Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Nintendo’s port of Irem’s arcade American football game was one of the earliest takes on the sport for the original Nintendo system (NES) however flawed AI and minimalistic gameplay make this a wholly unsatisfying experience.
When the words ‘American football’ and ‘games’ are uttered together it would be unusual not to also associate the Madden name in that context as well. Well, 10-Yard Fight predates the Madden series having initially released in arcades in 1983 and ported to the NES in 1985 (whereas the first Madden didn’t show up until 1988). The port version is slightly improved on the arcade in that it includes a two player option and allowed the player to play offence as well as defence.
There are five difficulty levels (High School, College, Professional, Play-offs and Super Bowl) and when you beat each one you will progress to the next automatically. The game is played from a top-down perspective and scrolls vertically and it does attempt to capture some aspects of the sport but simplifies it (it’s a NES game, afterall) so there are less players on each team, for instance.
So, on offence each team will rush with the ball up to the defending team with the aim to pass the other players and score a touchdown and there are essentially three avenues to go down: passing the ball up field, sideways to another player or running with the quarterback. Each time the defending team stop your player your team will have to begin play again at that spot and if the opposing team catch the ball the roles are reversed so that the defending team will become the attacking side.
Due to the game’s age it feels kind of unfair to criticise it too much but at the same time it is hard to ignore some of its main flaws. The computer AI is pretty poor. For example, on my second attempt at playing it I beat the game relatively easily and didn’t notice any difference in the difficulty of the AI. Well I say I beat it, I actually beat the Superbowl team and was then given a grammatically incorrect message saying; “Your on you’re way to the SUPERBOWL!” It turns out that the game never actually ends and just keeps making you play the Superbowl team. For a game in which the actual gameplay is already repetitive the endless nature makes it incredibly underwhelming and hard to recommend.
There are other issues too such as the 8-bit sound design being amazingly annoying. There are no jaunty tunes playing to mix up the action, but instead the simple chugging sound of your players as they move around on the pitch; this is definitely a game you will want a podcast playing in the background or your own music playlist.
However, the main issue I have with the game is probably the biggest flaw a game can commit – it is boring. Each play becomes a monotonous rush to the touchdown end and each match lasts a little too long to make it feel like there is any urgency to proceedings. I guess the two player option could make things a little more exciting but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to try that out.
Overall, it was neat to see what pre Madden NFL games played like but also understandable as to why it never became a hit franchise.