The tagline in ads for the console launch summed up NFL Blitz pretty accurately: “No refs. No rules. No mercy.” Commercials visually drove home the over-the-top violent hits the game allowed. In perhaps the most infamous 30-second TV spot, then-Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart works on his throws alongside a coach. Within seconds, we see that Stewart is targeting members of the marching band whose music can be heard in the background of the workout. The ad inspired outrage from music educators.
Turmell, who says he loved the ad, pointed out that the league gave the okay to run the spot. But, after the negative response, the ad was removed from the airwaves. Fortunately, like so many old commercials, it still lives on YouTube:
As far as the game itself, NFL Blitz was a faithful port of the arcade hit, especially on the N64. On the Nintendo console, all the fun of playing a quick and irreverent game of football at the arcade came home. The graphics were virtually identical, unlike what the visually-inferior 32-bit PlayStation could produce. And the game’s most fascinating feature could only be found on N64: an easy-to-use Play Editor which allowed players to create custom alignments. These plays could even be brought to the arcade on an N64 Controller Pak to be used on the sequel, NFL Blitz 99, plugged directly into the cabinet. Cutting edge stuff for the late ’90s, to be sure.
In what may come as a surprise from the creator of the revered NBA Jam, Turmell actually points to the arcade’s Blitz 99, released in fall 1998, as “the favorite game that I’ve developed, and it’s because of the tuning on the plays, the interesting things that can happen.”
“There’s a running push that we introduced with that game, and the original NFL Blitz, when you would do a push, you would stop and do it from a stationary position,” Turmell explains. “Blitz 99 did this running push, just the tuning on the dives, the entertainment value of the tackles, the variety of a tipped pass, a doinked pass, a fumble that goes up in the air, people diving for it. Dancing as they’re running down the last 20 years to the end zone, somebody comes up from behind. You could play that game today and it holds up, and you would say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that happen before,’ or you’d find moments to scream, and it’s competitive, it’s tight. It was quite a tuning fest. We really tuned it well, because we’d just play it nonstop.”