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Published: Friday, 8/14/2009

During your 'Maddenoliday,' check out some other pigskin classics

Welcome to the new Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

Today, as some of you may know, is Madden Day. At just past midnight about the time this blog appears online Madden 10, the 21st edition of the premier sporting title, hit the shelves for the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3.

The Madden series is a billion-dollar franchise for its maker, EA Sports, and has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, making it the most popular video game of all time. There are some passionate football fans and devoted Madden fans who will be taking a "Maddenoliday" today and for the next few days to get their fill of Madden 10.

The series is undeniably great and highly influential, it s just not my bag. Fact is, Madden isn t even close to being my favorite football title. That crown belongs to the original Tecmo Bowl and its sequel Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES. Anyone who played the games in the late 80s and early 90s (and most every video game player alive in the 8-bit era did) understands what I'm saying.

The graphics were top notch for the time period, the controls easy to master, and the playbook, while limited to only four plays each for offensive and defense, was effective. Most importantly, the Tecmo Bowl games were addictive. The Tecmo series were also among the first football games to feature actual NFL franchises no more New York Dragons, Los Angeles Cobras, Pittsburgh Tigers, or other embarrassing team names and team players.

Gamers could now complete a quick pass from the 49ers Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, for example, or watch the Cowboys Herschel Walker bust through an opening in the defensive line for an easy 20-yard gain.

And just like their real-life superstar counterparts, the big-name players in Tecmo could dominate a game. I mean, really dominate a game.

Most Tecmo players knew that selecting the then-Los Angeles Raiders meant you had the virtually unstoppable running back Bo Jackson in the backfield.

How many CPU-controlled teams were crushed by the one-man Tecmo scoring machine known as Jackson?

When playing against the Raiders, a smart counter move would be to play as the New York Giants, whose speedy linebacker Lawrence Taylor could be counted on to block the opponent s extra point every time.

You won t find such lopsided player abilities in Madden 10, though, which strives to accurately mimic the abilities of the real athletes.

While Tecmo is at the top of my football games list, there are other older titles that are almost as fun to play.

I ve recently become fond of Cyberball 2072, a lesser-known arcade game released by Atari 20 years ago, which I play on my Xbox 360.

Cyberball 2072 is football played by masochistic robots. The big twist is that the football is explosive, and must be defused by crossing mid-field or by scoring a touchdown. Otherwise, the ball detonates, destroying any robot unfortunate enough to be carrying it.

Speaking of Atari Football, the video game maker s original attempt at a pigskin title, featuring blinking blocky players only three to each team was a colossal failure. The game was so bad that system rival Mattel s Intellivision, known for its realistic sports games, mocked Atari s football in a head-to-head comparison with its own football game as part of a successful ad campaign featuring George Plimpton.

And don t forget about Mattel s handheld football games. The red LED blips entranced many gamers for hours, including me. Primitive but fun.

That s kind of the theme of most of the older football games. Sure, they don t hold a candle to today s Madden 10 and its increasingly life-like on-the-field action. But today s Madden doesn t have the low-res Bo Jackson, either, who can avoid defenses for an entire quarter on a single running play.

Realistic? No. But man is it fun.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734.



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