Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 14th
Someone once asked me what the best fighting game on the Genesis was, and when I told him it was Greatest Heavyweights, he told me, no, Greatest Heavyweights wasn’t a fighting game, it was a boxing game. It was at that point that I began to wonder if I had somehow fundamentally misunderstood the sport of boxing. But I stand by my assessment – Greatest Heavyweights is the Genesis’ best fighting game. Given that the console’s emphasis on sports games, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that its best fighting game is also a sports game.
Now I could go on and tell you all about GH’s gameplay, career mode, and other features, all of which are brilliant. But let’s leave that to the experts. What really stands out to me about Greatest Heavyweights, and what I think helps put it near the front of the pack of so many other really well-made Genesis games, is just how unapologetic macho it is. This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise – it is after all a game about really strong dudes punching each other in the face for money, starring some of history’s most skilled face-punchers. That alone should already gives it a ranking of “Tom Selleck” on the Machismo Scale, and it only gets tougher from there.
Steak is For Training, and Stamina is for Wusses
I love training with the Power Glove. It’s so bad.
How do you become a great boxer? Spend countless hours in the gym? Spar to work on your technique? Greatest Heavyweights says to hell with all that and gives you the only training option anyone should ever take seriously – eating a ton of steak. In the game, this is referred to as “Protein Diet” but what it essentially comes down to is eating a dead cow for every breakfast lunch and dinner, along with a side of a dozen eggs and a tall glass of milk. This is the way all the great boxers trained. Sure, the game gives you plenty of more “traditional” training regimens, like exercise bikes or wearing sneakers, but any boxer worth a damn knows you can’t get into fighting shape without devouring several hundred farm animals in the process.
See, you train your boxer in three different skills – power, speed and stamina, and all that steak gives you a big boost to power and speed. Which is the perfect balance, because stamina is pointless. Greatest Heavyweights doesn’t get all caught up with nonsense like “proper boxing technique” or winning on points. Sure, you could try to box effectively by keeping your guard up, waiting for an opening, and countering your opponents punches, but that approach is just going to get you killed. Instead, you need to learn how to fight like a man. By which I mean sucker punching your opponent in the gut, and then caving in his face with an uppercut while he’s doubled over.
It’s also not a bad idea to fight someone much weaker than you.
It Features Some of the Toughest Guys Ever…
As the title implies, Greatest Heavyweights features some of the most successful boxers of all time, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Jack Dempsey. As somebody who is only old enough to remember the Mike Tyson era and everything after, it’s kind of interesting to see these guys in action. Although every legend has maxed out stats, the game still makes each of them unique by recreating their signature style. If the game is accurate, then Floyd Patterson was completely unafraid of being punched in the head, and Joe Louis was a boxer, not a Hall of Fame center for the Detroit Red Wings, as I had previously assumed.
But with clubs, while riding dinosaurs.
Each legend has unique taunts as well. Evander Holyfield quotes MC Hammer (seriously, saying “It’s Hammer Time!” is a coincidence. Saying both “It’s Hammer Time” and “You Can’t Touch Me” is not), while Rocky Marciano (not that Rocky) likes to tell his opponents “I’m gonna embarrass you” in what sounds like a bad Marlon Brando impersonation. While I assume he meant he planned to embarrass me by beating me up and displaying my lack of boxing skills, as opposed to, say, pants-ing me in the middle of the ring, it’s still not as effective of a threat as “I’m gonna punch you in the face a whole bunch of times,” which is what he actually ended up doing.
…And the Computer Isn’t Even a Little Bit Afraid of Them
What’s surprising is how little respect the fictional computer opponents give these legends. Imagine what you would do if you found yourself in a boxing ring with Muhammad Ali – and not modern day, wheelchair bound, crippled by Parkinson’s Ali, but the “I’m the Greatest of All Time”, George Foreman slaying Ali, in his prime. I like to think I’m not a total coward, but even so, I’m fairly certain I would spend the entire match apologizing and trying to find the softest part of the ring to fall down onto.
Not the computer, though. In one fight, a CPU controlled opponent by the somewhat less than intimidating name of Sleepy Crowe got into the ring with Ali and managed to get himself knocked down in about 30 seconds. Rather than doing what a rational person would do and staying the fuck down, Sleepy Crowe popped back up and began calling Ali a pansy. Ali, never one to shy away from trash talk himself, responded by punching all the knowledge out of Sleepy Crowe’s head.
Admittedly, what’s manly isn’t necessarily what’s wise. In fact that’s rarely the case. Which is something Crowe would do well to remember if he still had that capability.
You Can Hit Somebody So Hard That They Start to Like It
That brings me to the manliest thing Greatest Heavyweights – it’s sheer savagery. Generally, the violence in fighting games is either a bit understated, with guys shrugging off blows that would put a person in the hospital in real life. Or else the violence is so completely over the top that it’s cartoonish. But the violence in GH feels very real. Landing a knockdown punch usually results in a little grunt from your opponent as he crashes to the canvas, but sometimes you’re rewarded with a much more satisfying yelp that lets you know that your foe probably just received some significant loss of brain function.
But even that pales in comparison to the time I managed to land a right hook that sent my opponent crashing to the floor while he screamed “YEAH!” That’s right, in Greatest Heavyweights, I once punched a guy so hard that even he was excited about it. This is normally the point where a responsible referee would stop the fight, but the refs in this game are apparently paid by the round,so after an eight count, my opponent got back up and the fight resumed. A few seconds later, he was on the mat again, and did not do so much as lift his head.
I’m pretty sure I killed him.
Availability: Greatest Heavyweights has not been included in any retro collections or made available for download. If I had to guess, I’d say the licensing for the boxers probably expired. However, the game is relatively common, and a copy of Greatest Heavyweights should only set you back a couple of bucks and be easy to find online or at a decent used game store. If that should somehow become impossible, you can also scoop up the game that GH was a sequel to, Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing. Greatest Heavyweights is the better game, but if you’re not really into the legendary boxers, improvements between the two games are slight.
One side note, Greatest Heavyweights supports the Genesis 6 button pad, but we actually found it easier to play with the standard 3 button controller. So you might want to pick one of those up too, if you don’t already have one.