Retro Game Review: “George Foreman’s KO Boxing” (Super Nintendo)

“I’m, big, I’m bad, and I’m back, and I suck!”

Today we’re going to take a look at George Foreman’s KO Boxing, which was developed by Beam Software and published by Acclaim Entertainment in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). 

As the title may suggest, George Foreman’s KO Boxing puts players in the gloves of the two-time Heavyweight Champion of the World as he returns to the ring in pursuit of the title once again. Standing in his way is a gauntlet of fictional opponents spread across four circuits, including such colorful, international personalities as Lorenzo “Bullet” Luciano, Eddie “the Pirate” Preston, “Beautiful” Bobby Crane, Ray “The Iceman” Armstrong, Terrible Turak, and Lance “The Sheik” Borque. To put them down, you’ll have to use a combination of punches, dodges, blocks, counters, and super-punches (obtained when you score a successful counter). 

Piston Honda?!?!?

If this sounds a lot like Punch-Out!!, I’d understand your thinking so, but Punch-Out!! this is not. 

While Punch-Out!! plays like a rhythm game with a boxing veneer, George Foreman’s KO Boxing is much more frantic and fast-paced. While one could argue that this makes the game more intense and realistic, the end result is that it feels more like a video game version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots (that would be button-mashing boxing, for those unfamiliar with Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em). Sure, there are still some audio cues and the opponents have “tells” that telegraph their next moves, but if you expect to wear them down enough to get a TKO, much less a knock-out, you will probably have to resort to a lot of frustrating dumb luck.

Perhaps most irritating of all, your own energy drains away just by throwing punches, which sometimes makes it difficult to know whether you or your opponent is the one actually getting hit during an exchange. It also pretty much guarantees that you will suffer at least one or two knock-downs every match. our left and right punches are controlled with the L and R triggers. This takes a little getting used to, but it was still an effective and innovative use of the SNES controller and I grew to really like the button layout.

Despite having a roster of characters with fun sounding names, most of your opponents are pretty boring. There are only three body types that are recycled throughout the game with different heads, and they don’t really have distinct trademark moves, either. Unsurprisingly, the ring, arena and the crowd in the background are all the same throughout, too, and the leggy ring girl with the round number cards, despite being a welcome addition, remains the same blonde babe each match. Can’t we throw in a palette-swapped brunette, redhead, etc. etc. just for variety’s sake? All of this combined makes KO Boxing feel like more of the same with every step of the ladder that you climb. 

A leggy blonde ring girl? Judges? – “We’re going to allow it.”

That’s not to say that the game is ugly. It actually looks pretty good, all things considered. The characters are a decent size and the musculature of the fighters is well defined using all of those wonderful colors that the Super NES was so famous for displaying. The fighters’ facial close-ups help fill the screen, too, and seeing them deteriorate as they take a beating was a nice touch. There are some digitized images of George Foreman himself peppered between matches, often coupled with some kind of quip about eating, which were undoubtedly a high graphics mark for 1992. 

Doritos product placement. Blech.

On the sound side, George Foreman’s KO Boxing is a little lacking. There is zero background music during the matches themselves, just crowd noises and the sound effects of your punches, the latter of which have a nice “snap!” to them. Otherwise, there are a few voices thrown in, such as a few growls and grunts which sound a bit like a fart, Foreman’s own brief commentary before the match, as well as the taunts thrown your way from your opponent. Some of these get really intense, such as Sonny Joe’s “Can you squeal like a pig?” to Lance “The Sheik” Borque’s murder threat of “Prepare to meet your maker!” The best voice, though, is the referee, who has a great count when one of the fighters goes down. 

In terms of replayability, there is a password save feature which lets you take a break from the repetitive gameplay and lock in those hard-earned victories when they do come. If you are looking for a two-player experience, KO Boxing does offer it in the form of a versus match where player one is Foreman and player two is Bullet Luciano (the first opponent in the single player mode). 

A shot of the final boss, or just another excuse to show the ring girl? Judges…?

Shortly after getting our Super Nintendo in the early 90s, I remember my brothers and I renting George Foreman’s KO Boxing from Blockbuster, and it was a disappointment, to say the least. Sure, it looks okay, has some impactful sounds and throwing punches with the L and R triggers was a neat innovation, but it simply wasn’t very fun. The action is simply more chaotic than it should be, and losing your own energy just by throwing punches is critically irritating.

To be fair, the release of George Foreman’s KO Boxing predated Super Punch-Out!! by a couple of years (1994), so it may have scratched the boxing itch for those wanting to engage in a 16-bit fisting. (?) Personally, I’d rather go back to 8-bit fare such as the original NES Punch-Out!! or even Rocky on SEGA Master System than play George Foreman’s KO Boxing. 

In any case, now I’m hankering to grill some meats without the fuss, mess, and fatty grease you get when using conventional grills and ovens…

I’m kinda hungry for Punch-Out!!, honestly. And maybe a little bit thirsty for that ring girl…

Thanks for reading!

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