Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mutant League Football

Last year I remembered my best friend by sitting down and conquering a game from our youth that we never had a chance to beat together; Mega Man II. This year I had plans of continuing that same tradition with the second annual Mega Man II Marathon, but as I previously mentioned in last years Mega Blog, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. My two cohorts from last year’s marathon were scattered across the United States. Joe is keeping America’s skies safe as a member of the Vermont Air National Guard Alert Detachment, and Covino is touring the country in support of his amazing documentary A Band Called Death (If you haven’t seen it yet, you should and chances are it’s coming to a theater near you!). So that left me to sit down solo and take on the behemoth that is Mega Man II. The only problem with that is I don’t exactly have the free time that I used to (notice the blogs have been a little light lately - sorry about that). I have this tiny dictator in my life now that I love to pieces but that doesn’t give me a lot of time off. So with that in mind, I changed the game…

Pictured left to right Travis and Mark playing Mega Man II
Mega Man II was a game that I will always hold dear to that time in my life, and this year I can happily post the picture of Mark and I playing that I couldn’t find for last years blog but it wasn’t the only game we played religiously. Sure there was Super Mario 3, but that could be a whole other blog in itself. There were also games on Nintendo’s competitor that we played quite frequently like Rock N’ Roll Racing, Toejam and Earl, and the game we’re going to talk about today, Mutant League Football.

Growing up, I was pretty scrawny and much smaller than my two best friends Mark and John. My Mother, worrying for my safety, never let me attempt to play football and of course since I couldn’t play, it became the only sport I wanted to. I mean, the game is exciting and dangerous: what kid wouldn’t want to play? Even the kid that was only like 60 pounds soaking wet at best. Mark and John were both football players and I… I played soccer, which I understand in other countries is super manly but this is America baby and nothing is as American as Football (don’t you dare say baseball! Yeah I get it, America’s pastime, and as boring as watching paint dry). No, I wanted to be a football player and since that wasn’t in the cards for me, what was the next best thing? Videogame football, and I’m not talking Tecmo Bowl or even John Madden Football. I’m talking about a game a non-football playing horror movie loving kid could get into, I’m talking Mutant League Football? After all what’s better then taking a violent sport and turning up the violence by adding in mutants, skeletons, and aliens and having them murder each other on the field? I mean, this is Genesis I’m talking about and Genesis does what Nintendon’t. I was in love with Mutant League Football and with the Genesis. There were only three buttons to learn and then you were off to the races so it didn’t matter that I didn’t play football with John and Mark. As long as I could learn the plays and the difference between running the ball and passing I was alright. And like I said previously, this wasn’t just football, you could turn up the violence and watch players explode on the field into bloody 16-bit messes, you could bribe the Ref to call the game in your favor, you could even murder the Ref! What twelve year-old wouldn’t love this game? I know we live in different times now and we have to shelter our children from being children and what not (BOGUS!) but not in the early nineties, at least not yet anyway.  

A couple years later the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) would be created because of games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap and senators like Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl would start changing the way we would all buy our videogames. Do I agree with a ratings board? I guess I can say I like the idea of any novice parent being able to choose a game with their child based on some kind of system, but at the same time just who is it that is making these rating choices? But I guess that would be a whole other blog all together and not the point of what I’m celebrating here at all. Mutant League Football was pre ESRB, gloriously violent and entertaining.  Honestly, it still is today.  Yes, I wish it had an HD counterpart in the same vein of the recently revamped Mortal Kombat with HD blood and guts, but I can still enjoy the game in all its 16-bit gory glory. The only problem being of course, I am without my player two. In fact, this is another sad case of a nostalgia purchase that never quite worked out as planned. I bought the Genesis and then snagged a copy of Mutant League Football from eBay hoping to re-challenge Mark on one of his visits home, but it wasn’t meant to be. We spent his visit chasing girls and heading off to Montreal and, well, not playing games is all I really need to say about that. Unfortunately we never got that chance to meet again on the intergalactic field. Luckily I was able to convince Jaclyn to play me before I lost my temper and threw the controller through the TV. I guess I can handle the pressure of a human opponent, but taking on the computer is something else entirely. In the absence of Covino or Joe, Jaclyn took the field and I bet she was especially happy I didn’t yell at her or call her my brother’s name (yeah, that’s right Ryan, when I lose my temper playing videogames I still yell at you. I know I have a problem… I’m working on it). There’s no real spoiler alerts for this post, just good clean killer football fun, a lot of Ref bribing, but unfortunately not a lot of on-the-field death. I think I had the settings too low because no one died on the field (another plus, you can control the level of carnage your team experiences to include death). And lets face it, it’s just not the same unless someone on the field is being crippled or maimed or I guess more accurately exploding into a bunch of bloody pieces. Mutant League Football was a blast twenty years ago and honestly it still is today, as long as you’re not playing against that cheating computer. I mean, just how many times can I throw the ball away anyway? I watched my screens and only threw the ball to open guys but somehow they always grabbed interceptions; I mean, seriously? I can’t run the ball without getting clobbered and I can’t pass the ball without throwing it away, so yeah maybe I was just a little rusty. I’m also faced with a hard choice: whether or not I’m going to sell my Sega Genesis for the upcoming move. I already got rid of my PSP, which I owned a copy EA Replay for and as cool as the graphics update was it just isn’t the same game unless you’re playing against another person. And now I’m thinking about getting rid of the Genesis and I’m asking myself: should I keep my copy of Mutant League Football? I don’t see a re-release anytime in the near future as much as that would be amazing. I mean they did an update to NBA Jam not too long ago so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for a remake, but I just won’t hold my breath. I know I’ll never be able to rematch Mark, but at the same time I like to have these throwback video game playoffs in his honor once a year to celebrate his memory and to grab a little chunk of the past so I think as long as my Genesis still works I should hold onto it and then even if I only break it out once a year I can do so in honor of all those weekends we stayed up way too late playing just one match of Mutant League Football or fighting about whose turn it was in Mega Man II. Because the fact remains I miss you man, and there will always be an empty player 2 spot that you left behind. And even after I can destroy the computer at Mutant League Football and take down any person that is foolish enough to play me, I’ll still be wishing it was you I could take on.