I recently purchased Mr. Dream’s Punch Out on the WiiU marketplace for about 30 cents.  I got a chance to play through it and really enjoyed remembering how to beat each character.  I still remembered the code (0073735963) that would take me straight to Iron Mike Tys…I mean Mr Dream.  And, after all these years, I still got my butt handed to me by the champ.  I just don’t have the reflexes for some of the later stages of that game.

I got to experience the joy of watching my children play the game, as well.  At first, they tried to actually box rather than react to the computer players.  This worked fine against Glass Joe, but the rest of the opponents wouldn’t allow you to just come in swinging.  Punch Out requires specific responses to the opponents’ moves, and is incredibly punishing when you make a mistake.  I could see the frustration in their eyes the 10th time they tried to beat Don Flamenco and the 20th time they lost to King Hippo.  With enough time, though, they learned it, and they became masters of dodging and counter punching.  They still haven’t beaten Bald Bull, but they will get there soon enough.

As I reflected, I realized that this specific game was the first one that taught me about the nature of pattern recognition and reactionary gameplay.  Reactionary gameplay is such a fundamental part of RPGs and other games today that it is easy to forget the early titles where this design mechanic originated.

Can you think of any games that represented the first time you saw a given game mechanic?  These are the ones that came to mind for me:

First Twin-Stick Shooter: Robotron
First Fighting Game: Karate Champ
First Fighting Game with a life bar: Yie Ar Kung Fu (most others were point based)
First Fighting Game with weapons: Barbarians (Commodore 64)
First FPS: Platoon (Commodore 64, The trench stage)
First 3D FPS: Wolfenstein 3D

Sometimes, it’s fun and interesting to go back through old games and study the mechanics that they used.  Seeing a mechanic in its infancy, such as those found in Punch Out, can often spark ideas for future games.