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Games

Mattel Classic Football 2

Jason Thompson

Ah, nostalgia. It's what makes the world go 'round.


Number of players: 1-2 s
Genres: Sports
Multimedia: Mattel Classic Football 2
Price: $12.97
Amazon affiliate

Ah, nostalgia. It's what makes the world go 'round. As each generation of kids gets older, the need to revisit youth gnaws at the gut ever increasingly. Luckily, manufacturers know this and are willing and eager to suck everyone back to the "good old days" with new and improved nostalgia trips, knowing full well that people will empty their wallets for a trip back in time. It's why eBay is so successful. But for those who don't want to pay high prices for some of the items of yore from the years they were born, there are always the revival products. That is, the reissue, if you will.

Back when I was in third grade, I didn't know squat about football. I mean, I knew what it was; I just didn't have any concept of the rules or how to play and all of the technicalities more or less. During that time, the world had been exploding with all sorts of electronic video game entertainment. Space Invaders had recently conquered everything in its path, just like Pong had shortly before it. So the games came home. And it wasn't just about Atari consoles and the like. A mini-revolution was created through the classic handheld electronic game.

Those of us who were there and thrilled to such devices can still feel the hairs on our arms stand up and the goose bumps form all over whenever we see one of these games in garage sales, old toy stores, or online. Sight recognition of such games almost always sparks an, "Oh my god, I loved that game," or, "Holy crap, I forgot all about that one," reaction which will invariably then turn into a half hour long discussion about the "good ol' days" of electronic gaming and who had what. For me, it all started with the hypnotic and addictive Simon, in which players had to repeat the flashing color patterns emitted from the wondrous circular game.

But it was Mattel's original and fantastic Football 2 (or Football II depending on a first or second version), originally released in 1978, that was the true sucker punch. Some kid brought one to school one day and we sat there fixated, playing it straight through recess. It was fast and addictive, and you could not only run forwards, but backwards too. And you could pass the ball as well, unlike the first Mattel Football, which didn't allow you to do either. Football 2 was a rite of passage for many a young boy at the time. And wouldn't you know it? I got my very own that year for Christmas. What a rush. It was through that game that I learned how the mechanics of football are played.

I played the hell out of that game, even into my adult years. After eBay exploded, I had the dumb notion that I was done with Football 2, and decided to sell it online. I didn't do badly; at the end of the day, I had made about $70 on the whole deal. Probably make even more these days. But the fact was that no one ever outgrows Football 2. It sticks with you like an old friend that never argues with you. It's there as a comfort and as a time waster. And hell, you didn't even need a second player to have fun. I always just played both sides, dreaming up fantasy games in my head and hoping that the home team would win, but would play a fair game for the visiting side as well. But now I had sold it and Football 2 was no more.

But thanks to the good old nostalgia waves, Mattel was brilliant enough to bring it back, along with its original Football I and baseball games. Now packaged as Classic Football 2, the addiction and love can be revisited. I almost jumped out of my shoes when I first saw it again. Old habits die hard, indeed. But before we get too excited, there are some odd differences that make this "classic" only a mere clone. A good clone, mind you, but not quite the same as the real thing.

For starters, there's the game screen itself. The original was an LED game, with the players represented as little red horizontal blips. In the Classic version, the game is now an LCD game, backlit with LEDs. What this means is is in the original game, the blips looked seamless, with just the nice dark field laid over the top of it. On the new version, you can actually see every little spot for the blips, whether they're turned on or not, so it looks like the field is littered with holes. It's a minor quip, but it's noticeable enough that the first time you play you go, "Hey, this isn't like the original!"

Secondly, the music is completely different. The kickoff music has been changed to some weird new sequence of tones. The original kickoff "Charge!" sound has now been placed into the touchdown and field goal fanfare. Why this was done, I have no idea, but again, it jumped out at me immediately. I can almost understand the LED/LCD change in this day and age (done mostly to make the games more affordable), but why mess with the music?

Thirdly, and probably most odd, is there is no longer a third quarter kick off. Why the hell was this removed? One of the best aspects of the game was having that pulse-pounding second quarter to see if the game would be tied or if one team would pull ahead while trying to beat the clock before the third quarter kick off. Now it's completely gone, and the game just continues the second quarter action. This is not a minor complaint; it has changed the game completely and irreversibly. Mattel may as well have called it Football 3 with "All-New Third Quarter Kickoff Missing!"

Yet Football 2 is still as addictive as it ever was at the end of the day. It's still a lot of fun, even if the changes make me slightly regret that I sold my original. I guess it's true that you can never really go home. This new version even runs on two AA batteries, whereas the good old days always had games running on 9 volts. But that's the whole thing about remanufactured nostalgia; it's never going to be quite like you remembered. And even though this is certainly the case in this example, at least there'll be some kid somewhere learning how to play football with this game and playing it to death just like my generation did with the original.

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