March, time of the year without American Football tournaments in the USA, even if there were some previous attempts, so, if some fans miss the fall-winter action of the tackling sport, there is the option of watching other leagues south of the Rio Bravo, or playing video games. One of the first videogames about this sport came from the japanese company Irem and the main subject of this entry.
Company: Irem (published by Taito outside Japan)
Console / System: Arcade
Controller: Joystick with two buttons.
The game is an interesting adaptation of an American Football match. In the game, the player is always at offense and the goal is to score a touchdown before the time expires, in case of not making it, the game is over. For this goal, within the more core aspects of American Football, the player must advance a mininum of 10 net yards (hence the name) in four opportunities, if the player can advance the 10 yards, gains four more chances and a time bonus which varies of the chance the player made the 10 yards.
The match starts with the rival kicking, and the player try to return the ovoid the nearest possible to the goal, surrounded by its “teammates”, where every one of them can stop one rival… and nothing more. Meanwhile the opposite player can get up and try to stop again the ball carrier, the “teammates” got a nap.
After returning the kick, the videoplayer has at its disposal two runners and one receiver, it’s true there are other players, but the deffensive team can get thru them as a hot knife thru butter. In fact, the most common scenario is advancing with runs and trying to use the feauture of getting out of until three enemy taclkes.
Remember the time limit mentioned before? well, the disadvantage of using runs is they consume time and is very painful to get short one yard of the 10 desired (or worse, from the touchdown). We have to say that the deffensive players are faster, but it compensates with their high predictability at tackling, even if the runner (or receiving) go really slow.
Even if a pass is helpful to consume less time, it must be used only when the deffensive formation allows it, because the deffensive players are very accurate to intercept with ease. Here comes the following question: if the videogamer is always at offense, what happens with an interception? Easy, the videogamer gets back 20 yards, which is quite funny if you spend half of the time to advance 4 yards and you have considerably less time than at the beginning of the match. By the way, the deffensives can perfectly intercept side passes to runners.
If you can get a touchdown, you face the same rival again, in what the game considers the second half of the game, but with less time in the clock. Of course, if you score another touchdown, now you change to face a better rival. There are four rival teams in the game, but to get an idea, the first one is High School level. The other three are College, Pro and All-Star.
The version for MSX was published in 1986. It’s a port really good of the Arcade game, with all the features and restrictions, however, this computer had some restrictions hardware-wise.
Maybe the first notable limitation is when the player reaches the upper part of the screen, to advance, the change is not smooth. This can bother to play in a continuous way. The second is that the game is slower and it can fell dragged respect the original Arcade game.
However, the difficulty of the game is a bit toned down. In my opinion, enough for a casual player to not feel too frustrated, which is a good thing IMO. Also, we have to consider that the MSX was popular in countries where american football isn’t.
This game was ported to the Family Computer (precursor of Nintendo NES) and sold as part of the initial lineup of cartridges for North America. This version also has notorious differences respect the Arcade version.
You see, meanwhile in the Arcade version you can only play with the offense, in this version you play at two halves of 30 “minutes” each. There is no disminution of the time for interceptions or failing to advance 10 net yards. In this case, you can also play defense, you can choose only from two players via each button of the NES. If you can stop the rival from scoring or advancing the 10 net yards, you again play as offense and goes on until the match ends.
Since the start of the match, you can choose the rival’s level (in fact, the same of the Arcade), being High School a bit easier than in the Arcade version. The game also feels more tedious and slow, because of the duration. The last difference is that allows full matches between two human players.
More often than not, there are differences between the version sold in western countries and the japanese one. In this case, the western edition allows the videogamer to select the difficult level to start with, the japanese one does not allow this.
The game may be frustraing the first time you play it, mainly because of all the disadvantages while facing the rival team, and the slowness of your runners and receiver. Second pass, you think advance 5 yards, but really you advanced only 2.
However, the satisfaction of reaching, even the minimum goal of 10 yards facing all the odds, can motivate of every good fan of american football and persevering to get the hard-to-reach touchdown makes you try once and again. Believe me, it’s very gratificating to score the touchdown when it’s the last play of a series of two (or even three) first downs, made each one with only one play because you only have time to do one play in the drive.
In fact, I’m curious to see if these rules can be applied in real life. Series of 5 minutes to score, if there is a fumble or interception, go back 20 yards. If there is no touchdown at the end of the 5 minute drive, the other team gets the ball. No field goals, neither funnies of asking timeout while trying to kick the field goal. I think can be interesting, let’s see if someone dares to try these rules on the field, I don’t know, maybe a new league.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.