Guilty Party – Retro Redress

Crime – Choosing Dynamite Dux over Heavyweight Champ because was I was told Heavyweight Champ would be too short

Redress – Give Heavyweight Champ a chance to prove it would have been a more rewarding, more challenging experience than Dynamite Dux

After subjecting Dynamite Dux to a deserved roasting, my thoughts drifted to the other game involved that day; Heavyweight Champ. I’d never played it after not buying it that day in St Helens and never really thought about it ever again. Until now. I’ve decided that, in the Retro Redress ring, Heavyweight Champ deserves a title rematch. Let’s get it on!


Despite being a European only Master System game, Heavyweight Champ has quite a background. Sega originally used the name Heavyweight Champ for it’s 1976 arcade game, which featured boxing glove controllers and a side view perspective. A sequel of the same name hit arcades in 1987 and features a swiveling cabinet and two boxing gloves for the player to use. However, the Master System game is no relation to the two arcade games; it’s origins lie in the Master System version of US boxing game James ‘Buster’ Douglas Knockout Boxing. While the US got a licensed boxing game based on the man who upset Mike Tyson in 1990, Sega saw no point in using Douglas’ name for the European version a year later, given that Douglas had lost his titles to Evander Holyfield and retired . So the Heavyweight Champ name was used instead for the European Master System release. The Master System version of James ‘Buster’ Douglas Knockout Boxing is actually a remake of 1987’s Rocky, so Heavyweight Champ is going to feel familiar. I’ve played Rocky and all I remember about it is Clubber Lang being absolutely unbeatable. There’s another game for the Redress List….


The first option I’m given is ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ speed. I’m picking slow speed. I remember how quick Rocky was, not sure I would stand a chance on ‘fast’. I’m really hoping Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago doesn’t show up in this game. Even as a palette swap, like Evan Lizar or something else. As a side note,  I really like the shade of green used on these menu screens too. It’s basic, but striking.


So here is the ‘tale of the tape’ for the first match. The player is ‘S. Davis’ whether they like it or not, there is no option to change boxer in 1 player mode. I like to pretend that S. Davis is a good man who works at a vet’s on the side and fights to raise money for homeless cats. His opponent is ‘B.Santana’, who just strikes me as a dull ‘middle of the road’ guy. Even pretending his dad is called Carlos and his brother is called Tito doesn’t help. The screen shows that Santana has the better stats and that no guts means no glory. I always thought no guts meant no life, but hey, I’m no doctor.


Upon first impressions, I can see the Rocky game engine clearly. The sprites are very similar and the game plays pretty much the same. Having said that, the video I watched of Rocky on Youtube made Rocky look more exciting and much faster than Heavyweight Champ. I suppose that playing as Rocky vs Apollo Creed would be more exciting than Davis vs Santana anyway, regardless of game engine. The tactic to beat Creed works for Santana too – simply get him in range for the standard straight punch and just keep hitting it. If you can pin Santana against the ropes, then you can just keep snapping his head back with shots.


My repetitive but effective strategy has put Santana on the canvas. There are super punches as well, which send the opponent flying into the ropes amid a flash of lightning, but I reckon you could easily beat Santana without them. I’m not sure what I think about Heavyweight Champ so far; it’s more of a challenge than Dynamite Dux, but I can’t help thinking that Rocky is the better game. Rocky wasn’t widely available for the Master System in 1991; had it been available in the shop that fateful day I reckon I would have picked it over both Dynamite Dux and Heavyweight Champ. So far, Heavyweight Champ hasn’t blown me away, but let’s see what the next fight brings.


After stopping Santana in three rounds, I’m facing T. White next. From first glance, he looks a bit like Hulk Hogan. Again, his stats are better than mine, but I’m confident. The game has given me some good advice too. Mind you it’s a Master System boxing game, not Freddie Roach, I’ll bet White probably won’t even throw any body punches now.


White actually does throw body punches as part of his main strategy, which is a three punch combo that he telegraphs. Even if he does get the final body punch off, my strategy of PUNCHING IN DA FACE is too much for him. Pinning him to the ropes and repeatedly hitting straight punches leaves White trapped. It’s a shame that I’m using such a cheap strategy as Heavyweight Champ does have a range of punches and defensive moves (blocks, dodges). However, the controls feel muddy – it’s easy to try a block and end up watching Davis awkwardly shuffle about instead. For example, I pressed down to block and Davis ducked, a move I’d never seen him do before. Long story short, I punched White in the face a lot and stopped him in three rounds.


That guy looks overweight and jaundiced, not tough. Still, if he’s fighting professionally while being that ill, he must be a tough cookie. A nice touch of Heavyweight Champ is that you can increase your stats between fights. I’m just keeping them balanced…as my main strategy is just headhunting, I doubt the stats will make much of a difference anyway. Dare I say it, if everyone is as susceptible to face punches as Santana and White, Heavyweight Champ may be easier than Dynamite Dux. At least you could fall off ledges in Dynamite Dux.


Well of course I do, I’m fighting a guy who looks really sick. To be fair, Williams is tougher than Santana and White, throwing a varied flurry of punches that worry me a little. He also regenerates lots of health between rounds. Williams has the same problem as the previous boxers though – if you can pin him against the ropes, you can tee off on him. I knocked him down by simply pummeling him in the corner, if I had tried to engage with him properly, he would have battered me, I reckon. Three rounds of facepunching though and Williams is out of there.


This guy looks scary…I’m hoping that Davis is ready to take a beating in order to pay for that cattery. The game is offering me some really obvious advice, hopefully Bernard’s weakness is being punched in the face because I’m getting quite good at it. I’m also getting a bit bored of the game – there are differences in the fighters and their AI tactics, but if you can just tap the ‘1’ button repeatedly to win, they are redundant.  


AARRGGHHH!!!!! It’s Clubber Lang! I’m worried as Clubber destroyed me on Rocky and decide that this is the time to step up…my facepunching efforts. This means I literally stand face to face with Bernard in the corner and punch as fast as I can. Every time Bernard gets free, he’s like a rottweiler, constantly throwing punches and pushing me back. I know what I have to do…be brave, believe in myself and throw some body punches as well as face punches. Bernard is thrown by this dramatic change of pace and is knocked down quickly. A series of violent head shots and Bernard is out for the count…


Naturally, after beating a slightly altered Clubber Lang, we get to face an altered Ivan Drago. Wait, if there is one more fight, then that means that Heavyweight Champ has the same number of levels as Dynamite Dux….which means that everything I was told was wrong. Well, the amount of stages for average Master System games is wrong anyway. To be honest, having played both of them now, I reckon both Dynamite Dux and Heavyweight Champ would have been bad purchases. Both are far too easy and don’t engage the player. I’d struggle to find any replay value in either game. If I could teleport back in time to that shop in 1993, I would be standing off to the side whispering “Buy Fantasy Zone”. To be fair, that’s my solution to most problems.


Anyway back to the final fight…Gibson is big and strong but he is also prone to my tactic of face punching against the ropes. Indeed, Gibson bounces off the ropes straight into punch after punch and I floor him quickly. He’s got a long range, but this means I can just get in close and facepunch him to the ground. Sure enough, a 2nd round TKO follows. I’m surprised at how easy Gibson was to beat to be honest, with his maxed out stats and clear resemblance to Ivan Drago, I figured he would be a nightmare.


The game ends with a picture of S.Davies having his pockets inspected by the referee as he celebrates his big title win and plans how to find new homes for all the stray kitties before Christmas comes. A quick inspirational message and some credits later and Boom! Heavyweight Champ is defeated. I’m surprised at how easy it was…once I got my range with the head punches and figured out how to use the Super Punch to force the opponents on to the ropes, then this game was a cakewalk. Hmmm…..cake.

Verdict – Overall, I’ve given Heavyweight Champ a fair chance to prove itself and I’m not impressed by it. Despite some promise, Heavyweight Champ is far too shallow and dull to be worth more than a quick go. Would I have been happier buying Heavyweight Champ instead of Dynamite Dux? I’m not sure it would have made much difference either way, but I’m glad I picked Dynamite Dux. Firstly, Dynamite Dux had some adventure to it, some different levels, a story and some colour to it. Maybe that gave me false hope, but false hope is better than no hope. Secondly, my mother recommended Dynamite Dux, so I can blame her for this purchase. It takes the list of blame for Retro Redress buying bad games down from 356,912 to 356,911, so I’d call that a small victory.

Still, if Heavyweight Champ has taught me anything, it’s that facepunching is the answer to most adversity in life. Especially in mediocre 8 Bit boxing games.