Ring King
System: NES Publisher: Data East Developer: Data East/Namco
Genre: Sports Type: Boxing Circa: 1987
Bark! Er...Fight!...Phear me and my hot pink undies!

Ring King is one of those games that makes me wonder how the heck it ended up in my collection. It must've been one of those deals where someone was selling an NES with games set at a garage sale, and well...it happened to be in there. Or at least I would hope that is what the case is, otherwise, I'd really need to figure out what posessed me to buy this stinker, and neutralize it before it ever makes me do such a thing, again! The idea of Ring King is simple: You are a boxer, and you fight other boxers on your way to becoming a champion. Actually attaining that goal is not so simple. Unfortunately, it's more due to horrible play control and gameplay than challenging fights.
GRAPHICS: 3.5/10
At first glance, the quality of Ring King's graphics may not seem too bad, especially for an NES title as early as 1987. The problem is that every single boxer looks exactly the same! The only difference is that they swap palettes, and some of the palette swaps are downright terrible! What is up with this guy wearing hot pink shorts with matching gloves and shoes?! A boxer with a farmer's tan and a bright white afro? They look a little "wimpy" for boxers, too. The animation is usually done with two frames, which makes it almost impossible to see a punch coming to block or dodge it, causing Ring King to become one big guessing game as to when you should dodge and when you should attack. The audience is the only other factor in the graphics, and it looks like the standard "audience" you would see in NES sports titles: colorful little dots, some with faces, some without.
Training Gym...I'm going to punch you, no matter if you're standing over 5 feet away from me or not!
SOUND: 1/10
The music and sound effects of Ring King are far below the best efforts on the Atari 2600. Let's start with the "music". There are these little jingles that play on the title screen and between rounds, but they sound really lame and add nothing to the game's overall sound. There's a beeping noise that plays the whole time you're in the ring, and this is supposed to be music. The sound effects are no better. The sound of the bell is very unrealistic (compare it to the bell sound in Punch-Out!!, if you will.) When you swing a punch, the "swishing" noise sounds like something ripping. When you connect with a punch, it sounds like something made of metal splashing into water. The ref has a voice, but if I didn't know he was saying "Fight" or counting to ten, it would be impossible to tell what he is saying, as he sounds more like a barking dog. There is no "roar of the crowd" as in other NES sports games, either.
Well, Ring King takes a swing, but ends up hitting way below the belt! The play control is the whole reason I find this game so putrid. The sound being bad is one thing. If I enjoy the gameplay, I can always turn off the volume and crank up my stereo. But no matter how loudly I play my favorite classic rock tunes, it won't fix bad play control. First of all, it really annoys me how limited your movement is in this game. I've heard that this game is "more realistic" than Punch-Out!! because you can move around the whole ring. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't seem to work out that way. You may have the whole ring open to you, but you can only move in circles around your opponent. For example, if you're standing to the left of your opponent, and you push Up on the controller, you will move around to the top, so that he's standing below you on the screen. But the boxer moves really slowly, and you cannot do anything else until he stops moving. You can't swing a punch, you can't dodge, you can't move in another direction. So what was supposed to be more realistic moving and dodging ends up being you and your opponent doing figure 8's around each other all across the ring! When you try to throw a punch, there is a definite delay between the time you press the button and when your boxer actually swings! That is...if he even swings at all! Sometimes he'll duck or dodge, and other times he won't respond at all. So, basically, I spend the whole game mashing buttons, hoping that my boxer will do the right damn move at the right damn time!!
I'm cowering in fear of your bright white afro...Want some of this?
The only real story behind Ring King is that you are a boxer trying to become a champion. The problem is that the game lacks atmosphere. All the boxers look exactly alike, so you never feel like you're fighting anyone special. Ring King also has no ending...you beat the last fighter and start over again from the beginning. The only reason I can think to even score this above a 1 is because of the rather hilarious and, um, infamous between-round antics.
Ring King is quite hard, but hard does not necessarily = challenging. To me, the true meaning of "challenge" in a videogame, is when your skills are tested, and you are given room to improve. It is not button mashing, hoping for results! One unique aspect of this game is that your boxer earns "experience points" as he fights and wins matches. You can then allocate these points to his stats, to make him more powerful for later fights. But this has the counterproductive effect of making the game get easier as you go along. Just getting past the first couple of boxers is extremely difficult, and I usually only just barely get by. I'm not saying games should be easy, but the purpose of the first fight of the game should be to get you used to the play control, play mechanics, to learn the moves, and to be able to experiment with different techniques. Most of the times, I can't even beat the guy in the training gym! Maybe it's my impatience. Maybe if this game had more responsive play control, I'd be more inclined to try to learn the moves. But it still wouldn't be much fun fighting a bunch of boxers who all look alike and all have the exact same moves.
FUN: 1.5/10
Seeing as how Ring King was originally a Namco game (one of my favorite game companies), I really wanted to like it. But I'm just totally unable to have fun with it. It can't just be because I don't care much for boxing, seeing as how I loved Punch-Out!!. I think it's more because this game just plain sucks! Whenever I turn it on, I can barely play it for more than 30 seconds before the frustration and hatred set in, and I have to shut it off. There are several different play modes, but they all seem alike to me. You can customize your boxer in one mode, but what difference does it make, since he'll still look the same as all the other boxers, and he'll still have the same moves? There is also a mode where you can just watch computer-controlled matches, and sadly enough, this game is actually more fun to watch than to try playing.
You stole my look, so I'm going to punch you out!...I'm not cheering because I won...I'm cheering because it's over

All in all, Ring King certainly does not come up a winner. Even without Punch-Out!! to compare it to, this game would still be quite bad. If you're a fan of the arcade version, or really like boxing games, then maybe you might find something to like here. Otherwise, avoid and move on.
OVERALL SCORE (not an average): 1.5/10



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