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Tecmo Super Bowl is still revealing new secrets, 25 years later

Developers apparently had plans to include penalties

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Tecmo Super Bowl, the landmark sports title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, has no penalties. This is probably a good thing, because having a random-ass false start ruin a drive would have tripled the rate of sibling fistfights in the early 1990s.

But Tecmo's developers were considering it, at some point. The mad mod magicians still pulling apart and examining every line of code have uncovered a false start penalty animation buried deep, and unused, in the game.

A video of the animation is above. Moreover, if you still have the original game and a Game Genie (or an emulator) the codes YLXEPAAE and NXVLTAKU will replace the ref signalling first down with one making the false start motion (no penalty is in fact called).

The code was discovered by Dave Brude, one of the modders who has kept Tecmo Super Bowl alive with ROMs that have updated rosters, teams and even gameplay, such as two-point conversions (nonexistent in the NFL in 1991) and more authentic line play. There's no code explaining how or when false starts would be called, but Brude suspects that it would be determined by a random number generator, like other infuriating aspects of the game (fumbles, injuries, going into bad condition).

Tecmo Super Bowl was succeeded by Tecmo Super Bowl II: Special Edition and Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition, neither of which had penalties, either. The games added other features to make the gameplay more sophisticated and team management more relevant, but not penalties. Still the breadcrumbs left behind in the original code spoke to a Tecmo development team that had a lot of big ideas for the time, perhaps wisely avoiding the ones that would start rec room fights.

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