The Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club opened with the classic Ice Hockey, and it was a great time. As tough as it was getting clobbered by the Soviet Union, it turned out the game still holds up and that early trouncing, just like for Team USA in the run-up to the 1980 Olympics, served as motivation to play on and eventually get revenge. After all, there’s plenty of time ahead to do that.
This time, it’s 10-Yard Fight. It is not a great time.
I played a couple of times as a kid, at friends’ houses, and I remembered it being fun. Maybe as a two-player game it is or was fun. Maybe I was just a dumb kid.
Things start out alright. I take the opening kickoff, and run as a group with my blockers, lining them up to get out to the 35-yard line. There’s no play selection, just snapping the ball and either pitching it to one of two running backs, or throwing a pass. I don’t know at first which button is to pass, so I’m just running the option. Just playing a game of avoiding tacklers isn’t the most thrilling thing, but I recognize that this is a very basic video game from 1985, so I’m cool with it.
After a couple of plays, I’m at midfield, and very much enjoying the pitter-patter sound effects of each running play, the tooting and whistles for first downs, with a referee coming out to signal it. It’s all very cute.
Then, boom! My running back breaks contain, weaves through the defense, and takes it to the house!
I know that for as unstoppable as my offense was on that opening drive, it’s going to be a big challenge to stop the computer on defense. But that should make for a shootout, which is what I’m generally looking for in a football video game. That, or complete domination.
It is, in fact, going to be complete domination. I’m just not prepared for what happens next.
The orange team marches straight down the field, as I well expected. Before each play, I get to select one defensive back to control, pressing B for the one on the left side, or A for the one on the right. It doesn’t matter which one I pick, because by the time I can get my defender near anyone with the ball, they’ve already gained at least 5 yards. My computer-controlled defenders are as worthless as the computer-controlled defenders for the computer team.
On my next drive, I try a pass, as I notice just before pitching on the option that my one wide receiver is wide open downfield. Unfortunately, even though the quarterback is well clear of any pressure, when the pixels of the ball overlap the pixels of a defensive lineman, it’s intercepted. This leads to another touchdown, and I’m losing, 14-7.
After getting the ball back, I decide to try another pass, because that pick had to be a fluke, right? It was not a fluke. I blow my opportunity to tie the game before halftime, but at least keep it a one-score game.
The second half, somehow, becomes a defensive struggle. Suddenly, my defender is able to get up to the line to make stops, although sometimes there’s a missed tackle and resultant big gain. Still, I do manage to get a defensive stop, and start working my way back down the field with designs on tying the game — running plays only from here on out.
And this is when disaster strikes.
I’m trying to avoid a tackle on 2nd-and-1 when, out of old Tecmo Bowl habit, I press the A button to try to shake the defender. In 10-Yard Fight, however, this makes the running back throw a pass.
The most basic football video game you’ve ever seen, a game in which on any given play, your choices are running the option and throwing a pass that will be intercepted by a defensive lineman … also has a halfback pass … that will be intercepted by a defensive lineman.
The orange team eats seven-and-a-half minutes of clock, including agonizing seconds that tick by as a man in motion goes halfway across the field, and as my defensive ability vanishes as quickly as it arrived, it’s a 21-7 game.
There’s still time, though! I can get right back into this thing… wait, am I punting? How did that even happen? It’s not even a good punt. Nobody picks it up or downs it. It just dies at the 38-yard line, and the referee comes out to spot it.
I’m ready to quit, but I also want to see what further indignities this game can foist upon me before it’s over.
It turns out, nothing but more wasted time. I do manage another defensive stop, but there’s not going to be enough time for any sort of a comeback. But there might be people who bet the over at 30.5, and I owe it to them to try my best.
I run out of time on the orange team’s 25. Game over, 21-7.
The game rubs it in.
Go to the locker room? Go to hell, 10-Yard Fight.