NFL Blitz Legends arcade cabinet is coming soon – minus the late hits

NFL Blitz, the faster, more aggressive, and more jarring version of the NFL ruleset that took arcades by storm in the late ’90s, returns this year in arcade cabinet form. But the surprise revival of Blitz by artisan Arcade1Up will also reflect the sensibilities of the modern NFL.

“The NFL was excited about the idea because [NFL Blitz] was loved by the fans,” Arcade1Up Chief Technology Officer Davin Sufer told Polygon. But if they were going to re-release three of the most memorable arcade sports video game adaptations in a new package, they had to be sanitized for modern sensibilities.

“They said, ‘Guys, if you’re going to do this, you have to address these issues,'” Sufer said.

“These problems” are the violent collisions, some for no reason, after the play and of course with impunity, that both defined Midway NFL Blitz and have aged very poorly in the 25 years since. A quarter-century ago, the league and its media partners were actively selling the violence — even the comedy — of mind-bending collisions served up on Sunday.

But over the past decade, scientific studies, several high-profile retired player deaths and a $765 million claims settlement in 2013 have made issues like concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) water coolers on Monday morning were and no laughing matter were the league or its players. It is no exaggeration to say that the crisis was the biggest obstacle preventing the 1997s NFL Blitz, NFL Blitz ’99or NFL Blitz 2000: Gold Edition not reappear or be remastered.

“To clean this up, you need to change the game code to some degree, even if it’s just a small part, you still need to change the game code,” Sufer said. “After the whistle there is a certain time when [players were] still able to perform movements. It was a long time, maybe several seconds if I’m not mistaken. We really needed to shorten that time frame. Once the whistle blows, that’s it. […] You cannot make another tackle. And that’s something you can’t change by playing with the ROM.”

NFL Blitz Legends, which will be released later this football season through retail partners, is the third retro sports cabinet Arcade1Up has made this year. The company added NBA jam: Shaq Edition and Golden Tee 3D Edition added to its collector’s catalog back in May (and announced the fighting game Marvel vs Capcom 2 on August 5th). NFL Blitz Legends houses the original game, flash ’99, and Flash 2000 in one entity and supports online multiplayer among those who have the cabinet.

Deion Sanders sits in a closet at the NFL Blitz Legends where he is displayed on the side of the box along with Denver's Terrell Davis.

Deion Sanders was one of the fastest players in NFL history while playing from 1989 to 2005. A 49-way joystick helps Prime Time replicate its speed NFL Blitz Legends.
Photo: Arcade1Up

These features, Sufer says, help make the games fun and worthwhile, even as some of their more memorable features have been excised. “It was a lot of fun; it’s still a really addictive, fun game,” Sufer promised. “I’m not saying you won’t notice [the changes], but I will say that you still have a lot of fun and it almost does not affect the gameplay. All the original pieces are in there.”

In addition, the 49-way joystick from the original arcade games has also been recreated NFL Blitz Legends. Broadly speaking, this type of joystick detects positions at short, medium, or long distances from its center and allows for movements with variable speed and acceleration. A four or eight-way joystick has, well, only four or eight directions and moves the player there at the same speed.

“With any of the pieces, you can always kind of deviate from the piece,” Sufer said — meaning roll out the quarterback and just turn the piece into an impromptu run. “You really have amazing control over the players with this joystick. You can almost always distract yourself from the passing game and just run.”

This is an important distinction, as arcade-style NFL football has typically been very focused on passing games, with very few running plays (if they even exist in the playbook), and all of which are easily defendable. It was one of the issues that caused EA Sports to NFL Blitz The 2012 revival was bland and forgettable, so it drew attention to what it didn’t have — namely, the late hits, elbow-drop gang tackles, and other cartoon violence.

NFL Blitz 2012 was also played with a list of players from that year; to the nfl blitz legends, Arcade1Up had to rebuild the original roster’s players with a group license from the Football Greats Alliance, which represents numerous NFL alumni. A press release assured fans that Hall of Famers like Jerry Rice, Dan Marino and Deion Sanders will be returning to the game. For the rest of the roster, Sufer estimates they make up “maybe 85-90% of the original roster,” with others still being added. “We’ve had some unnamed players that you need to address,” he said.

Sufer said Arcade1up held consultations NFL Blitz co-creators Mark Turmell (“I had him on speed dial”) and Sal DiVita, as well as other Midway alumni, and Electronic Arts, which now owns the Blitz intellectual property. “For better or for worse,” chuckled Sufer, “our reputation preceded us. But Scott [Bachrach, Arcade1Up’s chief executive] really surrounded itself with real experts in this field. […] We went back to the original developers and got their nods and blessings. Many of them have offered to help us.”

NFL Blitz Legends will be launched later this year in a 1.5m high cabinet with a 17” display and a lighted marquee. It costs $599.99 and is available from Best Buy, Walmart, and Arcade1Up websites. Superfans can add a team-branded stool for $79.99. NFL Blitz Legends arcade cabinet is coming soon – minus the late hits

Charles Jones

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