Monday, June 18, 2012

NES Replay: 10-Yard Fight

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1985
Regret: High
American football was very difficult to do on older consoles, and still remains a challenge. To make a football game, you have to have 22 separate players on the screen all doing their own thing. They each require their own fuzzy logic like, “If this player is nearby you, do this, but if this happens, do that.”

That leaves aside the necessity of including playcalling and making the game fun to play. Most of the older systems couldn't handle it, and it took a long time for it to be perfected on the NES.

10-Yard-Fight was the first attempt. In order to make it work, Irem tried to get away with just 9 players per team and did away with plays. They whiffed on the whole ‘fun to play’ thing, though.
First of all, 10-Yard Fight is painfully simplistic on offense. You have two choices on every play: Throw a screen pass or a long pass. If you throw a screen pass, your player needs to just get outside the tackle box and keep running in order to break at least a 20-yard gain. That’s it. If you throw a long pass, your quarterback had better be outside of the tackles and there better not be any opposing player in between the QB and receiver or else the ball will get intercepted.

There’s another problem too. At the beginning of every play, there’s a man in motion who runs from the right side of the formation over to the left side. At some times, your team is wedged up against the sidelines and you need that guy to run over to the left side. If you want to wait for him to walk all the way from one side of the formation to the other, prepare to claw your eyes out. It takes 10 seconds for your man in motion to run across the formation, and it ticks off an entire minute in game time.

Can you believe that? It's insane! I could run across the formation twice in that time period, and I’m a fat 30-year-old! In that time span, my unborn child was born, grew up, got married and died at age 82 surrounded by family and friends! Continents arose from the primordial depths, supported civilizations for countless eons, and then sunk into the sea! Half-Life 3 came out! That's an interminable amount of time!

Defense fares no better. On defense, you just need to position your player nearby the opposing ballcarrier to stop his progress, or position yourself in between the QB and his receiver. That’s all, and you’ve stopped forward progress. Just like real football!

In order to get around this, the computer cheats on higher levels. They’ll run faster than you, won’t get tackled as easy, and generally be an enormous pain. That’s a surefire sign that they couldn’t get the game to work as intended and just decided to leave it as-is.

The developers had to have known that they weren’t going to be able to pull off a football simulation from the get-go. Why did they even try? With a few tweaks, they could have made 10-Yard Fight feel more like football while being a lot more fun.

For one, there’s no need for an arcade-style football game to have five offensive linemen. If they would have reduced the number down to three, they could have had two receivers, one on the left side and one on the right side. Since there would be only eight players instead of nine, that could have sped up the pace of the game as well.

Also, it appears that the developers considered a ball in flight to be the same as a ball on the ground. That might have been fixed with a Boolean value. When the ball is being thrown, it’s considered “low to the ground” nearby the QB. When it’s in the air, consider it “high above the ground.” As it approaches its target, it’s low to the ground again and can be intercepted. Maybe they didn’t have the horsepower to pull that off, but if they reduced the amount of linemen onscreen, they could have freed up clock cycles to pull off that sort of advanced behavior.

Even with its flaws, it’s understandable why Nintendo would have offered this as a launch game. At the time, this was the most advanced American football game on the market, and they wanted to show off what the NES could do. Football is insanely popular here, so they figured they could get some easy sales.

However, as it is, 10-Yard Fight just doesn’t work. The computer cheats horribly, playing defense is way too easy, and just everything about 10-Yard Fight is unfun from top to bottom. I have to give Nintendo credit for trying, but just like in the real game of football, you don't get any points for incompletions.

Final Rating:

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