Genre: Sports Developer: ACME Interactive Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
To start off simply here, this is probably the best boxing game for the system. I haven’t been able to sit down and really try out every boxing game, yet. (That’s a Genre Spotlight for another day). From what I’ve seen as I’ve gone through the tournaments and career modes, Sega could really put together a great boxing game.
Using the Evander Holyfield engine, Greatest Heavyweights is more of a spin-off than a straight sequel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Holyfield‘s simple yet challenging engine made early success for Sega Sports, and adding fighters like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Jack Dempsey to fight along Holyfield and the field of created (aka, fake) boxers.
The roster is probably one of the best seen in video games, only being challenged by games like Rocky and Fight Night. You’ve got the aforementioned legends, but you also get greats like Marciano, Patterson, Frazier, and Holmes. You can also create your own fighter to rival the greats, and even make him better! Although it’s a great roster to choose from, other than those eight, you’re really just left with the first Holyfield game. Omitted from the roster are others like Mike Tyson (for obvious reasons), Sonny Liston (maybe if it was a top ten list), and Mike Weaver (despite a seemingly crap record, still underrated). Still though, not much too really complain about there.
The graphics are really a step up from the first title, and even those weren’t so bad! The sprites are a nice size for boxing and are nicely detailed. Really being able to see the damage on the boxers instead of just viewing a life bar is a nice touch. The bodies are varied and realistic, along with the animations of taking a punch. Even the legends faces are pretty nice looking on the sprites, considering it’s a ’93 game.
One thing I’ve really liked in both games, but more so here, is the crowd. You can have various fight aficionados, along with assorted betters, even the occasional couple making out in the front row (despite it being Ali vs. Louis). It’s a nice step up from random heads in a crowd, or lines of darkened heads shapes with little dots for eyes. The intro is also one of the nicest around for the time. Realistic sprites of the legends move around as their achievements scroll across the screen. Even the detail in the faces here show how this was really a true effort to make a great game, and they really succeeded.
The sounds are better than your average boxer. The music really seems like it’s apt for fighting, and even the menu and title screen fit the whole set up. I like the announcer’s voices being added too in this one. You actually get the legends name announced, along with the actual legend trash talking (!) his opponent. Something as simple as Rocky Marciano doing a Goodfellas impersonation just adds a real something to the whole atmosphere. Even the crowd can really get into the matches, instead of just booing and cheering at random times.
While that’s all fine and good, what really makes this game is the gameplay. Like I mentioned before, it’s a simple yet challenging control scheme. You’ll be winning your first couple of fights easily as you start mashing left and right, along with the occasional uppercut. But soon you’ll hit someone who’s got a heightened speed stat, and you’ll be laying flat on your back quicker than certain females who do that sort of thing for a living. Really learning how to get the boxing down to a science makes this one of the more realistic games out there. One thing that it flat out took away from the first game is clinching. While this helped out with stamina before, it’s mysteriously taken away here. Instead of clinching in the corner after a barrage of hits, the best you can do is just back away and hope your opponent doesn’t attack again too quickly.
Other than that though, the gameplay takes a while to master, but soon fighting off every legend in the game won’t be so hard. Sometimes, however, the computer can pull off inhuman speeds and decide to waste you in the fifth round if it feels like it. Even compared to other games of the time (except for the Punch Out! series, which is more or less a pattern game with a boxing theme), the A.I. can be outdone most of the time without much effort.
As I mentioned earlier, all of this goodness is complimented by a great custom boxer feature. Everything from your fighter’s build to the color of his hair can be chosen, and you’ll slowly fight your way up the ranks until you become a major contender. This adds some wonderful longevity to a game that’s still otherwise excellent. When you get tired of batting around the legends, you can create your own future hall of famer.
Greatest Heavyweights is one of the best sports games for the Genesis, and probably the top boxing game. If you don’t already have it and love boxing, or even if you really aren’t much of a fan, pick it up anyway. It’s that good of a game, and it has a healthy replay value.
SCORE: 8 out of 10