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NFL Football (Game Boy) artwork

NFL Football (Game Boy) review

"Unnecessary stiffness, loss of a couple of hours of my life, first down. "

Forgotten fact: Konami once held the NFL gaming license and produced some software based on it. No, I'm talking about their published works from the early 2000s. I'm referring to content pumped out on Game Boy and SNES.

Cursed content...

As if the idea that most people either don't know or forgot about Konami's early football endeavors isn't enough of an indication of those games' level of quality, take this little anecdote into consideration. I came to own NFL Football on Game Boy when one of my friends found it in the street. It was not as though it had been accidentally dropped, but intentionally discarded. Since my buds at the time didn't possess the aforementioned platform, it ended up in my collection. I should have figured it was cast out of someone's library for a good reason...

I fired up the old portable, and Konami's name popped up on the screen. Back then, that moniker was still synonymous with excellence, so I thought I was in for a treat. I figured if Tecmo could put out a halfway decent line of NFL games, then surely Konami would at very least be no slouch in that department. Boy, was I in for it... I moseyed to the main menu, expecting to find the standard season mode and exhibition options, perhaps even customizable playbooks. All that greeted me were single and two-player options, each with either "normal" or "short" game lengths. I hadn't even hit the field yet, and already the experience was beginning to sour. After selecting a short single-player game, a list of NFL teams popped up, sans any flair or pizzazz accompanying them. I saw no player names or stats, or anything to differentiate one team from another. The inclusion of teams was purely cosmetic, though there are gamers out there who swear some of them play better than others.

A whole two BGMs greeted me, both sounding like the most cliched American football themes you can imagine. They filled their given voids decently, but became maddening over time because they hit the same exaggerated notes in an infinite loop. I did my best to ignore them and get into the match, which was no simple task...

I don't even remember which team I selected, but I assume it was either Raiders or 49ers. The game took me to a vertical field, where two hordes of monstrous character models trotted amidst a sea of bland lines, dots, and numbers. The ball sailed toward me and I caught it, ready to charge into the pile of meaty men ahead of me. Except I didn't charge so much as trudge, as if I were trapped in waist-deep sand. Hell, everyone moved that way, including my teammates and the opposition.

As it turns out, my companions were no good at holding off the surge. The defense broke through my allies and tackled me before I could cover any significant ground. First down commenced and the screen transitioned to my playbook. The music hadn't changed much by this point and was just now starting to get under my skin. Maybe it was just me, but the soundtrack apparently wanted to make sure I knew I was playing a football game and tried really hard to push that point. A meager number of offensive plays popped up as I cranked the volume down, each one about as basic as can be. Of course, this being a rudimentary title, it didn't grant me the luxury of customizing a playbook or anything like that. I just ran with the arsenal the game offered.

I passed the ball and hoped for the best. My players traipsed toward the goal line while my opponents pounded through the clunky mechanics and brought me down effortlessly. It didn't matter which plays I selected because the game could outmaneuver its own messy physics while I struggled with it. All I could do was tolerate my beating until it was time to punt or accept a turnover.

After punting, one of the few features that seems to work as intended, I took the defensive. I thought maybe it would be me who does the crushing this time, exacting a small measure of revenge. And... nope. The game blasted past me as effectively as anything moving at a snail's pace could, getting through my not-so-ironclad defense and scoring a touchdown. I could practically hear the 8-bit mutant on the screen screeching some kind of horrifying victory cry.

From top to bottom, the experience provided the same level of entertainment and frustration. No matter which team I chose and how much I practiced, this game murdered me a thousand times and danced on my grave. I rose from the dead and tried again frequently enough to know that I was never going to acclimate to NFL Football's broken, clunky, minimalist mechanics. That major flaw paired with slim content and a woefully underwhelming (and yet somehow irritating) musical score told me exactly why my pals found its cartridge chilling next to Mr. Perry's driveway.

Unsurprisingly, this was one of the first games I ever traded in at a local used game store. The title I ended up securing in exchange was Heiankyo Alien, a mediocre arcade-style "trap 'em up" affair that proved to be light years ahead of the cursed app in question. All's well that ends at least not terribly, I guess. Occasionally I get a little twitch in the back of my mind that wonders if maybe nowadays I could actually master NFL Football. However, even I am not that much of a gaming masochist...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (February 20, 2022)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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