For many people, the NES launch library was a small, but fantastic selection of titles. Super Mario Bros. served as an excellent platformer to sink weeks into perfecting, Excitebike featured arcade racing that was always fun to play around with, and Duck Hunt utilized the NES Zapper for a shooting game that inspired dreams of what the future might bring. Certainly, these were great games, but let’s not forget that alongside these famous classics stood a vast library of sports titles. Sports took up nearly 50% of the NES launch catalog and today I wanted to dive into unfamiliar territory with 10-Yard Fight, an NES American Football game.
Not the football I am familiar with
In this game, you take control of an American Football team and have the option of either playing a singleplayer game or heading into the multiplayer. If you choose to play alone, you’ll be prompted to pick between five different difficulty modes based on different kinds of football leagues. The Superbowl, of course, serves as the highest difficulty. Regardless of which one you pick, the game will begin a simplistic career mode where each time you win you’ll be advanced to the next league. However, even once you have beaten all of them, it will start to repeat the Superbowl difficulty over and over again, which is a little lame.
The game itself is easy to control, though you might have to read up on the basics of American Football if, like me, you’re interested but not too familiar with the sport. The control scheme completely changes based on whether you are on offense or defense. While on offense you attempt to score points, with each round kicking off with a scrimmage. One of your players will move from left to right until you snap the ball with A and he begins to move forward. Once you control the quarterback you can pass the ball to the players next to you by steering slightly in that direction and hitting B, or throw it straight to the forward player with the A-button. You then start running to the other side of the field and have to shake off enemy players by rocking the D-pad when they grab you and avoid their tackles.
While on defense the game labels two players for you to pick between at the start of a scrimmage, which you do by pressing the corresponding A or B button. Once the ball is snapped you try to intercept it during passes or attempt to tackle the player carrying the ball, which is done with either A or B. Both types of play I find really fun and it’s curious to see a game this old capture the excitement of the sport despite its simplicity. Running with the ball in hand while enemy players dive at you is honestly thrilling. Playing defense, meanwhile, is a tactical challenge as you have to try your hardest to prevent the enemy team from advancing 10 yards and refreshing their downs. When you successfully manage to land a long-distance tackle on the 4th down just pixels away from the 10-yard line, you really do feel like an absolute hero.
The AI also deserves complimenting because many times my team-mates helped out well. They’ll almost always intercept when they can and do a good enough job of tackling to be useful without making things too impossible for the offensive team. You also really feel the challenge increase as you move up in difficulty, though even then beating the Superbowl isn’t too hard. I do have a few issues with the game though. Firstly, if you touch any player other than the ball-carrier during a tackle you get stuck in mid-air because only the ball-carrier can be tackled. Your momentum is then stored and released when the other player moves, at which point so much time is wasted you just have to depend on the AI to save the day. Being able to switch between different players while on defense, just like how the offense can pass to switch players, would be a neat solution.
To be fair, this is a small and rare issue, and for the most part, 10-Yard Fight is a solid American Football game that is exciting to play and easy to return to thanks to its simplicity. A better career mode would be appreciated and I wouldn’t mind it if the game was more challenging to play.
Gameplay score: 7.5/10
Team Pink is best
The NES version of 10-yard Fight is a worthy competitor for its arcade counterpart, with only a small downgrade in graphical quality. Much of the screen is field anyway, so it’s not a big deal. The character models are recognizable enough and look fun, with each difficulty pitting you against a new team with a different color scheme.
In terms of sound, the game is a tad lackluster, featuring only a few sound-effects and little in the way of music. I do really enjoy the cheers from the audience you get from time to time, such as when a particularly good long pass goes through. It’s a neat little effect and, to be honest, there is enough noise that the lack of music really isn’t that big of a deal here.
Presentation score: 7.5/10
Besides the singleplayer campaign, there is the option to play against another player, a feature that was missing entirely from the arcade version that only had the offense component of the game. It works pretty well, but is slightly hacked together because the second player retains all the little bonuses that the AI would usually get in their place. For example, if you don’t do anything on the second controller at all, the AI will take over and control the player character instead. A little disappointing and possibly prove the game was rushed to meet the NES launch, but it’s not hard to deal with.
Extras score: 7/10
I went into 10-Yard Fight with a Wikipedia page and manual in hand, fearing I would have to take a crash course on American football to figure out what I was supposedly playing. Instead, I found a very accessible title that has a lot going for it, and with how much it improves over the arcade version, this really is the version of choice. Both offense and defense are fun to play, but due to the low difficulty and unrefined multiplayer, you may find yourself losing interest in the game after a few sessions.