SUPER PLAY ACTION FOOTBALL / Nintendo / SNES

Nintendo's in-house properties rarely fail, but sports games were one of their major weak points. They produced a few fun ones, but had just as many (if not more) complete failures. Their biggest disaster was venturing into football with the Play Action Football series. The NES outing was the first attempt, and was plagued by a bizarre camera perspective, and uncharacteristically janky and awful gameplay for a Nintendo game. It looked like a quick and cheap attempt to horn in on the success of Tecmo Bowl that went horribly awry due to ineptitude and/or lack of effort.


I guess it still must have sold some copy though, because Nintendo trotted out the same awful game engine from the NES version for the SNES launch with Super Play Action Football. It's certainly an ambitious game, giving you modes of play at the NFL, college, even high school level. Unfortunately the actual gameplay has barely been changed from the NES original, so the game is still a horrible experience.


They secured an NFL team license, but not the separate NFL players association license. So you have NFL teams and division structure, but players represented only by number. Since there's no statistics screen that I could find, I'm not sure players even have individual strengths and weaknesses anyway. You can play a "season mode", but it's just a string of 16 random games with no real management of your team in between. In between some games there will be a totally random event, like your QB might just walk out out of nowhere and sign with a different team ... did the developers ever hear of "contracts"?


College consists of a mix of real colleges and weird made-up ones. You pick the one you want to play first, then 10 others to form a conference, then you play a season similar to NFL mode with those teams. Again, no real management or interaction with the team outside of games. And then high school mode is basically "create a team", you have to give them a name and choose their uniform colors ... then you field challenges from other random high schools.


Regardless of which mode you pick you're in for the same janky gameplay, with the absolutely inexplicable overhead diagonal view that prevents you from seeing receivers that aren't running short routes over the middle. There's a big playbook but I'm still not even sure how to call plays accurately, and once on the field the button layouts are counter-intuitive and often bizarre. The action moves at a snail's pace and the most accurate comparison I could think of was to the ancient arcade/NES game 10 Yard Fight. Keep in mind this game was released in 1992, with Tecmo Super Bowl and 2 years of Madden already available on other consoles. Hell, even the Joe Montana Sports Talk games on Genesis are light years beyond this in quality. I'm of the impression that Nintendo didn't even really try to update the ancient engine from the old NES original, just slapped whatever together on a cart so they could say they had a football game available for the SNES in its first year.


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Gameplay Video






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