"A good football game on the NES is a difficult title to gain. The NES's lack of power and overall simplicity made it challenging for football games, or any sports games, to capture a sense of the sport and be playable at the same time. Don't get me wrong; the NES did host a trio of football classics. Two being Tecmo Bowl (1989) and its sequel Tecmo Super Bowl (1991), both offered a football feel and easy to pick-up playability. NES Play Action Football is the other of these football classics. It..."
A good football game on the NES is a difficult title to gain. The NES's lack of power and overall simplicity made it challenging for football games, or any sports games, to capture a sense of the sport and be playable at the same time. Don't get me wrong; the NES did host a trio of football classics. Two being Tecmo Bowl (1989) and its sequel Tecmo Super Bowl (1991), both offered a football feel and easy to pick-up playability. NES Play Action Football is the other of these football classics. It featured some difficult controls and aggravating player movement causing it not to go over well with Tecmo Bowl enthusiasts, however, NPAF packaged a playable game of football. To me NPAF is second only to Tecmo's football series and quiet possibly the closest representation of a true football simulation on the NES.
Keep in mind I use the term ''true football simulation'' loosely. I name it this mainly because itís not fast-paced and score crazy like other football games were at the time. Instead, NPAF is a very slow-paced game (takes at least a minute and a half to run from one side of the field to the other) that differentiates greatly from football games of its time and today. The slowness of the players can be frustrating at times but it doesn't completely drag down the game. In ways the lack of speed helps by making it easier to read and react to what's happening on the field.
Besides the speed, another difference for the NPAF's competition is its use camera, which is fixed at a three-quarter isometric view. This view is a welcomed breath of fresh air; unfortunately, it creates problems of its own. First, pressing the D-pad diagonally causes the player to run up the field. This can cause problems for anyone use to the field being vertical or horizontal. Second, this view causes most Receivers away from the ball to be off screen. This normally wouldn't a problem; however, when the quarterback throws the ball the user automatically gains control of the receiver. Itís enough of a challenge to maneuver the sloth of a receiver to the ball on screen, but maneuvering him to the ball using only a guess proves quiet difficult. These shortcomings can be mastered and overcame by practice but may not be worth it to most gamers.
Despite the slow pace of the players, both passing and rushing work fine. Passing is as simple as pressing the D-pad in the direction of the receiver and pushing a button. This system also allows the quarterback to throw the pass ahead of his receivers a bit, which is a surprising feature for a NES football game. Rushing is also a treat. With the simple use of the turbo button, a player can out run, maneuver around, or break tackles to make big runs and keep on his feet. Not many other games can do so much with one button, which makes its use a unique experience.
The defense's A.I. seems to cover the pass and run well enough to get the job done. The computer does have a tendency to run past the ball carrier but because of the slow pace the user can easily select the defender in time to make the tackle. The efficient use of the simple controls is also demonstrated on the defensive side of the ball. One button is used to both dive tackle the ball carrier and jump up when the ball is in the air. The turbo button is once again multi-talented; allowing the user to run down receiver, get away from blockers, and power tackle when not diving.
There are a total of six offensive plays, eight defensive plays, and three special team plays. As with all other NES football games each play has an opposite counterpart. The sweep play (offense) and an outside blitz (defense) is one such example. The defense will easily crush the sweep by blitzing the outside but the offense could counter by running or passing to the middle. Eight teams are selectable as well, each having the players from their respected NFL team.
NPAF is your typical NES game when it comes to graphics. The players on the field are represented by the team color with either white or black pants. The selected user player flashes between this color and a darker shade of it, making it easy to recognize the selected player. One nice touch Nintendo added to step up the graphics is the teleprompter cut scene. It usually is shown right after a momentum shifting play, such as a sack or a touchdown, and creates the nice effect of an instant replay.
Sound is typically what you would expect in a NES game. NPAF uses the same little bleeps for every menu selection and tackle. The referee says simple phrases such as first down and touchdown. Though he sounds like Steven Hawking, the referee's voice adds a nice effect. overall NPAF's sound just doesn't feel complete and leaves something to be desired, mainly because the same sound is used for most all interactions with the game.
NES Play Action Football is truly a good game of football. Clunky player movement and having to move Receivers off-screen keep it from surpassing Tecmo Bowl, but after these shortcomings NPAF represents football very well. The use of the controls help keep the game simple yet still gives the player plenty of options to work with. Its unfortunate Nintendo didn't continue on the football trail, because NPAF proves that Nintendo could be making great football games today.
Community review by evilpoptart937 (September 04, 2004)
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