Over the last 3 years or so we've seen talk about a new boxing video game, following on from Fight Night Champion, which was the last main stream boxing game and was released way back in 2011. The game was the 5th game in the Fight Night Series and unfortunately we've not seen EA return to the sport since, instead running with their UFC franchise as their main combat sport title.
Due to the lengthy gap since the last fight we've regularly seen fight fans suggest a new video game to British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who has suggested he was working on it, and had been trying to get it done for a while.
With talk of a new boxing game now getting some attention we thought it was a perfect time to have a look at 5 boxing games you may not be aware of, with all 5 releases being focused on the Japanese video game scene. Some of the games are now playable in the west, but none of these officially had a Western release when they were released on their original hardware.
Legend of Success Joe
Unfortunately we start at a low point, with the Legend of Success Joe, a game based on the "Ashita No Joe manga". The game was released on both the Arcade and the Neo Geo in 1991 and sadly was panned in reviews, with almost universal criticism towards every area of the game.
Whilst the arcade version wasn't seen as being anything great the it was the Neo Geo version that took a lot of the negativity, and is regarded by many as being among the worst Neo Geo games out there. The game had poor gameplay, poor graphics, high pitched music, and clunky animation.
Given that the price for the game was high, to say the least, it was a real stinker of an effort, on what was a very capable system. The Neo Geo, had fantastic ability to do what other consoles couldn't, in terms of graphics, but you wouldn't have guessed that from this game, which was genuinely terrible to look at, never mind play. It appears that the game was never released in the west as SNK didn't want to damage their brand,
Ring ni Kakero
Another game based on a manga is "Ring ni Kakero", which was a game that was fought from an isometric view and featured characters from the manga and was much better than Legend of Success Joe. Graphically it was quite similar to the Fire Pro Wrestling Games that were popular in the 1990's. The graphic style is certainly not the most realistic, and it does have a very arcade feel to it.
Technically it's a fun game, with a rather unique style, but in reality it's not a boxing as the fight night games were. Regardless it's certainly an experience, and one that can now be enjoyed in the West, sort of.
Originally planned for a 1995 release on the Super Famicom the game was delayed in release until June 1998, coming out 2 years after the N64 was released in Japan. By the time it came out the console it's self was about dead as a major video game console.
Although not originally released in the west it is now playable on Retrogames, here https://www.retrogames.cc/snes-games/ring-ni-kakero-japan-np.html
Onizuka Katsuya super virtual boxing
Taking it's name from popular Japanese fighter Katsuya Onizuka, who is licensed and used in various parts of the game, Onizuka Katsuya super virtual boxing, takes on a different graphical style to most. Like several SNES boxing games this is played from a first person perspective, where you are essentially put into the boots of the fighter.
In terms of the boxing this is much more like a boxing sim than "Ring ni Kakero", though is a very basic one with just 6 fighters and rather control and still has a more arcade feel to it than the more modern day games.
Released in 1993 for the Super Famicom the game is still quite playable and fun, though nothing amazing compared to what's available now a days. One thing to note here is that whilst the game is mostly in Japanese there's enough for those who don't speak Japanese to work out what's going on.
As with Ring ni Kakero this is available to place on retrogames, and we suggest giving this one a genuine play https://www.retrogames.cc/snes-games/onizuka-katsuya-super-virtual-boxing-shin-kentou-ou-densetsu-japan.html
Best Bout Boxing
We don't have too many detail the 1994 Jaleco released "Best Bout Boxing", but we've been informed it was an arcade game that could be played either 1 player or 2 player. The details really aren't great, though from the Wikipedia page for the bout there was 8 characters, each from a different country, battling to win the "Worldfreeweight championship".
Whilst we've not managed to play this one, we have managed to come across footage and from that this is pretty much what you expect of a 1990's arcade boxing game. Simple, straight forward, with with very nice blocky characters. With 3 action buttons the game certainly had basic controls but does appear pretty fun from the footage available.
Boxer's Road 2: The Real
In 1995 the original Boxer's Road was released for the Playstation, in what was a pretty solid boxing Sim, selling over 400,000 copies. The came was regarded as too realistic in terms of gameplay, but was a game regarded as having potential, if tweaks were made, for a US release.
More than a decade after the original Boxer's Road game a sequel was released for the PSP. With a decade of time between the two games most would have expected upgrades, and upgrades they got with over 100 licenses Japanese fighters, from over 70 gyms and a career mode that is deep, and by deep we mean deep. The game has you not only fighting and training, but also controlling your fighters diet and making weight.
Graphically this wasn't on par with the Fight Night series, but it's depth and attention in other areas made up for that, as did the ability to create fighters using photos.
Although the PSP wasn't a big seller, and their will be language issues with the game, this is one that is highly regarded by gamers who had the chance to play it.
With more than a decade between the first two games sure we are now owed a third game in the series, right?
Funky Head Boxers
The most odd game on this list, and we guess the most "Japanese game" is Sega's "Funky Head Boxers", which was released in the Arcade in 1995 and on the Sega Saturn in 1997. To call this odd, really doesn't do it justice, and the fighters are all given bit square heads, giving the game a very unique look. Of course unique isn't always good.
Player from an over-the-shoulder view, similar to the Wii Sports boxing this very much looks like a cheap, 1990's version of the Wii Sports game with some added LSD. It's very, very odd, blocky and yet entertaining, at least to watch.
We've not managed to play this one, but the gameplay looks rather poor and limited and for a game on the arcade in the mid 1990's it certainly doesn't look like western fans missed out on anything special. It's more of a boxing oddity than anything else.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces