By Justin Rybinski
Let me start by saying that I've played SNK's Baseball Stars since it came out. It's an excellent game, and I still would rather play that than any modern baseball game for any system. No, the players weren't real, the game had no license, but it was fun, and that's all that matters in the world of video games. When I recently heard that SNK also made a football game, I immediately purchased it dirt cheap on eBay.
To say I was excited was an understatement. I figured that this new (to me) football game would blow me out of the water and that playing it would be better than 10 Super Bowls combined. Boy, was I wrong. I want my $3 and the hour I spent playing it back.
This game, "Touchdown Fever," couldn't be more the opposite of Baseball Stars, and not just because it's a totally different sport. Touchdown Fever (TDF) isn't just not fun, it's not just poorly designed, it's not just impossible to win--it is UNPLAYABLE. A game can be bad to the nth power, but usually, it is, at the very least, playable. TDF is not.
Let's start with the graphics. Atrocious. Basically, every player on the field is LESS THAN HALF the size of a one-yard marker. That makes all the players about one foot tall. In other words, you're playing American-style football with infants. Lovely. Also, the yard markers are strewn about sparsely on the field, so you usually have no idea what yard marker you are on. The field is three screen-lengths wide! IBM's most advanced computers couldn't compute the actual length of the field measured in screen-lengths.
Oh, I almost forgot, anytime any team scores any kind of point, every player on the point-scoring team goes into a mad, whirling dervish, frenzy, while the team that was scored upon immediately stops wherever they are to pound the ground and cry. Yes, cry. Also, the colors of the tears match whatever color your jerseys are, so if you pick a team that has a red color, it looks like they are pounding the ground so hard, their hands are exploding. This is the only fun moment I had while playing this game. What's even more "realistic" is the celebrations happen no matter what the score is. Say the computer is up 84-0, and I kick a meaningless field goal with two seconds left. My players will still act like they're at Mardi Gras while the computer players will weep heavy-heartedly.
Enough about that--let's discuss the sound of the game. Ever played 10-Yard Fight, also for the NES? Good, because this game has almost the exact same sound effects. Generic whistle, generic tackle noise, generic background music.
Like I say in almost all of my reviews, graphics and sound problems can be easily ignored if the game is playable. For those of you who joined us late, I already mentioned how UNPLAYABLE this travesty to mankind is. The list of major problems with TDF is long and painful. First of all, every kickoff goes to the 40-yard-line. Kickoffs in high school games go 20 yards further than that. This means that every possession started by a kickoff begins around midfield, at the very least. Of course, this is okay, since the playing field is seven hundred thousand yards long and your players are the size of baby Keebler elves. This wouldn't be AS terrible if your players could move around with ease. Not so. Everyone runs at the same speed, which is roughly the pace of William "Fridge" Perry at the tail end of his career.
If you plan on playing TDF, I hope you love turnovers, because you'll see one, oh, about once each possession. I dare anyone to begin a drive around midfield and score a touchdown without throwing an interception. Unlike most two-dimensional video games, there isn't even an ASSUMED layer of depth. What I'm saying is that if you throw a pass to your wide-open receiver 30 yards downfield, a player five yards downfield can intercept it, as if the ball traveled on a straight line from the quarterback's hand. Awful, simply awful. There are no fumbles in this game, which is probably a good thing. Oh, there are only four possible play formations, too, which are long/short pass and long/short run. Defensive formations are somehow more basic, as you have a choice of zero formations. On defense, you simply hit A on the formation selection screen. There are no choices. Also on defense, tackling is impossible beyond words. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
Back to passing for a sec. What the TDF designers had in mind was a "Madden-like" pass system, where you push A or B, and the ball goes to the player labelled A or B. This would be an excellent idea if it worked. It doesn't. The ball goes to some random location on the field (usually into your opponent's hands!) around 80% of the time. On long passes, you have no idea when the ball will hit the ground because of the horrific 2D rendering. Finally, I can't accept TDF as an actual football game for one reason: you can throw a forward pass at any given moment. You can throw a pass at any given moment. YOU CAN THROW A PASS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT!! Proper football rules be damned, any accidental push of A or B may very well result in your player, no matter what position he is, throwing the ball to some random location on the field. I found this out when i fired up the game for the first time. I thought cramming on a button would give me turbo speed or a special spin/juke move. Much like I was on my Biology Regents exam seven years ago, I was very wrong.
Overall, this is one of the worst NES cartridges out there. No, make that one of the worst video games of all time. It makes a mockery of football on every level. Even if winning was possible, I don't think it would be worth it to play this mess.
Replay value? Yah, I'll probably throw this cartridge in my NES system again. But only to show my friends and colleagues that a game this bad does exist. I couldn't possibly fathom playing another full game in serious mode.
Best Feature: During the first game I had ever played of TDF, I picked the Seattle team and the computer was the Philadelphia team. For some reason, there are two halftime shows, one for each team. My show came first, with an odd-looking bird (a reference to the NFL's Seattle Seahawks) materializing from the wall and dancing with what may or may not have been cheerleaders. Next came Philly's show, and since in the NFL, they are a bird-related team as well, I was able to watch the EXACT SAME halftime show for the computer's team.
Yes, that really is the game's greatest feature.
Worst Feature: Hmmmm... I really dislike how you have the ability to throw a forward pass anytime you feel like it, but there is something more annoying. For some reason, the game presents the score for each team in a three-digit format. When I first saw this, I figured the game would be high-scoring, like an Arena League game. Nope, in every game I've played so far, neither my team nor the computer's has scored more than 10 points. Or, in TDF's way of scoring, 010 points. What a tease.
Should you own this game? I refuse to answer that question.
Alternatives: Tecmo Super Bowl. TECMO SUPER BOWL. TECMO SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!
In closing, all the Listerine in the world won't be enough to wash out the awful taste of this game from my mouth.
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