Tecmo’s Family Fun Football is the latest of the publisher’s attempts to rekindle the magic of the Tecmo Bowl series. As to whether they succeeded or failed, I offer this bon mot: this weekend I had to take one of my dogs to the vet to have his anal glands expressed. I have to seriously think about whether I had a better time doing that or playing this game. On the one hand, the game has nothing to do with anal glands. On the other, the waiting room did have some decent magazines.
Family Fun Football is an arcade-style game offering fast, simplified football action for up to four players. Jump right into the action with Quick Play, and choose from a few whimsically-named teams like the Quasars and the Monkeys, all of whom have special strengths (the Monkeys have the best running game, for example). Players are generic and simply populate the screen. There is no customization to speak of, save for the option to play as a team’s mascot (if you unlock it in tournament mode). You’ll also be asked to choose one of three generic stadiums (two “crazy” stadiums can be unlocked), but they are similar in almost every way including blandness.
The football games themselves take place on a shortened fifty-yard field. As offense, you will choose from one of four plays: Inside Run, Outside Run, Short Pass, and Long Pass. These options never change. On defense, you pick from these plays as well (ostensibly guessing which your opponent will pick). Passing is a frustrating affair (did the ball really go fifteen feet over that receiver’s head?). Its only saving grace is that receiver indicators light up to inform you of how well they’re covered (once they turn green, you’re free to throw). However, this functionality doesn’t always work, as a defensive player will come out of nowhere at 180 mph to sack you, or the ball will fly right into coverage despite what the indicator said. Running is a matter of sprinting and frantically jukeing that encourages hyper button mashing. Mastering the defensive aspect of the game is similarly easy (just run into the dude with the ball). Three lame power-ups that can be picked up do nothing to add to the fun.
After playing for awhile, you can’t help feeling that randomness rules on the field. Get a twenty-yard gain, and the screen will report a loss of two yards despite positioning you in the red zone. The opposing AI is horrible, except when one linebacker mysteriously covers ten yards in a fraction of a second. If you can adopt a non-caring attitude about these setbacks (you’ll still destroy the other team with ease), FFF is a serviceable distraction for a couple of hours. That is, if you can stand the one song on loop that sounds like white people making a Zatarain’s commercial in space. Rather than a $29.99 retail title, FFF should have been a mediocre WiiWare entry or a Happy Meal toy.
Other game modes, such as season or tournament, are merely scheduled games and offer nothing extra in terms of play. You will have the option to return to the mini-games you can play during half-time, but you won’t want to. Besides not being fun, they are broken.
The graphics are barely passable for a Nintendo 64 game. While graphics aren’t a necessity for great gameplay and are often rather overrated as a marker of quality, FFF’s visuals are so bad as to be jarring. Seeing my Mii’s head on a hulking, two-dimensional coach traipsing robotically down the sidelines with about two points of articulation is a disservice to the five minutes I spend picking out my virtual hairstyle. Characters have ragged, pixilated edges that make them look like they were mauled by a poorly-animated tiger.
People want a good arcade football game, and with more time, love, and effort, maybe Tecmo and ironically-named developer Seamless Entertainment could have done it. But they didn’t, and now I’ve poured all of my hopes and dreams into the possibility of a Mutant League Football revival instead.