Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Evander Holyfield's "Real Deal" Boxing: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis
Evander Holyfield's "Real Deal" Boxing: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Insert Disk collects Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.

Today’s retro game review is Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is a bit of a lost gem on the Sega 16-bit system. If you enjoy boxing games you will certainly get something out of this one. Customise your character and stats to enjoy a long career against a range of opposing boxers. Expect digitised speech, decent graphics and reasonably in depth game play. Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing has proved itself a surprise hit to enjoy this week.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today’s episode is all about the Real Deal when it comes to boxing, none of that knock of rubbish. Join me as I take a look back at Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing for the Sega Mega Drive.Back in 1992 the Sega Mega Drive was leading the way in the 16-bit battle of the sports games. Madden, EA Hockey and others all went on to become classics but what about those looking for an even more testosterone filled experience. Well for that there was Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing. During this period all kinds of celebrities were putting their names to games. Some good, some rather forgettable.

Back in 1992 I wasn’t really that interested in boxing and there were certainly far more interesting genres of game to play so it’s only this year that I’ve got round to playing this one.
Now picking up a sports game off the shelf from decades past is usually a bit of a chore, when it’s endorsed by a celebrity my heart tends to sink that bit further. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The Real Deal still has something to offer boxing fans and I actually feel that this may be a bit of an overlooked title. You’ll start the game by creating your character. There’s a modest variety of pre-sets of head shape, haircuts, skin colour and short colours. It’s basic but at least the feature does allow a bit of customisation. It’s a feature not always seen in similar titles. To throw in some more customisation you must assign values to your characters Power, Stamina, Speed and Defence. Like a typical novice I’ve just maxed out the power bar. I may not land those punches often but when I do the opponent is going to feel them.

You’ll soon find yourself stepping in to the ring against opponent number 1 and finding your bearings. The presentation is surprisingly good. The main sprites are well drawn and the background pulls off a nice pseudo 3D trick to make you feel the dimensions of the ring. In terms of the game play there is more to the game than just spamming the uppercut. You have lead punches to then follow up, hooks, jabs and blocks. It isn’t the most sophisticated system you’ll see in a boxing game but it really does work well. I found that initially I did have to work my way in to this game. Wear down my opponent and then attempt that final blow to finish them off. It’s surprisingly satisfying. The damage is represented by both a head and body damage indicator. Again, it’s a nice touch to the game, it actually make you think about which punches you should go for. You can’t beat a good bump on the noggin in my opinion though.

The sound also plays an important role in the game. The sound of punches landing, digitised announcer, the crowd and general sound design really add to the atmosphere. After the match you’ll be taken to the training menu. Here’s where the strategy of the game extends even further. You’ll look to work on your Power, Stamina, Speed and Defence stats by selecting 3 perks including various workouts, to protein diets and track work. Naturally I just max out the power stat as all beginners do in the hope that I land some lucky shots. As you go through the matches you’ll open up different types of perk. Options such as the head guard, iron gum shield and even vitamins become available. The game features a wide range of fighters all with unique stats. B.J. Higgins, James Stretch, Billy Budd, Dynamite Don, J.D. Leforge are just some of the cast you’ll come up against.

If you’re a collector of physical media than the traditional Sega Mega Drive box won’t let you down. You’ve got a decent enough image of Mr Holyfield showing off some of his oversized championship belts. He’s even sporting both ears at this point in his career. At current pricing the UK PAL version of the game fully boxed will run to about £10 which is surprisingly high for a sports game on the system. For the North American Genesis look to pay no more than $5 for your copy. So would I recommend Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing? Well, surprisingly, yes. It may be an older sports game but it’s actually a lot of fun to play and has far more depth and strategy than I would have first assumed. It just goes to show that you really can’t write off a game before you play it.

If I did have some criticisms of the game it’s that the progression can be a little uneven. If you are someone that maxes out a certain stat you can be punished quite severely depending on the opponent. The key really is to use your skill points and training perks wisely. Conversely though by the time I’d maxed out the power bar, boxers with a weak defence were hitting the mat within seconds. Generally the game didn’t fare too well in magazine reviews of the day and from what I can see online today the game still has a very mixed reception with gamers. I can see where the limitations are in the game play but I found this one fun to play for short bursts of action. Sure it’s not going to change the way we play boxing games but there were some very good ideas in here. Personally I think I have potential as a video game boxer. How do I know? Well, a virtual Mr Holyfield told me so. The game allows you to enjoy a long career mode so there’s plenty to keep you busy. There are also various options to select your opponent so you can practice your style of fight against each type of opponent. Evander Holyfield’s Boxing really is the Real Deal. I’ve been pleasantly surprised this week by this now slightly obscure retro classic. If you can pick up a copy at a decent price it’s definitely worth a round or two.

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