NES Play Action Football

Nintendo for NES – Sports – 1990 – Rating: 4/10

Across the spectrum of video gaming, there’s something you learn fairly quickly: Nintendo can’t do sports games. They really can’t. Only on rare occasions could they create a really great one; definitely Ice Hockey on the NES, maybe Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort definitely qualify. These are rare exceptions to the rule.

For the sake of this review, the important thing to know is that this videogame is not Tecmo Super Bowl. This is NES Play Action Football, NOT Tecmo Super Bowl.

Thank you and goodnight!

What, you want more? Why? What would be the point? Play Action Football sucks. No, really, it sucks like a bilge pump. It’s a shame, actually; you can tell that it’s a game Nintendo put great effort and time into. I will give them that much credit. The graphics, the whole visual presentation, are top notch. Not only do you have players that are large and drawn nicely, but numerous animated scoreboard sequences appear after crucial plays. You have something that, in the modern mindset, would be a strong foundation for future versions.

But here’s the problem. Well, the problem after the fact that it’s not Tecmo Super Bowl. It’s just this game doesn’t play very well. It’s incredibly slow and choppy. Do you remember those old Game and Watch handhelds that Nintendo made in the early ’80s? Play Action Football moves exactly like that. I can’t even call it animation, really. The players don’t move. They just shuffle from one still pose to the next down the field.

Perhaps the NES just couldn’t handle speed with a field full of players, I thought. But then I clicked on…you know, that other title, wink, wink. And that game plays fast and smooth with no problems.

Then consider that Play Action Football switches to a faraway aerial view for pass plays. See those screenshot on the back of the box? Forget it. The close-up view is replaced with tiny ants. And they still move in patches. So I really don’t know what Nintendo was thinking. Either the programmers were too inexperienced, or the game was designed way over in Japan, where no one in their right minds has any clue what the heck “American Football” is all about.

But then, once again, we have Tecmo. So those excuses are thrown out the window.

And have I mentioned that I couldn’t find the running plays for my offense? There’s only a handful of plays in the entire game, and I can’t find any running plays. Which only adds to the confusion when the computer runs the ball. And then it just hikes the ball to the running back, which confuses me more. Did the programmers even know what this sport was, or did they just watch a videotape of a British rugby match one Saturday afternoon? Maybe they watched a commercial on TV once. Harumph.

At least the scoreboard clips are nice. Whatever. Tecmo Bowl smokes this effort by a country mile, and Tecmo Super Bowl leapfrogs the lot of ’em. Hang onto your cash for that little gem, folks. And somebody tell Nintendo to stop making bad sports videogames, not until they can learn the rules.

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