Jerry Glanville’s Pigskin Footbrawl

Grade:  B-

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 39th

Publisher:  Razorsoft

Year:  1992

Genre:  Things Endorsed by Jerry Glanville

I’ve always had a soft spot for Jerry Glanville, going back all the way to his days as the coach of the Houston Oilers when he and Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche would run up the score on each other, and then rip each other in the media.  From there he moved on to Atlanta, where he brought the Falcons the run and shoot offense, their most successful season in over a decade, and most importantly, some of the slickest uniforms in the history of sports.

Let’s talk about those unis for a second.  Up here in Buffalo, we didn’t see Atlanta on TV much in those days, because they were, you know, the Atlanta Falcons – just another irrelevant, consistently mediocre team from the NFC with no real history or interesting players that the Bills would have to play every 3 years (Ironically, Falcons fans probably feel the same way about the Bills lately). You know, like the Buccaneers or the Cardinals.  I actually had no idea the Falcons had even changed uniforms until after the end of the season when they finally got onto a year-end highlight reel.  But the second I saw them, I mean, forget it – they looked BAD ASS.  I became a fan right then and there – instant conversion into a loyal, hardcore Atlanta Falcons fan.  Which wasn’t an easy thing to be in Buffalo, in 1990.  It’s not like you could log on to NFL.com to watch video clips of your favorite out of town teams and maybe order a some zubaz pants with their logo on it or something.  All you could do was try to catch the score at the bottom of the screen of whatever Cowboys or Giants game CBS was showing, and hope for the occasional highlight on a post-game show.  Plus, you had to deal with the abuse as Bills fans, cocky about their team for the first and only time in franchise history, constantly reminded you that the Falcons suck… and actually, many people in Buffalo have trouble with certain vowel sounds, so it usually sounded more like “Fulcans suck!”.  Yeah, I said it – Bills fans talk funny, and their team has won just as many Super Bowls as my sucky Fulcans.  Also, Beef on Weck tastes like salted shit.

A typical Falcons practice in the pre-Glanville years.

But anyway – Jerry Glanville.  Most entertaining coach in the history of football as far as I’m concerned.  And not just because of the bitter rivalries with other coaches, or the great quotes (“He can be a great player in this league if he learns how to say two words: ‘I’m full.’”), or the keen fashion sense.  He almost always had these teams that would score touchdowns like crazy, but couldn’t play defense at all, and you’d end up seeing wild games where both teams would combine for close to 100 points.  It didn’t get him many 10 win seasons or playoff victories, but when you can get the boring, clock-control, grind-it-out Chicago Bears to score 41 points on you, at least you can say you’re taking a hit for the good of the league.

Having said all that, seeing his name attached to Pigskin is one of the more unusual endorsements in the world of video games.  For one thing, Pigskin is supposed to be set in the Dark Ages, so there’s a little bit of a timing issue there.  It’s kind of weird to see a picture of Jerry Glanville wearing his coach’s headset on the sideline of an NFL game, juxtaposed with an image of a medieval warrior catching a crude looking football.

This picture of Jerry Glanville , however, doesn’t look out of place at all.

Also, the Falcons weren’t exactly the Cowboys, Giants, or 49ers in terms of popularity, and entertaining as he was, Glanville wasn’t exactly what you would consider a star.  Jerry Glanville was just famous enough that maybe he could have been endorsing used car dealerships in the metro Atlanta area, not Sega Genesis games being sold nationwide.  It would be kind of like seeing copies of NBA Jam with Don Nelson on the cover.  Although that’s really overstating Pigskin’s tenuous connection to the NFL.  It would actually be more like seeing Don Nelson endorse some kind of Pizza Hut special that was running during the NBA playoffs.

Strange marketing aside, Jerry Glanville’s Pigskin Footbrawl is a pretty good game.  The idea behind it is simple enough – it’s football set in the Dark Ages.  Which in this case means a 6-on-6, no-rules version of the sport where the action never stops, and it’s perfectly ok to punch other players in the face or even just straight up murder them.  In other words, it’s rugby.  Ok, maybe that was a bit of a cheap shot, but in all honesty, this game really does capture the essence of rugby – the frantic pace, the back and forth nature, and the apocalyptic levels of violence – better than pretty much any “real” rugby game I’ve ever played (admittedly, I’ve only tried two).

Nice to know in between dying of cholera and burning witches, someone has time to manicure the endzone grass into a putting green.

Obviously, it’s not a perfect rugby simulation – the scoring is different, forward passes are allowed, and, oh yeah, you probably can’t stab people in real rugby, but the whole thing has a good rugby vibe to it.  It’s not unlike the best EA Sports games of this era in that it manages to get just enough right to have the “feel” of the sport it’s trying to simulate, but without all of that realism coming in and sucking the fun out of things.  You know, basketball with more dunks, hockey with more breakaways, and rugby with more people getting hit with a mace.

That’s not to say the game is flawless.  Coming from an arcade heritage, there’s no season mode, or playoffs, or anything to really draw players in for more than just single game play.  Which is just as well, because after playing for about 5 minutes, you’ve pretty much seen and done everything there is to do in Pigskin.  In what is kind of an awkward acknowledgment of this shortcoming, the game even moves to an entirely different field in order to keep things fresh for the second half.  And if the second half only took 2 minutes, it would totally work.  Playing against another player keeps things interesting a bit longer, but even so, it would be hard to imagine anyone really sitting down and playing through a full 16 game schedule of this game.  Much like chocolate cake, this is best enjoyed in small doses – a little piece of it is delicious, but you wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing.  After a few days though, you’ll probably want to go back and have another slice.

Hey, watch the bookshelves.  I have a first edition Beowulf in there.  It’s next to the skull.

Coming from little-known publisher Razorsoft, Pigskin wasn’t a huge hit in its day and didn’t sell a ton of copies.  Today, some sellers are trying to capitalize on its rarity by charging fairly absurd prices, but a quick scan of ebay, half.com or a decent flea market / used game store should still get you one for around ten bucks.  On it’s own merits, I’d call that price a little bit high (keep in mind, most Genny games are dirt cheap), but if you get a kick out of obscure games or just want a copy to show to your friends, it’s not a bad way to go.

So yeah… medieval rugby.  Brought to you by Jerry Glanville.  Hey, why not?

Top Gear 2

Grade:  B-

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 40th

Publisher:  Vic Tokai

Year:  1994

Genre:  Post-apocalypse

Brad: One thing I’ve always found odd about most racing games is that they very rarely seem to take fans into consideration.  I don’t mean the fans of the game itself, but fictional fans inside the game world who would want to watch people driving fancy cars really fast.  Auto racing is, after all, a sport.  It would be hard to imagine a football game where both teams meet on an empty field in the middle of nowhere to play a game, with neither fans nor television coverage present (the Mountain West Conference notwithstanding).  Nor would you expect to see a basketball game deep in an empty desert, or a soccer game that started in the middle of the night (not that anyone would notice, anyway).  Racing games on the other hand don’t find this unusual at all.

If you can barely see the road, imagine how the people watching the race must feel.

Top Gear 2 is no exception.  The very first race starts on the outskirts of a city, but there’s no signs of life other than the other drivers that you’re racing against.  From there, the locations get more exotic, and by “exotic” I mean “unlikely that anyone would actually go there,” such as the aforementioned desert. When the races finally do return to civilized areas, they begins at 11pm.  It’s as if they’re doing everything they can to prevent people from watching their sport – much like the NHL, except in this case they’re actually doing it on purpose.

Of course, this is a racing game, so there’s no story to explain why this would be the case.  I’ve given it a lot of thought though, and managed to come up with two theories:

Theory #1: Top Gear 2 takes place after the apocalypse

Imagine this:  A global war, or pandemic, or zombie uprising devastates the world, leaving you and very few others as the only human survivors, but leaves most everything else (buildings, food, products, etc) intact.  You’re practically alone in a land of plenty.  What would be  the first thing you do?  I’m guessing you answered “Porn spree.”  But what about after that?  If your next answer is anything other than “Find some awesome sports cars to race against the other survivors,”  then I’m not really sure why you bothered surviving the apocalypse, since you’re already dead inside anyway.

In this scenario, parts of Top Gear 2 make a lot more sense.  It not only explains why the world is so eerily quiet, but also why some of the roads have unfinished construction projects, fallen trees and other obstacles.  Well, at least it explains why the construction was never completed or the roads cleared – nobody was left alive to take care of it.  I guess it still doesn’t explain why the few remaining survivors choose those roads to race on in the first place.

…maybe all the other streets are overrun by zombies.

Theory #2:  There is no race, except in the player’s mind

Once, when previewing an important race between a man and a zebra, Carl Lewis pointed out that the key to victory for the zebra was that it would need to realize it was in a race.  Playing Top Gear 2, you start to get the same feeling about the other drivers.  Similar to the Ridge Racer series, Top Gear 2 is one of those games where you start the race in last place and every other car has a big head start.  Whether or not you’re the fastest driver is never really in question – you clearly are – it’s really just a matter of whether or not you can overcome the massive handicap that’s been granted to the other drivers before completing all of your laps.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain the amount of ass that you’re kicking is to consider that there actually is no race.  Maybe the other cars are just people driving to and fro, wondering why some idiot is driving three times the speed limit and weaving in and out of lanes.  And since the “race” is all in your head, it could be taking place at any location and at any time you wanted it to be, such as the shores of Loch Ness in the middle of the night.  And understandably, you’re not going to get too many fans coming out to watch some crazy guy drive like an asshole on the highway.  Most people already see that every day – they call it “commuting”.

In a way, this makes Top Gear 2 one of the most artistically and narratively unique racing games to ever come out, as the entire thing takes place from within the delusional mind of a protagonist who has clearly lost touch with reality.  Hideo Kojima would be proud.

Oh, a log across the road.  In the middle of the desert.  And this is where we decided to have our race.  No, it makes perfect sense.

Stryker: As much as we enjoy racing games, they are the absolute worst to write about.  The basic concept of a racing game is pretty much immune to change, and improvement within the genre generally consists of refining the core gameplay, improving the graphics, and adding new cars and tracks. Now don’t get me wrong; making a game that’s more fun to play, better looking, and has more content than the games that came before it are not minor, insignificant improvements.  But these things don’t really translate well to words.

Top Gear 2 is one of the best games for the Sega Genesis, but what is there to really say about it?  It’s a game where you try to drive a car in a circle faster than other players drive a car in that same circle.  The graphics are better than other circle-driving games on the Genesis, and the music really gets you excited to drive in a circle.  The game is designed in such a way that driving in a circle in this game is more fun than driving in circles in other games.  And there are a lot of different circles (as these aren’t circles in a literal sense), which are generally more fun to drive on than the circles you drive on in other games.

Top Gear 2 is the pinnacle of driving in a circle.  Which is a lot more fun than it sounds.