10 Yard Fight

[youtube id=”zlNqtY76ho0″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

10 Yard Fight

So far in the NES Sport Series, we’ve taken looks at both Tennis and Baseball with less than stellar results. Could this be the savior to ascend the series out of complete poopdom? Let’s open up another Black Box and sneak a peek at the system’s first ever football game, 10 Yard Fight.
10 Hard Fight
And who are the three guys in the back blocking exactly?
Initially released in the arcades in 1983, 10 Yard Fight was the brainchild of the good folks over at Irem who made their name from the classic Moon Patrol. This would mark it as one of the few early titles to be created by another company, yet published by The Big N. How did a team of Japanese programmers wrap their heads around American Football in enough time to get a game made you ask? Well, since 1971, Japan has had the X-League, their own version of the NFL complete with a championship game dubbed the (I’m not making this shit up) Rice Bowl.
The X-League also showcases some of the gnarliest team names ever witnessed such as the All-Tokyo Gas Creators, the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers, and the Panasonic Electric Works Impulse. The Buffalo Bills doesn’t sounds quite as bizarre when placed next to those odd squads. I digress. Fast forward two years later and Nintendo was up to their ears trying to get games ready for the launch so instead of depleting the already limited manpower to create a new football title, they struck a deal with Irem to publish their established arcade hit.
10 Hard Fight
For its era, 10 Yard Fight was certainly the most advanced available football game on the market. That doesn’t necessarily make it good. I’m sure if I was a castaway on a lonely island faced with the choice of either dung-beetle and squirrel for dinner, the squirrel will look like a 32 oz Porterhouse. The gameplay is 9 on 9, not automatic grounds for a game to be rated subpar due to Tecmo Bowl having the same limitation. No playbook is available as you can either lob the rock to a running back and call it a running play with the B button or pass to an open receiver with the A.
The problem is that you’ll find that unless you’re certifiably insane, you’ll never want to pass. The cornerbacks were all apparently cloned from Spider-Man and it is doubly bad as there was no depth given to the ball. That means if you throw the pigskin anywhere in the vicinity of these little bastards, its an instant interception. Running isn’t as broken but at times you’ll need the extra blocker to make his way into position which takes FOREVER. When I say forever, I mean you can probably get through a battle on any given JRPG in the time it takes the blocker to stumble to where needed.
The game clock is divided into two fast counting thirty minute halves, which I appreciate since I’d probably still playing the game of Baseball I began if I didn’t say to hell with it. The difficulty is ranked from high school to Super Bowl and is presented well with different uniform and endzone graphics for each. On a sour note, it gives the illusion that it is similar to a career mode, as any other team you defeat gives you the message “You are on your way to the Super Bowl!” but guess what? NESquester kicked the Super Bowl team’s candy asses before this review was started and was greeted by the screen below…
10 Hard Fight


4/10 Even giving the benefit of the doubt that it was 1986 like every game was given thus far, this just wasn’t a very good game then and is more than likely played in psyche wards to study how ADHD medication works now. Originally, it looked like a million bucks in the 1983 arcade market but already showed its age by the time the NES rolled it out. My friends and I were game critics in our own rights in 1986 on the schoolgrounds of Houston and while we could never quite agree on which He-Man character was the strongest, we were unanimous in the fact that 10 Yard Fight fucking sucked.
10 Hard Fight
But it sure made for one sweetass looking cabinet!

10 Yard Fight


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.


10 Yard Fight - Title Screen

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.


10 yard fight - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

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.