Genre: Sports Developer: Novotrade Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1-2 Release: 1992
Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing on the Genesis was a great game. Sure, it wasn’t deep with the career mode, but you could play it the way you wanted until you reached 40 fights. It looked and sounded great while being easy to control and fight boxers. Its Game Gear counterpart, on the other hand, is a game that has an interesting concept but falls very flat on its gameplay. Long story short, it doesn’t work well on a handheld.
Like most of these Genesis-to-Game Gear conversions, it plays a bit different. Instead of Acme Interactive, it was handled by Novotrade, who didn’t have much experience yet with consoles and handhelds. The company developed a few NES games and a Genesis game prior to this late 1992 release. This release was its first effort for Sega’s portable, so I’ll give it credit for trying.
The game goes for a first person point of view with only your gloves being shown. While that’s cool and all, it doesn’t make for a good game, especially for a handheld that relies more on button-mashing. The way you control your boxer is by moving a pair of hovering gloves. That’s it. Each button is assigned to a glove. Combined with using the directional pad, you can go with several types of punches, including straight punches, hooks, and jabs. You can move around the ring, but keep in mind the opponent will always be facing you. If you get knocked down, get ready to button mash like most other boxing games. Like the Genesis version, both boxers have health, but there’s a single health bar for each fighter. There is no need to worry about how much damage your head and body has.
The presentation has some good points but suffers overall. Outside of the crowd looking almost like a scrambled mess, the graphics are great for an early Game Gear title. The ring looks decent and the boxers have a bit of detail put into them. While there isn’t much to the boxers’ animations, there are some good shots of them reacting when they get hit. The downside is the audio. I get the fact that it’s 8-bit, but that’s no excuse. The music is decent but just doesn’t fit into a boxing game. The sound effects are non-existent outside of the punches and the bell. There are some voices, but they’re mostly grunts when knocked down and the referee counting to ten, and his voice is muffled quite badly. In a nut-shell, the presentation is a mixed bag.
It’s sad that the first person perspective bogs down Evander Holyfield because it has features like its 16-bit counterpart. One of those is creating your own boxer. It has a few more features such as the ability to have a favorite punch for each glove. Other than that, it’s creating the kind of body and head you want along with how much power, speed, recovery, and defense you think will carry you to victory. There is the exhibition and tournament modes where you can fight 14 other opponents, which includes Holyfield himself. For both modes, you can use your character, but instead of battery backup, there is a password. It’s lame, but it’s not too long or complicated.
The game doesn’t follow many of the rules of boxing, but it does get the basics down. Knock an opponent down three times in a round and you win the match via technical knockout. If a count reaches ten, it’s over and the one standing is triumphant. You are also judged by points, and how you do will determine if you win or lose. If the match ends after a certain number of rounds, you better hope the judges liked your performance. In the tournament mode, you can help train your character through picking certain things that will help in the four aspects to get you climbing in the ranks.
These opponents are pretty tough. They pack a solid punch and will protect themselves at all costs. Each one has an approach that he will take to go after you, which leads to my issues with Evander Holyfield. It’s a game that relies a lot on luck to even win a match. The button-mashing doesn’t help at all because the A.I. is very smart, and not in the Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! way of making you find and execute a strategy to beat each boxer. You have to hope a punch lands and that you can do damage. Otherwise, expect your thumb to be tired and raw after 10 minutes. As I said, the first person perspective is cool, but it doesn’t help when it comes to the gameplay. There are options to make things more manageable, but they consist mostly of round adjustments and seeing the match from either you or your opponents’ perspective. If there were an option to play with a camera perspective like the Genesis version or Mike Tyson, the playability would be better. Evander Holyfield was released between 4D Boxing and Foes of Ali, when boxing games were taking steps to look more realistic. The portable version was stuck firmly in the past, leaving you with just one way of playing a boxing game.
I wouldn’t even bother with Evander Holyfield on the Game Gear. If you really want it, it is one of the systems’ more common titles. Otherwise, stick with the Genesis cartridge. It has the same features, but it’s simply an easier game to play without being cheap in difficulty. The portable version could have been equal, but the gameplay perspective really bogs it down.
Score: 4 out of 10