NFL BlitzOne of the greatest sports video games ever made, finally makes a comeback in a remastered form thanks to home arcade company Arcade1Up – the first new entry in the wider Blitz franchise since 2012 and the first re-release of the 90s classics since 2001.
Blitz is really something special. I suspect some readers of VG247 may not even have been alive when these games were first released, but they are in fact the ultimate in arcade sports, alongside NBA Jam (which happened to be run by some of the same development staff).
Basically, Blitz takes the sport of American Football and picks everything up to 11 – making it faster, crazier and more complete. It was designed to provoke intense competition between friends in the arcade. And of course also empty your coins. There were a few iterations in arcades and on console between 1997 and 2001, but later entries lost much of what made the originals special.
Arcade1Up brings back the classic Blitz games in a new three-quarter size cabinet. That means it’s five feet high, making it significantly smaller than the original booths and more suitable for a home installation – with the cabinet constructed from a flat pack. That size means you’re getting a 17-inch screen, which isn’t huge, but should also be quite usable.
Included is the original NFL Blitzplus NFL Blitz ’99 and NFL Blitz 2000: Gold Edition. The three games are essentially similar, with minor differences between releases. For my money, Blitz ’99 is the best of the three.
Impressively, all three games will be playable both in Local Multiplayer – with the four-set control box spanning the expansive control deck – as well as via WiFi, meaning you’ll be able to challenge other Blitzers from around the world. There are also online leaderboards. These are features Arcade1Up has developed with games like Street Fighter and NBA Jam, so we know how they work well enough.
The cabinet looks good, similar to the original cabinets, but with new artwork featuring a range of appropriate NFL legends from the game’s original era. Also on display are original team logos and uniforms from that era, making it authentic to the original cabinets rather than recent team rebrands.
There are catches. It’s always there, right? The first is the price: Like most Arcade1Up machines, the NFL Blitz Legends cabinet has a $599 price tag, which doesn’t exactly make this a buy for the faint of heart. I’ve seen original Blitz machines that cost only a few hundred dollars more, but those machines are much bigger and involve the maintenance worries and expense that retro arcade hardware always does.
However, the second catch is more of a deal breaker. NFL Blitz is known as an over-the-top version of the sport, as mentioned earlier – meaning there are no penalties and a bit more violence than modern sport accepts.
All of this is a bit ironic, like giving a player a drop kick after the game is technically over, cursing and celebrating in ridiculous ways. Crucially, the players being suplexed aren’t actual players either, but just generic video game characters. But the modern NFL, dogged by criticism of player welfare, has decided it can have nothing to do with it – so this version of the machine contains ‘remastered’ versions of the games…where ‘remastered’ means those features removed.
As such, some tackles and late hits have been edited or removed outright “in support of the NFL’s current Player Health & Safety initiatives,” according to Game Informer. So these won’t be the games as you remember them.
Frankly, this is ridiculous. This should be a perfect release for people like me – fans of both the NFL and classic arcade games – but changing these games this way just seems silly to me. No one is confusing NFL Blitz with reality, where the NFL arguably has a problem with injuries and horrific, life-changing CTE injuries. However, the issue has been such a touchy subject that it has stood in the way of Blitz revivals in the past – and the competition has only grown more sensitive to it over time.
It’s stupid. Back in the day, people at the NFL seemed to know too. “This is like the Road Runner,” said Gene Goldberg, then NFL vice president of consumer products in 2002.”[NFL Blitz] is not what happens when players are on the field. This is a cartoon.” Despite this, year after year, Blitz would water down with subsequent entries – and now this plague has spread to a re-release of the original games.
It’s hard to know exactly how you should feel. Part of me is annoyed and frustrated that the NFL’s answer to the problems is to focus on PR exercises like removing “bad” moves from video games, rather than simply putting more time and money into it. supporting players who have been affected by an injury in real life. But part of me is just really happy to see that NFL Blitz has been released – elated with this cabinet, but also hopeful that this could be the first step towards Blitz returning elsewhere, easing the licensees for a reissue of the console.
I’m thrilled to see Arcade1Up get the Blitz license and start working with the NFL, and as a home arcade enthusiast I’m excited every time I see the company leveling the playing field with their smaller, more manageable and readily available reissues of classic cabinets — even if the price still feels a little high. But the NFL really needs to get over itself. It’s just a video game, guys.
Despite my annoyance with the changes enforced by the NFL, as a Blitz enthusiast, I admit that I’m quite in love with how this machine looks – and while expensive, Arcade1Up stuff tends to be of decent quality. It’s no substitute for a real machine, but with three real arcade cabinets already in the house, there’s no chance of fitting another behemoth into it. This could fit well.