Friday, March 26, 2010

East vs. West: TV Sports Football

In the late 1980's, a company called Cinemaware was pioneering new technology on the Commodore Amiga, producing a series of games that were generally long on audiovisuals and short on gameplay.  As NEC was preparing the TurboGrafx-16 for its North American debut, Cinemaware was convinced to bring several of its properties to the platform (and to its enticing CD-ROM peripheral, which hosted a unique version of Cinemaware's biggest hit, It Came from the Desert.)

What I hadn't known until a few years ago was that TV Sports Football also made its way across the ocean to Japan for the PC Engine, courtesy of Victor Musical Industries.  Normally this would be perfect material for an interesting East vs. West comparison, but in this case the Japanese localization had very, very little impact on the game as a whole.

The packaging, at least, is different -- the Japanese edition uses the original artwork from the American computer release, with the English word FOOTBALL replaced with Japanese text, while the American version sports new, more awkwardly "dynamic" cover art that gives the impression it is not bringing the game into your home, so much as the actual players, and unintentionally at that: 

(Yes, the above image is a scan of games from my personal collection.  I'm not a major collector, but I can't pass up an inexpensive game complete in the box.  Or, uh... two.)

Once the shrinkwrap is off, the title screen is almost exactly the same, with the NEC logo removed but no Victor logo added to the Japanese version:

The player start/join screen is in English, also exactly the same (note the support for up to 5 players, a nice improvement over the computer original):

It's only when we get to the generic team names that a difference arises, and it's not huge -- the Sharks and the Tidal Waves are still the Sharks and the Tidal Waves, as the American game did not sport an NFL license either (though the Amiga and PC original did):

And the game plays exactly the same way, with all the sampled calls and grunts remaining in the original English.  I don't know what I was expecting, really -- certainly not sake and squid at the concession stands, nor big-eyed cheerleaders armed with magical firepower -- but it's kind of disappointing to find out that it's still just good old American football:

It is interesting to note some differences between the PC Engine/TG-16 version and the Amiga/PC edition; the 3 MB cartridge is eaten up mostly by the audio samples, so the frequent "TV presentation" images of the crowd and the cheerleaders are missing in the console version.  All we have left to break up the gameplay is a "Hi, mom!" shot of a grinning post-touchdown player:

There's also an announcer, redrawn for the console version -- he doesn't call any play-by-play, but occasionally sums up recent events in localized text:

And that's about all there is to it.  I can't imagine this game was a big seller in the US, let alone in Japan; the presentation is nicely done, but it's an entirely generic title and could not have provided much competition for EA's early Madden Football games on the Sega Genesis.  Watching the Buzzards take on the Hounds was never the same as watching the Steelers vs. the Packers, or even the Lions.

If you simply must have every release of TV Sports Football ever produced, you may be able to find it at this affiliate link.  It's not an expensive game in any territory - nothing, it seems, is less collectible than an aging sports game.

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