TKO Super Championship Boxing isn’t a particularly great game, but it is notable for other reasons beyond the realm of hitting people in the face a lot.
In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.
Boxing is not a sport I particularly follow, or indeed even particularly like all that much. In terms of pugilistic sports, I’m solidly on the side of professional wrestling because it’s a performance. The whole idea of actually inflicting knockout-level harm on someone doesn’t sit well with me.
Do you suffer from sudden unexplained headaches?
Try not getting punched in the face a whole lot.
That usually helps.
Boxing video games, on the other hand, are a category I’ve played for decades, through classics like Punch-Out to more modern fare such as EA’s Fight Night series. Though come to think of it, it feels like it’s been a long time since there was a major boxing title from a big publisher… did I miss one?
That wasn’t actually why I chose TKO Super Championship Boxing this week. I was originally going to write about why I purchased it in the first place.
Randomly, it happens to be one of the very first games I bought on my first trip to Japan, primarily because I was stunned it was possible to buy a game for 108 yen — at the time less than one Australian dollar. Can’t be bad for less than a buck, right?
I’m sometimes tempted to remove that 108¥ sticker just to go through its discount history…
Well… it’s not terrible value by that metric, but it is one of the more dull combat games I’ve ever played on the SNES. Animation just isn’t all there, and the fact that it’s essentially a two-button game — and mostly a one button punching game, really — means that there’s a less enticing gameplay loop than other examples of the genre.
No memory for extra animation frames, but enough for this animated ring lady with moving hair. She walks all the way around the ring, too.
It’s also rock hard for the novice player. You know how they talk about the good games being easy to pick up and hard to master? TKO Super Championship Boxing isn’t easy to pick up or master. Or maybe master, I’ll be honest here and say that the gameplay loop didn’t grab me enough to continue beyond a few bouts, even with password saves for your title-seeking pugilist.
So it didn’t grab my attention for that reason. But where it did grab my attention was in the fact that what I’ve been playing this week wasn’t really TKO Super Championship Boxing at all.
Instead, because my cart is Japanese, it’s 拳闘王ワールドチャンピオン, or “Boxing King World Champion” instead, sometimes also called Kentou-Ou World Champion.
Now, back in the day I was aware, mostly through publications like the late lamented Super Play! that Japanese versions of games might be a little different.
Not just language, of course, but sometimes in difficulty as well, though the pendulum swung both ways as to which version of a game might be the tougher play.
I initially struggled to work out the controls for TKO Super Championship Boxing, and so I went and looked up a manual scan online, because everything is online these days.
As an aside, that beats the hell out of renting a game sans its manual and spending considerable time just working out the buttons and moves back in the day… but I digress.
The English language manual for TKO Super Championship Boxing describes much the same game as 拳闘王ワールドチャンピオン… except not.
The language barrier isn’t too brutal for actually playing. He’s just telling me to go play Street Fighter II, for example.
Sure, it’s the same basic slightly drab boxing engine underneath, but the English-language version offers up eight different boxers to choose from for single player, two player or the game’s championship mode.
For that mode, from looking at online longplay videos, you’re just dropped into fights straight away, no muss, no fuss. Also, the difficulty level is selectable, which isn’t an option for my Japanese copy at all.
The Japanese version sticks you with just the one fighter for Championship mode, and he’s also the default for single player. At least in two player mode you can freely choose your combatants, but I wasn’t quite willing to inflict this rather dull game on my kids, so that arena went largely unexplored.
Hit Him Eddie! You Are Sean Penn! (c) Horribly obsure and dated jokes, Pty Ltd.
What you do get is more of a story mode to the introduction of the game — my own lousy boxing skills can’t really say how far that one goes — that the English language version totally lacks.
What’s interesting to me here is that beyond simple language switches, somebody at the time must have looked at 闘王ワールドチャンピオン and decided that it wouldn’t quite make muster unless they did some more work to it. That’s more than just your usual small scale tweaks, too. That must have cost money in development time, because it does appear to be a quite changed game if you have the English language version.
Yes, game, I did lose. Quite often, too.
Look, if it wasn’t obvious, TKO Super Championship Boxing isn’t a stunning example of the form or a game that I’m going to recommend you rush out to buy per se.
But it is an interesting example of how the same game can end up being quite a bit different, even back in the day.
How to play TKO Super Championship Boxing today
There’s no ports to speak of, or even sequels, and while beyond the licence cost for Jiro Matsushima, who I’m told by the Internet is the Japanese cover star (I don’t know, not my sport etc) I guess it could come to the Switch Online service… but it certainly hasn’t yet.
A quick check of eBay finds loose copies that have gone for anywhere between $20-$60, or a little more for boxed copies. Then there’s this copy, which is currently seeking just a tad less than $600 after currency conversion. Yeah, good luck with that champ…
Japanese copies are, as you might expect a little cheaper, typically going for between $10-$20 as loose carts.