The 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home video game console was known for, among many other things, some of its quality sports titles. From the quirky violence of Super Dodge Ball to the Bo Jacksonian heroics in Tecmo Bowl, many titles offered fans a playable rendition of their favorite sport. Such high-quality legacy was not always the case, though; in 1985, as one of the 18 original launch titles for the machine’s North American release, included was an early American football simulator named 10 Yard Fight.
There is a two-player mode, though the second player seems to retain the A.I. cheats. Otherwise, this is a football game (American football, specifically, and not a soccer cartridge) that seeks to emulate the classic pigskin pastime. Two teams of nine players each play two 20-minute halves, with the seconds accelerated in classic console style, in one of five difficulty levels, ranging from High School to Super Bowl.
On defense, the player selects one of the defensive players designated A or B by using the corresponding button. Then the ball is snapped, and the player will try to tackle the eventual receiver or ball carrier, either entangling him directly or diving toward with the A button. On offense, the player has two backs on either side of the quarterback, who is in shotgun position, and a man in motion. This motion player serves as the primary receiver once the ball is snapped, with the A button going to him; otherwise, the ball can be pitched with the B button to one of the flanking backs, who can then either run with the ball or pass to the primary with A. Once a receiver has the ball, the player will try to weave diagonally up the open field to evade would-be tacklers, even shimmying back and forth to possibly shake any playing holding onto the carrier.
That, really, is most of the game. There are very few actual rules intact: Out of bounds applies, as does the four-downs for ten yards system, and crude extra points are “kicked” by pointing toward the goal posts and hitting A after the snap. There are even interceptions, which can potentially occur very frequently, since there does not seem to be any sort of height dimension; if the defender is in line-of-sight of the flight path of the ball, they might just intercept it. Beyond the excitement of such interceptions, play just continues as expected, the winner being whoever has the most points when time expires.
This is definitely, obviously a very early NES title, with its hyper-pixelation dominating simplistic visuals. The field looks bland, the players are pixel people, the text is basic computerized font work, and the overall presentation is not spectacular at all.
There is no background music, the sound effects are minimal, and the only flourishes are the quick little melodies when something happens like a first down or interception. When these quick micro-songs do happen, they occur with only a few notes, no depth to speak of, and without sophistication.
In a historical context, 10 Yard Fight does have a place: This cartridge was certainly ahead of prior Atari attempts at a console football game, but still looks terrible in comparison to the Tecmo Bowl series, or even other almost-decent titles such as John Elway’s Quarterback. The entire gameplay feels like the programmers were stuck with the assignment of creating an American football game yet knowing that they could not quite pull it off, but had to meet a deadline.
Three examples of the flaws that results: First, the interceptions does not happen as they do in actual football, where the defender can run afterward, but instead stop play and simply revert to the other team having possession at a specified point every time; secondly, the vertical scrolling is off, as the field seems to roll underneath the players running in place, rather than actually simulating movement down field; and, lastly, the NES console would later gain some notoriety for its slowdown and flickering problems when too many sprites were on-screen, yet here are well over a dozen on every play, with the inevitable constant sprite-flickering as a result. Was this a trailblazer for later, better football video games? Sure, but it still deserves a one-star rating out of five.
Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars
Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.