait till you hear about the bosses. 


      It’s funny to think that a game of this caliber would actually be a huge target for copyright lawsuits from different major companies owning certain popular characters. This is because in early versions of The Revenge of Shinobi, it had you fighting Batman as a boss, but because SEGA failed to get the licensing rights for the Caped Crusader, he was replaced by a winged demon in later versions of the game. I mean good thing they removed Batman from the game though, I’m sure he was prepared to beat Joe to a pulp. 


      Funnily enough too, district 7's boss was no other than the big G-man himself, Godzilla! Again it was eventually replaced by a skinless dinosaur whose name was Monster-G, which was obviously not a reference to a certain Kaiju. One of the other bosses is also very reminiscent of the Hulk. Spider-Man is also present as a boss. Like the actual Spiderman. This time though they were able to use Spiderman as a boss but was eventually deleted too as soon as the license for it expired. Serious question, who is this ninja guy? Is he like a dimension-hopping ninja Thanos-Darkseid-Ghidora hybrid? But, you know who the real boss is though? Joe Musashi is.

       

      The next game on this list is based on another game that is set in a hybrid world with aliens and dinosaurs and involves a dimension hopping, time-traveling warrior. Sounds confusing huh? Enter, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil for the Game Boy Color. Not to be confused with the N64 game with the same title, Turok 2 for the GBC was released on December 3, 1998 with low to middling reviews. Even IGN reviewer Peer Schneider described the game as "an E-rated cookie-cutter sidescroller with decent controls and unimpressive visuals". It followed a completely different story from its N64 counterpart but was essentially  set in the same world. 


      You are Joshua Fireseed a Turok or a Son of Stone tasked with protecting the Earth from multiversal incursions stemming from the Lost Land, a barbaric world that is an amalgam of all existing timelines. You are tasked to slash and gun down the Dinosoid Army in eight levels and battle four bosses using your wits and weapons like a knife, bow & arrow, pistols, shotguns and more. Schneider may not have been impressed by the game but lemme give you a very interesting tidbit about the game.


      Interestingly enough, the major plot points of this game is based on a comic simply titled Turok published by Acclaim Valiant in 1997 and 1998. This follows Joshua Fireseed also known as Coyote Knight, who is essentially a new Turok after the mantle was passed to him by his deceased uncle, Carl Fireseed. Although Josh was a new Turok he had the ability to call upon the previous and future Turoks to act as his guide in a style similar to  Avatar the Last Airbender. As puzzling as the state of the GBC game was, I think this is  an awesome piece of info and it’s best to experience the game and the comics hands-on. 

       

      Speaking of puzzling, here’s a puzzling challenge to boggle your mind on and I think you’d be interested to know it involves our favorite monsters we all aim to catch, Pokemon. This game was released on December 4, 2000 and has undergone more name changes than your favorite ninja game in Europe. It was initially announced by Nintendo employee Peter Main's "Industry Review" webcast under the title Pokémon Attack on January 13, 2000. Its name was eventually changed to Pokémon Puzzle League, but was released as Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. Puzzling ain’t it? Despite the name changes, what didn’t change was  the fact that it was a very-well made game as it holds an aggregate score of 90.20% at GameRankings, making it the 10th best Game Boy Color game and the 300th best video game on Game Rankings. 


      Of course, they wouldn’t put the word “Challenge” on the game title if the game wasn’t challenging right? You can unlock two extra modes for the hardcore gamers out there by doing these button prompts. When at the difficulty screen in Challenge Mode, pressing select & A while hovering over Hard More will unlock Super Hard Mode. Doing this again while hovering over Super Hard Mode will unlock Intense Mode, the highest difficulty level available in the game. Talk about punishing yourself in a Pokemon game. 


      Incidentally, there’s a secret involving the weird human-shaped Pokemon, Jynx. Her losing animation features nothing but her detached hair holding a white flag of defeat, similar to what happens when you defeat her in Pokemon Stadium.

       

      Like the Legend of Zelda franchise, Mario games have been a staple for Nintendo systems ever since it was first released way back in 1983 and the next game in this list is a striking testament to that. Super Mario Strikers was released on December 5, 2005 for the Game Cube. However, this was the last Mario game to be released on the GameCube in Japan and North America. It didn’t disappoint though as it was able to reach its goal and was ultimately considered to be outstanding in its field. It sold a total of 1.61 million copies at the end of its cycle owing to its fun gameplay and tight controls. Before the game was conceived however, game director Mike Inglehart and marketing director Grace Kim revealed that Strikers was originally intended to be a more realistic Mario sports game, but the development team opted for an "over-the-top" style after numerous consultations with Nintendo. Which is a wise decision in my opinion cause Mario games have always been over-the-top. 


      In a lot of firsts for the game franchise, this is the first game to feature Kenneth W. James, who temporarily replaces Scott Burns, as the voice of Bowser, a role that would become permanent starting with Super Mario Galaxy. This is also the only Mario Nintendo GameCube game to support 16:9 widescreen as well as 480p. Early concept art for the game shows Mario wearing number 10 as his team number but this was ultimately given to Princess Peach as her team number. In a first, breaking football tradition, Mario was given the number 1 as his team number which is supposed to be reserved for goalkeepers.


      That is all for this week’s gaming history lesson. Which one is your favorite pick on this list? Or do you remember a different game released on these dates? Join our Discord and subscribe to our YouTube for more!

      This Week In Gaming History: November 8 -14th

      This Week In Gaming History: November 8 -14th

      Every day is a new day for gaming and all the days that have gone have seen their share of iconic gaming moments and this week isn't any different. We're back with another week of video gaming nostalgia.

       

      Play fighting was always a silly thing we did as kids but the way we took these things seriously would make Master Roshi proud and even if we ended up with bruises and scratches when has that ever stopped us from believing that kai could magically come out of our small puny hands or our hair standing up and going blonde while screaming at the top of our lungs this shows us how much influence dragon ball has had on our childhood and our adulthood and as kids it's hard to contain our excitement whenever a Dragon Ball Z game comes out and there's a lot of them. Dragon Ball Z Legendary Super Warriors came out on November 8th, 2002 for the Game Boy Color. Seeing that Ginyu force, the main character's super saiyan forms, as well as the Fusion characters gotence and vegito, brings back all of that power fantasy. Progress the story and unlock battles through story mode, try out the wit draining battle mode or challenge your friends in versus mode to see who is the most powerful warrior of all time, and trust me it's always Mr. Satan who comes out on top.

       

      As for the best warrior in gaming history, nothing comes close to Master Chief. Fight me on that. This is the one game you certainly don't want to finish the fight anytime soon and you'll always want to come back for more you know just to bring the covenant back their bomb. Halo 2 released on November 9th, 2004 was the most anticipated sequel to one of the XBOX Console's most definitive first-person shooters of the generation Halo Combat Evolved. The return of Master Chief and her trusted AI waifu Cortana, sees our protagonists flying like a brick as they race to stop the covenant from wreaking havoc on earth in their bid to fulfill the great journey. This also introduced us to some of the best supporting characters in a game like Sergeant Johnson, Miranda Keyes, 343 Guilty Spark, and the biggest surprise of them all, a new playable character The Elite Alien Arbiter. This also marked the return of the dreaded flood and their introduction of new boss types and enemies like the Prophet, the Heretic Tartarus, and the Brutes. The multiplayer also saw some new changes as they featured more competitive maps and playlists as well as social playlists and also got new weapons like the Brute Plasma, Brute Shot, SMG, as well as Dual Wielding. A first in the franchise. If it ever felt like the game ended on a cliffhanger though you might be right. The game had to undergo a lot of cuts due to budget and time constraints. If the leaks at the time were anything to go by we could have seen Miranda Keyes betrayal as well as a final level on the high charity finally finishing the fight.

       

      But not all games end up with a good sequel and it's honestly hard to break the sequel curse so a good way to circumvent this is to go and give a fresh perspective on a game via a reboot. One example is Prince of Persia the Sands of Time. This was a reboot of Prince of Persia 3D originally released on the pc and the Dreamcast. The action-adventure by Ubisoft was released on November 10th, 2003 for the Playstation 2. Swinging through bars, running on walls, climbing pillars, and rewinding time all made for a unique parkour experience. This allowed the game to reach critical acclaim a bit slowly at first but gained traction as more gamers saw its unique mechanics in play some are even claiming this to be one of the greatest games of all time. A remake of the game was announced to be released in 2022 and consider us all ready to experience the game once again in a fresh light.

       

      If you're up for a little confrontation with your friends via online multiplayer then we're sure ChuChu Rocket! made your jaw drop even if you weren't allowed to visit little Timmy because of chickenpox. Yes, you heard it right the Dreamcast game was released on November 11th, 1999 with the first-ever online support for a console. Beat your friends at the comfort of your own home while you sit on your gaming chair and breathe loudly on the mic remember that oh wait wrong timeline. Nonetheless, this gaming first gave us a glimpse at the future and showed us how a little innovation could become the biggest staple in the necessity for years to come. As for the game, players must put arrows on a board to lead cute little mice or Juju's into escape rockets while avoiding the Koopa Koopas. Who knew puzzle games could have so much bombastic action and did this variant warrant online support yes definitely.

       

      Speaking of bombs, another accessory that made a blast during its release in 1986 was the Power Pad for the NES on November 12th the accessory made its way to Japan and was a floor mat game controller with 12 pressure sensors, made with flexible plastic kind of akin to the dance pad later used for the Playstation 2. All you had to do was lay the accessory out in front of the video display for various games and you're ready to step on the buttons. If you're ready to work up a sweat while practicing your coordination and timing then the power pad games back in the day were worth a shot.

       

      If you love putting your gaming skills to the test then this familiar side-scrolling beat 'em up for the game boy advance will bring back good memories or bad ones if you don't like the difficulty ceiling you know what I'm talking about right. It's Double Dragon Advance the Remake was published on November 13th, 2003 where you play as Billy Lee and his brother Jimmy on a quest to rescue Marion. As with most beat 'em ups nothing is ever easy as you have to fight your way through hordes and hordes of shadow warriors defeating the shadow warriors can be a pain thankfully we've had some helpful cheats back in the day that gave us double dragon power or 10 credits because you know extra lives are hard to come by. Pressing and holding down a specific set of buttons would grant you these extra credits if you didn't want to put in the skill but if you want to make things extra harder you can unlock expert mode by pressing another set of buttons but seriously who does that I'm looking at you dark souls players.

       

      Speaking of challenging games let's take it down a notch and allow us to introduce you to a far more relaxing game with that said it's a great time to remind you about a certain casual Disney game we all know and love released on November 14th, 2000 the Jungle Book Mowgli's Wild Adventure for the Game Boy Color is certainly a bear necessary and those are always welcome. Playing as Mowgli while traveling different jungle levels was always a treat while learning new tricks such as rolling into a bowl and performing a hand over hand climb made for a fun and engaging experience let's not forget to use coconuts and bananas when there are predators nearby I can't forget that I mean that would only make sense because predators aren't really into fruits I assume. We meet familiar faces along the way from the animated film translated into the game such as Mangira, Baloo, King Louie, Ka, and the deadly Sheer Khan.

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