If you didn’t read last week’s mock draft, you probably don’t know that I think on the seventh day God created Tecmo Super Bowl: an NES game that will never not be the best way to burn an afternoon or get in fist fights with siblings no matter how old they are.
Josh Holzbauer is the proprietor of a long running tournament in the midwest that has gained so much notoriety that NFL Films did a full feature on it. Check it out below.
This year’s event is titled “Tecmo X: The Gannonball Run”. I’m going to assume the second annual event was called “Tecmo Super Bowl: The Quickening”. Anyhow, this is all you need to know about everything awesome that’s happening in the mid west this weekend, while we all figure out what to do with our lives until September. Josh answered my queries about Bernie Kosar’s state in the early nineties, and 8 bit flea flickers.
How do you deal with blowing in cartridges if the game doesn’t work? Do you vet the NESs beforehand and what’s that process like?
When you’re dealing with equipment from the Reagan administration, a certain amount of malfunctions are to be expected. We’ve acquired a dozen or so battle-tested Nintendo systems over the years that haven’t given us any issues, luckily. But 12 isn’t nearly enough. This year for example, we need a total of 32 systems, so many competitors will bring their own systems. We vet as many as we can the night before by playing exhibition games on them, but every year, a few slip through the cracks that give us issues on tournament day. In terms of dealing with these problematic systems, we have a number of different tricks, ranging from feverishly blowing on the cartridge to (as a last resort) wedging a second game into the console. We have one competitor who licks the cartridge before putting it in the console. His motives could be functional, sensual, or perhaps both. We don’t ask.
Have there ever been any altercations between competitors over the years?
You would think with hundreds of men-children, plenty of booze, and a high level of competition, you would see a fight or two over the years, but this hasn’t happened. We have a tight-knit community of players that join us from all over the country (27 states this year), and the primary goal for nearly everyone is to enjoy the nostalgia and one another’s company. As a result, all of the scars left behind from our tournaments to date have been psychological rather than physical.
With tapping the A button so furiously; have there been any injuries, or perhaps performance enhancing gloves?
We haven’t had any reported injuries from feverishly pressing the A button, but my opponent last year developed cramps in his right thumb during our game because of this. We had to take a 15-20 minute break for him to hydrate before we resumed the game, after which he was fine.
But you’ve seen those ridiculous fisting contraptions that Golden Tee-playing degenerates have on their hands, right? Are you too far from the equivalent in your world? Tecmo Super Bowl has a higher motor than some golf game for gambling addicts.
I’d say we’re pretty far away from the equivalent of the Golden Tee contraptions in our world. Guys have certainly tried hundreds of different ways to tap the button faster, and someone once showed up with something that looked eerily like a Power Glove, so we don’t allow any custom controllers in our tournament.
Can we talk about Tecmo Bowl for a second? Do you want to hunt down every copy of that lacklustre prequel and smash it with a hammer a la George Lucas and the Star Wars Holiday Special?
Without Tecmo Bowl, there would’ve been no Tecmo Super Bowl. We view it as a necessary precursor to the greatest sports video game ever released. And like most precursors, it showed enormous promise while frustrating the bejesus out of all of us. My favorite discovery of that game was that if you threw an interception in your own end zone, you were awarded with 6 points rather than the opponent.
Isn’t it nine players a side too? It’s like Blitz but without any of the devastating violence. Don’t you automatically throw an interception every time you’re under pressure?
You are correct: Tecmo Bowl was 9 on 9. Not to get too geeky on you, but the original cartridge boards for the NES couldn’t graphically support more players on the screen, but as Nintendo learned more, they developed more advanced cartridge boards (and some nifty programming tricks) so that they could support 11 on 11. We saw a similar evolution between the original Super Mario brothers and Super Mario Brothers 3. And yes, if a wide receiver is covered in that game, it’s an automatic INT. That’s one of the many frustrating aspects of the gameplay.
What’s the Bo Jackson rule in your tournament? Does he have to be benched for Marcus Allen like we’re living in some bizarro universe?
There is no Bo Jackson rule in our tournament. Players are encouraged to inflict as much damage with him as they can. Anyone who benched him would be the subject of ridicule from spectators, and shunned by the Tecmo gods.
Is Bernie Kosar not licensed to the game because he was too hungover to sign the papers? I mean, what’s the story there? It’s not like he’s Michael Jordan. There’s no Kosar vs. Cunningham: One on One game that impedes the use of image.
The story as we understand it is that those 3 players (Koser, Cunninghamn, Jim Kelly) didn’t sign off on an agreement with the NFLPA to use their names, but that’s little more than a guess. Your guess about Bernie is equally plausible, and much funnier. As an aside, I fully endorse the idea of a “Kosar vs. Cunningham” video game (or TV show), where the two retired players could face off in all sorts of contests ranging from the passing drills from the scouting combine to passing for sober at a charity event after taking 8 shots with nostalgic fans.
Are competitors allowed to change the playbook before a game, or are you stuck with Vance Johnson end arounds if the Broncos are your team?
Players can definitely customize their playbooks. The Japanese programmers did their best to create playbooks best suited to each team, but as it turns out, an “All Play Action / Flea Flicker” passing offense doesn’t suit any team, virtual or otherwise.
Works for Chip Kelly, though. So you’re saying that before a game you allow contestants to cycle through plays, and waste that time trying to find a running game that doesn’t feature Barry Word? My older brother used to give me about ten seconds of that before I got clocked.
We do allow players to cycle through all of the plays before the game, and choose their favorites. And this absolutely takes time. But it leads to much better games, and that’s the ultimate goal. Tecmo Super Bowl for the Sega Genesis actually allowed you to change your playbook during the game, and that was maddening to watch your indecisive opponent constantly change their plays mid-game, like a man repeatedly shifting from one lane to another in traffic, hoping to find the perfect lane.
Does anyone who watches the halftime show get a wedgie?
Most players don’t watch the halftime show. But there are some within the community who insist on it. Those who watch it are rewarded with a brief glimpse of the inner thigh of a cheerleader. In 2014, that doesn’t sound too racy. But in 1992, it was the equivalent of the swimsuit issue. Plus one of the cheerleaders actually winks at you. She winks at you! Now who wouldn’t want to watch that?
What’s the winner get this year?
Here are the payouts or this year’s tournament:
First Place: $2700
Second Place: $1600
Third Place: $700
Fourth Place: $350
Fifth – Eighth Place: $125