Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Spent Chinese New Year at Panda Express...

...and all I have to show for it is a stupid egg roll. 

By: Jimbo X American

George Carlin once criticized America's fast-food-chain and department-store pockmarked countryside as a vacuous, coast-to-coast shopping mall. Honestly, I've never seen what's so bad about that. You ever driven through the Appalachians before? It's nothing but trees and rocks, with maybe a dilapidated shack and a gas station operated by a guy who hates minorities every 20 or so miles. Trust me, after driving through the mountainous environs of northern Tennessee all day, you would be plum appreciative to run into a strip mall parking lot. Compared to the rustic nothingness of most of America - which, in case you didn't know, was a good 72 percent of it -  even a fucking Mattress Firm becomes something to get excited about. 

While I am generally disgusted by the unadulterated mass consumption that goes on in this country - a shocker, I know - I am nonetheless fascinated by the social dynamics of consumerism. I suppose I am sort of like an oncologist, in that regard. Looking at cancerous furuncles all day isn't fun, but to cure the disease, you have to spend a lot of time gawping at it. And that, in a nutshell, is why I spend so much damn time talking about Taco Bell and General Mills cereal and Burger King. Once you understand your enemy, you are finally able to defeat them

The thing is, there are just so many big box stores and fast food eateries out there that it is next to impossible to adequately tackle the entire consumer industrial complex. Even driving to work every day, at least 80 percent of the stores and fast casual restaurants I see flashing by are places I've never entered - Ulta and Cheddar's and Fry's and hhgregg and BJ's Wholesale Club and Dick's Sporting Goods or the Cheesecake Factory or Dave & Buster's or Fuddrucker's. For all I know, they could be wonderful post-post-modern utopias that would restore my faith in capitalism, but I'm guessing that's very, very unlikely. Regardless, they remain mysteries to me - parts of the shared 21st century American psyche that I just can't speak to. And what you don''t know, obviously, you can't write about. 

Which brings me to perhaps the most popular big name fast food chain I had - up until recently - never experienced: Panda Express

I wish I had a good story for why I've never eaten at Panda Express in all my 30 years on earth. It's not that I ever made a conscious effort to NOT walk into one of the restaurants, it's just that by some great cosmological fluke, I have never lived within close proximity to one of the chains. And maybe it is just me, or do all the restaurants just so happen to be isolated in the most difficult to reach locales? Shit, to get inside the parking lot of the one closest to my residence, I had to make three U-turns, drive behind a Wal-Mart parking lot and drive the wrong way against drive-thru traffic. Sorry, that's a lot of automotive risk for some orange chicken, and the local Taco Bell is WAY easier to get to. 

Alas, I recently encountered something that FINALLY convinced me to try out the establishment ... food, naturally. In this case, it was the promise of a free egg roll to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which according to the Sacramento Kings, is somehow racist against black people. Of course, just an egg roll wasn't enough to get me to weather the elements. Indeed, Panda Express had to sweeten the proverbial pot with some additional goods, which includes a souvenir take home box (OK) and coupons for more free food (fucking fantastic.) And with the gratis two-fer staring me in the face, I decided to make a little detour on my commute home. 

As far as my general impressions of the restaurant ambiance, it was more or less what I expected. Like all decent Asian buffets, the air was muggy with steamed rice and spicy shit you really couldn't pinpoint. The furniture was very Chick-fil-a-ish, and the employees were about on par with the types of folks you'd find commandeering your friendly neighborhood Del Taco. Up until then, I had no idea that the restaurant had a Moe's/Chipotle line-item set-up, so I just kind of stood there in front of the cash register for a good ten minutes while everybody had their big ass plates of egg foo young and mandarin chicken rang up. Eventually, I produced my black and white online coupon, and the sorta chunky man in the bright red uniform told me I would have to wait eight minutes while they fried me up that commemorative "golden bar" as the advertisement promised. 

Alas, even after my long, eight-minute wait, I received no special commemorative box. In fact, those crimson-cloaked jabronis didn't even give me my coupon for additional free food, which I suppose is an accurate facsimile of Chinese government procedure: Panda Express, not unlike Chairman Mao, promises you all you will ever need, but in reality, you get nothing and they patiently wait for you to die. That might be hyperbolic, but it probably isn't. 

But to their credit, however, I did get a free "gold bar," and it was rather tasty. For starters, the product itself was pretty big ... a nice six inches, at least (which, ironically, is the exact same thing I hear from your mother from time to time.) This was no flaccid, undersized curry roll, like the kinds you find at Hong Kong buffets that are actually run by Malaysians who don't give a fuck what the health inspector tells them. It was crispy, it was flavorful, and it was filling. And, alike all great ethnic Chinese food, I had no earthly clue what the hell I was eating. 

So, uh, is that carrot and lettuce and chicken? Or maybe pork? Eh, it doesn't matter. All in all, it was a damned flavorful medley that was so  yummy it made me forget all about China's long history of civil rights violations and the fact Mao Tse-Tung killed three times as many people as Hitler did, but nobody ever talks shit about him, for some reason. Hey, if their contributions to world cuisine is this good, I say the government ought to be able to involuntarily harvest as many Falun Gong organs as they so desire

The real MVP, however, is the chili sauce. Fuck Sriracha, this shit right here is where it is at, where it's going to be and probably where it should have always been. You could probably dip anything in this mix and it would be delicious - meats, veggies, rice, Yummy Mummy, they all benefit from it. If only to try this stuff again, Panda Express' Chinese New Year marketing ploy worked - yes, I will be back to the restaurant, I will indeed likely pay actual people money for their goods and services and whatever I end up ordering, you better bet your bottom (and ever diminishing in value) yuan that I'm going to marinate it in so much chili sauce, it will ... uh, taste a lot like chili sauce, I guess. 

While there was a lot of stuff posted all over the restaurant explaining the importance of Chinese New Year rituals and all that jazz, I reckoned I really didn't need no cultural indoctrinatin' that evening. Alls I needs to knows about the Han is that their pollution is terrible, their upcoming senior citizen-social services crisis makes the one in the States look like a two-twig camp fire and it's only a matter of time until all that bad debt they collected during the Great Recession sends them flying off the rails (and in turn, kick-starting yet another worldwide financial crisis.) However, I did learn something very important for this, the Year of the Monkey: the food at Panda Express is pretty fucking great, I should eat more of it, and I probably will. 

Now, is the stuff at the restaurant truly authentic Chinese? Well, seeing as how it didn't give me dysentery, probably not. But again, who cares if something is genuine or not? Appropriate as much goddamn culture as you like, as long as what you are serving me is something I find palatable, nothing else matters. 

And that, my friends - whether we want to admit it or not - is true mass-consumption zhihui.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Taco Bell's All-New Quesalupa: An EXCLUSIVE REVIEW!

I got a sneak preview taste of Taco Bell's latest and greatest limited-time only offering. So does the much ballyhooed Quesalupa live up to all the hype?

By: Jimbo X

Taco Bell certainly knows how to do promotions. Even if you don't like the fast food establishment, you at least have to admire their stick-to-itiveness. Once these guys get a hold of something that works, they're going to milk it for all its worth. I fully expect to be eating Doritos Locos Tacos permutations until the year 2050 and by the time I am on my death bed, I wholeheartedly expect to have tasted Cinnabon Delights incorporating ever last General Mills cereal in production.

The peculiar thing about Taco Bell's ongoing quesa-everything jihad is that it is an idea more or less stolen from their No. 1 competitor. For years, hardcore Chipotle enthusiasts spoke of something called the "quesarito" - being, as the portmanteau would suggest, a whole damn quesadilla wrapped around a burrito. Or is it a burrito with a quesadilla inside it? Regardless, it was a fabled "secret" menu item that captivated the Internet

But Chipotle, you see, made a dire mistake. Instead of running with the social-media-spawned gimmick, they never took the thing national and incorporated into their regular lineup. Chipotle - that hipper, more adult taco shack, that prides itself on organic whole grain-blah-blah - was above mass-marketing such a hokey and corny product. They didn't want customers coming to their stores for kitschy freak food, but for high-quality, overpriced salads. And that's where Taco Bell took advantage.

Apparently not knowing they were sitting on a goldmine, the suits at Chipotle never trademarked the term "quesarito." This allowed Taco Bell's parent company YUM! Brands to swoop in and steal the core concept underneath their snooty, pretentious noses and mass produce their own damned 'rito. As expected, the Taco Bell version of the Chipotle "hack" was a huge success, spawning several variations including one augmented by Sriracha sauce and the other doused with the brand's beloved lava sauce

The end result? In 2015, Taco Bell sales increased 4 percent, while Chipotle sales declined 37 percentage points. Granted, a national e. coli scare was at the heart of Chipotle's disastrous performance, but still - ever since Bell got the quesarito - the cheese encrusted Spear of Habsburg it is - they have utterly dominated the pseudo-Tex-Mex market in the U.S. of A

And the latest stop on the quesa-everything express? By golly, would you believe they went and made themselves a Quesalupa now? Yes, that's right - a chulapa with a quesarito baked inside it. Yeah, you heard me right - not wrapped around, not wrapped inside, but motherfucking fried inside the flaky, chewy chalupa soft shell itself. I don't know how they did it either, but it's probably Satanism. You know, like the kind Hitler allegedly practiced in the waning days of World War II. BUT I DIGRESS. 

Before the product was wheeled out nationwide, those who printed out an RSVP coupon thingy were privy to trying themselves a sample 'lupa on Feb. 6. To say Taco Bell went all out for the promotion is kind of like saying the NFL gets just a wee bit grandiloquent in time for the Super Bowl. Stores are already adorned with promotional materials hailing the arrival of this (not-so) secret menu item. In fact, when you actually GET your Quesalupa, the thing is decked out in a spiffy, faux-gold wrapper, like it was the gilded winning ticket from Willy Wonka or a first-run copy of The Legend of Zelda. This thing, you can just tell, is going to be something special

As soon as you unwrap the packaging, you'll observe the 'lupa is wrapped up in a secondary wrapper, a'la the Doritos Locos Tacos. On one side it mentions the product's name (in case you have Alzheimer's and need to be reminded of what you're chewing at all times) and on the other, the product extols itself as "the cheese lover's shell" with an "extra cheesy center." You just know something has to have a lot of cheese on it and inside it, if it uses the word cheese twice on one piece of cardboard.

For the most part, the product is basically just your standard chalupa. In fact, just looking at the product, there is really no way to distinguish it from a standard 'lupa. It is not until you actually hold this sumbitch in your hand that you really find out this is a whole new menu offering. The most obvious distinguishing characteristic is that this thing is heavy, feeling almost twice as hefty as the regular chalupa. Interestingly enough, almost all of the product's weight is centralized toward the bottom, which has this weird rectangular-shaped base. In fact, it is so flat you can easily use it to stand the Quesalupa upright without any of its contents tipping over. And hey, speaking of contents...

...yeah, they are the exact same stuff you'd find in a regular chalupa. You get your ground beef (which I hear is now only 12 percent "mystery" product nowadays), some pieces of sliced tomato, a lot of iceberg lettuce, some shredded cheddar and of course, a big old dollop of sour cream hanging out at the bottom of the shell, just gluing everything in place. For the most part, the chalupa shell is unchanged, but with one huge difference. 

So, you might be wondering "eh, Jimbo, where's the fuckin' quasadilla part they promised us?" Well, Mr. and/or Mrs. Toilet Mouth, the quesadilla isn't around or even inside the chalupa. It is literally baked inside it, in much the same way the cheese is baked with stuffed crust pizzas. So fundamentally, the chalupa shell itself is really nothing more than a quesadilla caked in masa and deep-fried. Which, depending on your perspective, is either the grossest thing ever or the most delicious ... and probably both, at the same time.

It's pretty hard to capture the white cheese on white tortilla on white chalupa shell, so you'll just have to make do with this photo, I am afraid. Indeed, the bottom of the item is absolutely loaded with melted, delicious queso, and it certainly gives the product a nice, flavorful kick. Needless to say, this thing is very filling - as someone who eats cheesy bean and rice burritos like Tic-Tacs, I can assure you two of these things back-to-back will have you in a partial food stamp coma in no time. Alas, as I wrapped up my 'lupa (get it! because it's entire gimmick is that it is all wrapped up and shit), it suddenly dawned on me - this may very well be the first Taco Bell L-T-O product I've eaten in a long time that was sans a specialty sauce of any kind. As delicious as the 'lupa is - and yes, it is indeed delicious - it really could've used a little extra something to make it stand out even more. Then again, that's just part and parcel of Taco Bell's grander scheme, I suppose; we enjoy the Quesalupa for a month, it goes away, and just when we've all but forgotten about it ... coming, this August, the all-new SRIRACHA QUESALUPA! Mark my words, they will find a way to make a Fritos co-branded 'lupa - somehow, someway, someday

Remember kids: the number one cause of house fires are burritos.

All right folks, time for my final thoughts on the newfangled Quesalupa. Overall, I think it's a darn snazzy little product, and something I certainly don't mind paying $2.99 for. While it does sound like a gimmick, the surfeit of cheese welded inside the shell really does make the offering taste like something entirely different, and as I stated earlier, it unquestionably does a dandy job filling you up. With so much hype, though, I really wished the Bell would have done something entirely different, but then again, I suppose that's part of the big picture; you start off with the "normal" product, and then over the next two years, you wheel out all of the crazy shit - imagine, if your mind doesn't explode doing so, a bacon-bit encrusted, Volcano-sauce-doused Quesalupa, with like, a fuckin' ranch Dorito's flavored shell. Oh, it's coming. You know it is

So, uh, to conclude and stuff? The Quesalupa is good. Really, really good, and you should probably try it. And Taco Bell should give them to me for free, because considering all of the free publicity I've given them over the years, I more than damn deserve it

Saturday, February 6, 2016

This Week in Social Justice Warrior-dom

A fond look back at all the things that had ultra-P.C. jihadists OUTRAGED ... before they forget all about them in just a few days.

By: Jimbo X

In Europe, more fun with refugees ensues

According to the BBC, approximately one million migrants and refugees of North African and Middle Eastern dissent entered Europe last year amidst the ongoing Syrian crisis. Alas, despite the hyper-socialist, ultra-multicultural continent initially patting itself on its back for rolling out the welcome mat to predominantly Muslim immigrants, not everybody is too happy with the sudden Islamic influx. Following the horrific Paris terror attack and reports of thousands of women across Germany being gang assaulted on New Year's Eve, anti-immigrant sentiment in the region is soaring, and clearly, the prospects of retaliatory right-wing violence is a MUCH greater concern than the waves of ghastly violence perpetrated by migrants that are already happening. So what is actually happening in Europe's multiculturalism-uber-alles paradise these days? Well, here's the short list:

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Considering how much the progressive-to-the-point-of-self-blinding media in Europe goes out of its way to make sure such incidents never make it to the front page or home page, I'd say it's pretty safe to assume that there's WAY more stuff like this happening throughout Europe. Alas, no matter how many brainwashed children behead people on camera and how many extremists plot to go on anti-Western murder rampages, native Europeans continue to look away, pretending their homeland isn't being torn asunder by people who hate their guts even after they were given a free-of-charge sanctuary. This is the world political correctness has created, folks: one where people would literally prefer death to being perceived as just the teeny-tiniest bit prejudiced.

Funny how every time the SJWs win, so does militant Islam, no?

Rappers prove they really are the most enlightened among us

In late January, Decatur, Ga.-based rapper B.O.B. - a ninth-grade dropout perhaps best known for his duet with that chick form Paramore - went on an all-night tweet-fest, in which he publicly touted his support of the flat-earth theory, denied the Apollo 11 moon landing ever took place and claimed that celebrities are actually being produced in human cloning facilities. Following a few ripostes from acclaimed astrophysicist and atheist propagandist Neil Degrasse Tyson, B.O.B. responded with a "diss track" referencing, among other things, freemason conspiracies, his own love of pot and why he believes others should read the works of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. Not to be outdone, former teenage heroin slinger and probable murderer Chief Keef  has ruined the lives of three Minneapolis college students, who have been subjected to threats, vandalism and constant harassment after the esteemed lyricist tweeted an erroneous home address of someone who had irked him in a bout of online video gaming

Georgia is indeed the best of all possible states

Sometimes, I feel sorry for everybody who doesn't live in metro Atlanta, which unquestionably has best mix of batshit insane country crackers and ghetto sociopaths of any M.S.A. in the nation. Don't believe me? Just take a gander at what you outsiders missed out on over the last couple of days:

Ya'll come on down anytime you want, you hear!

A tale of two racially-motivated attacks

On Feb. 1, hundreds gathered to protest the alleged assault of three African-American SUNY college students on an Albany city bus, at the hands of a dozen no-good, "n-word" spoutin' racist white folks. Alas, although Hilary Clinton tweeted her support for the students, video cameras on the bus - which, wouldn't you know it, just so happened to be equipped with audio capabilities - don't exactly back up the women's claims that they were assailed with a series of racial insults. Meanwhile, six black teenagers were arrested Jan. 28 for brutally mauling a white Metro passenger in a so-called "Wolf Pack" attack in D.C., with video evidence CLEARLY demonstrating their guilt. As it turns out, yet another "Wolf Pack" attack transpired later that very same day at a D.C. Metro stationSimilar attacks, all involving young black people violently assaulting random white people, were recorded Jan. 15, Jan. 2, and Nov. 22. But be careful: as we all know, only racists make assumptions based on objective data and statistically-confirmed patterns. 

The womenfolk slam CDC for report discouraging alcohol consumption

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released an advisory suggesting young women who are not on birth control who want to become pregnant (fun fact: 51 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplannedshould abstain from drinking, lest their unborn be saddled with the side effects of fetal alcohol syndrome - which, in case you didn't know, can result in children with severe cognitive impairments and physical deformations. Alas, a whole bunch of pseudo-feminists got their Victoria's Secret-purchased panties in a wad, with Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams and The Atlantic's Olga Khazan and Julie Beck slamming the CDC for telling women what do with their bodies. And as for the bodies of those children who come out with swollen heads and severe retardation? How dare they tell their mother's what they can put inside themselves, especially those entitled misogynists displaying the IQ of a first-grader 43 years after their birth!

NBA team nixes Chinese New Year celebration so as to not offend African-Americans

On Feb. 1, several members of the Sacramento Kings - most notably, star center DeMarcus Cousins - convinced the higher-ups to pull plans for a free tee-shirt giveaway celebrating the Chinese New Year. The problem? The shirt, celebrating the year of the monkey, had a photograph of a monkey in the team's purple and black colors on it. Per Cousins, the shirt is offensive, because February is also Black History Month in the States, and in case you didn't know it, "monkey" is a popular, disparaging euphemism for African-Americans. Team president Chris Granger told The Sacramento Bee the woeful episode is further proof the entire dadgum organization is in dire need of sensitivity training. "In an effort to celebrate Chinese New Year, we had some concerns," he said. "Certainly, we don't want to offend anybody.Apparently not a concern for the Kings? Sacramento's Chinese-Americans, who were just told "fuck your way of life" so as to affirm the way of life for another minority. 

Popular club drug hailed as a "miracle cure" for depression ... despite hardly any evidence indicating it actually is

Sara Solovitch - an acclaimed "journalist" who is actually just paid huge sums of money by agenda-driven foundations to write shit that supports them and their interests - had the online "legalize everything" contingent whipped into a frenzy when a piece about the medical benefits of ketamine - aka, the party drug "Special K" - was published on virtually every news website in the world on Feb. 1. Per her dubious math, ketamine has been demonstrated to virtually vanquish depression in 75 percent of trial subjects. Left out of Solovitch's flowery praise of Special K as a psychiatric aid? The fact that only 200 people worldwide have ever participated in clinical trials involving ketamine as a treatment for depression. Furthermore, Colleen Loo of Australia's UNSW School of Medicine notes that the drug has never been tested in placebo-controlled trials, whatever benefits of the drug as a treatment against depression diminish in just a few days and long-term use risks include liver damage, bladder dysfunction and cognitive impairment. Once again, Solovitch's advocacy-journalism appears to be yet another attempt by the media to reinforce the idea that dissatisfaction with one's predicament is a disease instead of what it actually is, a temporary perspective. And instead of introspectively solving your own problems and moving forward, what's the solution? The same as it always is; pump yourself full of mind-altering chemicals, numb yourself to your own misery and never move on to being self-sufficient as a human being ... with pharmaceutical companies, naturally, profiting at every turn

The Intercept reporter makes up a year's worth of stories

The latest to join a long-line of supposed "journalists" who made up bullshit to further their own political agenda is The Intercept's Juan Thompson, who was fired recently when his employer - one of those fly-by-night piece of shit social justice advocacy blogs masquerading as a real news site - revealed that he did a whole heck of a lot of lying in his articles. Among the highlights of Thompson's work? He made up a cousin who said Dylann Roof was inspired to shoot up Emanuel A.M.E. Zion Church last summer because of white power music and his girlfriend leaving him for a black man, completely fabricated a #BlackLivesMatter melee at a Donald Trump rally and invented a non-existent criminal justice professor for a story about the Ferguson, Missouri protests/riots. Thompson even went as far as making fake e-mail accounts for his editors to hide the fact that his stories were goddamn bogus; alas, despite this, The Intercept has yet to pull down any of his stories: instead, they are leaving them up for the page clicks ... I mean, to curate how seriously they take reporting deception.

D.C. bill would pay people to not commit crimes

Hey, would you like an extra $9,000 in your pocket each year? If one piece of legislation in the nation's capital (but just the city part of it, I am afraid) is approved, all you have to do is be one of 50 individuals deemed likely to engage in criminal activity who participates in a pilot program offering 9K a year - in addition to all of your other regularly scheduled entitlements - for simply proving their diversion program works by not committing any crimes. The program - tabbed at an unbelievable $25.6 million - is set for a council vote March 1. Interestingly, the program is modeled after a similar Bay Area program, whose program director swears up and down is responsible for San Francisco's downturn in gun homicides since 2010. Obviously, the entire thing is a long, drawn-out science project to "prove" that poverty is at the root of violent crime, but turnabout is fair play: what in the hell does that say about your constituents when you need to give them financial rewards to stop them from killing one another?

A vulgar display of (white) power? 

Phil Anselmo, one-time Pantera frontman, has been effectively blacklisted from the heavy metal community following a drunken performance at a Jan. 22 L.A.  event celebrating the life of deceased guitarist Dimebag Darrell. Anselmo was recorded shouting "white power" and doing a Nazi salute, immediately drawing the ire of fellow metal musicians Rob Flynn of Machine Head, Scott Ian of Anthrax and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, all demanding he be publicly condemned. His band Down has already been booted off a Dutch rock festival, and more than 1,000 fans have signed an online petition urging his removal from the upcoming Download Festival. Metal Sucks co-founder Axl Rosenberg (one guess what his ethnicity is!) published a long screed on his website decrying Anselmo for what he perceives is a career filled with crypto-racist behavior, ultimately determining that all of his fellow metal fans are "cowards" for not crucifying Anselmo for his thoughtcrimes. Seeing as how heavy metal fans have for decades celebrated music praising devil worship, rape, mass murder, cannibalism, torture, the Holocaust and necrophilia, that Anselmo's three-second antics is what constitutes "too much" certainly validates Mr. Rosenberg's assertion: one way or another, today's metal fans are, indeed, cowards

...and a few headlines that speak for themselves...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Tribute to Tecmo Bowl

A fond, reverential look back at the greatest football video game franchise ever.

By: Jimbo X

When the term "football video game" comes up, most people think Madden. However, for old school purists, the term drums up heartfelt memories of one thing, and one thing only: Tecmo goddamn motherfucking shitting Bowl. (Official title? Just plain Tecmo Bowl.) 

Indeed, while football games have certainly gotten more realistic looking and complex, the simple, unrefined joys of Tecmo Bowl remain the apex of the genre. As simple as the games were, they were just so much fun to play - who cares if you couldn't call 40 different audibles or challenge plays and the turf never deteriorated in real-time when you were having a blast just mowing down the opposing QB with a mere flick of the D-pad and racking up 1,000 yards a game in rushing offense? This series is so beloved that almost 30 years since the very first game came out, people are still playing it, cherishing it and - to a certain extent - worshiping it as the pinnacle of arcade sports game excellence. 

That said, a lot of people tend to overlook just how long the series has been around. Make no mistakes, this is a franchise whose import stretches well beyond the scope of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and even a little bit before it. As the rest of American society tries to make itself excited for a Super Bowl 50 matchup nobody is really all that interested in watching, I've decided to take the time and effort to shine a spotlight on an entirely different kind of Bowl - one that has not only shaped video gaming culture, but really, American football culture itself. 

So grease up your palms, keep your eyes on the cathode ray tube and whatever you do, don't let anybody pick the Detroit Lions; it's time to pay our respects to the best football video game series ever...

Tecmo Bowl 
Arcade (1987)

The first Tecmo Bowl game is the odd duck of the franchise. While it has many similarities to the Tecmo Bowl we all know and love, it's certainly a standalone game with no real connection to any of the subsequent entries. For starters, there are no NFL teams or players. In fact, there are only two teams to choose from - a generic red-bedecked squad called the Bulldogs and a blue-clad ensemble called the Wildcats. The iconography is clearly meant to mimic the college football experience, right down to the Big House-inspired stadium. Speaking of big, the cabinet for this sumbitch was one of the hugest of its time - next to the old six-man Konami X-Men coin-op, it had to have been the largest arcade unit floating around in the early George H.W. years. The two-screen cabinet was also one of the biggest coin-op scams of the decade, forcing you to pump quarters into the machine every 30 seconds to keep playing it; to finish an entire game - and thus, see that awesome concluding cinematic of fans tearing down the goalpost - you had to drop at least six bucks in pocket change. The gameplay is also pretty weird, chiefly in the fact that you don't get to pick plays - each down you find yourself in a randomly generated formation (sometimes you are working out of the shotgun, sometimes you are in the I-form) - and you can't change receivers or backs once the ball has been snapped (which, naturally, leads to a lot of QB scrambling.) While it's perhaps too simplistic a game nowadays, it did have some pretty cool touches, including the ability to jump for passes, break tackles with some joystick twiddling finesse and the big one, lateral the ball like a motherfucker. It's an extraordinary limited game, but it is worth at least one playthrough - especially on the .ROM sites, where thankfully, you don't have to shell out enough money for a McDonalds combo meal to play it. (Note: the game is also available as a Wii download and is featured on the Xbox compilation disc Tecmo Classic Arcade, which the Internet tells me IS compatible with the Xbox360 if you've downloaded the proper updates. As for its functionality on the XboxOne? You'll have to Google that shit on your own, whippersnapper.) 

Tecmo Bowl 
NES (1989)

Well, what more can be said about this one? With the possible exception of Walter Payton Football on the Sega Master System, this was the first American football game on a home console worth a damn. Seriously, have you people ever attempted to play stuff like 10 Yard Fight, NES Play-Action Football and God pity your soul, LJN'S NFL? While the game is undoubtedly limited, what is included is just balls-out fantastic 8-bit sports action. The lack of a proper NFL license hurts it (yeah, time for the Chicago Penguins Holding Harps to take on the Denver Blue-Hair Unicorn Chicks!) as does the fact the game only has a dozen teams to choose from, but at the end of the day, the core gameplay is just so satisfying hardly any of that matters. As soon as that awesome, Jock Jams before there were Jock Jams theme picks up (before slowly transitioning to what I have always thought sounded like the opening instrumental from Family Feud) you just KNOW good times are ahead of you. Sure, I could bore you with the same old commentary about how unstoppable Bo Jackson is in the game or how easy it was to block punts with L.T. and Dexter Manley, but for me, it has always been the little things that made this one so memorable; lobbing automatic touchdowns in the shotgun to receivers running curl routes, double teaming the shit out of Jerry Rice, LOL-ing at Minnesota's god-awful reverse run play,the fact that all of the black players were actually purple and, of course, all of that blatant advertising for Rygar. To this day, this game remains one of the funnest multiplayer sports experiences on the Nintendo; who'd thunk so many years of joy could've been derived from only four offensive plays, no? 

Tecmo Bowl
Famicom (1990)

In the pantheon of Tecmo Bowl games, this one is oft-considered the "lost" sheep of the series. By and large, it is the exact same game Americans got in 1989; the same teams, the exact same plays, hell, there isn't even any kanji to be seen. However, there have been considerable changes to the team rosters, which benefit a few squads and are to the detriment of a few others. Eric Dickerson is no longer with Indianapolis (as is the case with the second edition printings of Tecmo Bowl USA), Mark Green replaces Dennis Gentry as kickoff man in Chicago, Cleveland rises up the defensive tiers with the addition of linebacker Clay Matthews, and because he wasn't overpowered ENOUGH, Bo Jackson is actually even faster in this one then he is in the American version. But it is San Francisco that came out the best, gaining a killer defensive add in linebacker Chris Haley and a HUGE offensive upgrade in wideout John Taylor. Frankly, if you've played NES version of Tecmo Bowl, you've more or less played this game. Still, it's pretty cool knowing there is a slightly modified version of the iconic pigskin title out there - especially when it has cartridge art as WTF as this one

Tecmo Bowl
Game Boy (1991)

All in all, this is an extremely well-done port of the NES game, which sacrifices astonishingly little in the migration to the teeny-tiny monochrome screen. As with its NES older brother, you get 12 teams to choose from, each porting about four offensive plays a piece. Obviously, there is a limited color palette, but the sprites themselves are actually fairly detailed, and the graphics are well above average for the platform. Where the game really shines, however, is the audio department; not only is the music in the game on par with the music from the NES version, it might be even better (although some of the other sound effects, like the quarterback signals, are far more primitive.) Gameplay-wise, you really can't complain about anything here; the controls are virtually identical to the 8-bit game and the core fundamentals are totally unchanged. Toss the ball to a covered receiver? Yeah, that's still going to be an automatic INT. Hand the ball off to Sweetness when Dallas is geared up for coverage down field? Yeah, that's an effortless touchdown, just like on the Nintendo. There really weren't that many sports games on the original Game Boy, and this has to be far and away the best football game released for the system. If you've never played it, it is definitely worth checking out, if absolutely nothing else, to see the miraculous job the programmers did converting the title. Pour yourself a glass of Dirty Sprite, make sure the AC adapter is plugged in and watch those defenders bounce into the fifth row whenever Bo storms down the sideline - this game is pure, old-school Tecmo Bowl bliss, through and through. And as fate would have it? It would also be the only portable Bowl we'd be able to get our hands on for more than a decade. But more on that forgotten piece of Tecmo history a little bit later, dear reader... 

Tecmo Super Bowl
NES (1991)

For my money, Tecmo Super Bowl isn't just the best football game on the NES. In my humblest o' opinions, it's the absolute BEST NES game ever, the best 8-bit title ever released and quite possibly the absolute best sports video game of all-time (it's certainly neck and neck with NHL '94, at the absolute least.) Despite all of the praise the game receives - and has been receiving for a quarter century now - we still tend to overlook just how revolutionary this game actually was. Released extremely late in the NES life cycle (the SNES was already on the market by the time it hit store shelves), Tecmo Super Bowl can rightly lay claim to being the last "must-experience" 8-bit Nintendo offering. While the core gameplay is unchanged from its precursor, everything around it was amped up to 11, creating far and away the most comprehensive, features-loaded sports game of the third console generation. Not only did the game have every contemporary NFL team represented - complete with accurate representations of their respective 1991-92 rosters - the playbook was vastly expanded, a robust season mode was added and the presentation - complete with the iconic cutscenes of defenders looking like they are taking a piss on quarterbacks following sacks - was unlike anything we had ever seen in a sports game up to that point. This title took the tried and true Tecmo Bowl gameplay and absolutely perfected it, creating the most accessible - yet surprisingly nuanced - video pigskin offering ever. The term "timeless" gets thrown around a lot in the video game world, but TSB is one of the rare titles that is precisely that - it was a hoot when it first came out, it was every bit as fun and addictive in the Dreamcast era and now - in a world of smart phones and tablet devices completely unfathomable in the NES era - it's still an absolute blast to kick back and play. This game isn't just the zenith of virtual football - it might just be the zenith of virtual entertainment altogether. (And as an aside: 25 years later, I still hate the ever-loving shit out of Christian Okoye, and everything he has ever stood for.)

Tecmo Super Bowl
Genesis and SNES (1993)

Now here is a game that tends to get a bad rap. Released two years after TSB on the NES, this iteration is fundamentally the same game, albeit with the obvious graphical and audio upgrades. The rosters, of course, now reflect the 1993-94 season, so most of the teams that were great on the Nintendo - the Raiders, the Eagles, the Lions - now suck like a turbo-charged vacuum cleaner. By and large, this is one of the most unbalanced sports games of the 16-bit console generation, with five overpowered teams (Dallas, San Fran, Washington, the Giants and Buffalo) and a lot of teams fluctuating from mediocre (Atlanta, Houston) to flat out turd-tactic (Seattle, New England.) The playbooks are more or less the same as in the NES iteration, but the gameplay feels quite different. It's had to describe, but I guess the best way to put it is that the players feel a whole lot floatier - unlike in the Nintendo version, you never really feel as if you have 100 percent control of your receivers, especially when it comes to quarterback scrambling. Audiovisually, things are spruced up quite a bit, and there is a greater emphasis on cutscenes. In fact, on certain plays, if the defense has accurately guesstimated your call, as soon as you snap the ball a cut scene is triggered featuring your back getting Rock Bottomed behind the line of scrimmage. Yeah, that does get old, and fast. Alas, despite the over-reliance on the gimmick, the core gameplay is almost as smooth and satisfying as it is on the NES, and the heightened graphics definitely make this one a totally different aesthetic experience. Granted, it is more of remake than a full-fledged sequel (apparently, that's the Internet's biggest criticism of the offering), but you know what? It's still a fun, engaging and hard to put down arcade sports experience. And it's also notable for being one of the few SNES sports games - alike Boxing Legends of the Ring and Super High Impact - that is objectively superior to the Genesis version (thanks in no small part to having a better soundtrack, which is fundamentally a pseudo-industrial remix of TSB tracks from the NES game.)

Tecmo Super Bowl II: Special Edition
Genesis and SNES (1995)

This is probably the rarest of the mass produced, physical copy Tecmo Super Bowls out there. In fact, only 15,000 copies of the SNES version were purportedly shipped to the U.S., making it one of the few sports games from the era that will cost you more than a few bucks on eBay these days. The game is really strange in a number of facets; indeed, at times, it feels more like a prototype for the third and final TSB than an actual standalone game. Structurally, the gameplay is exactly what you'd expect. The field is still displayed horizontal, and the hyper-fast pass and run mechanics are unchanged. However, there are some differences. For one thing, you now have two playbooks to choose from, which finally makes defensive play a more strategic part of the game. But the big one is a loaner from Madden - the ability to call audibles when you just know the secondary is about to blitz your ass to the stone age. You get a solid season mode, a slew of multiplayer modes and the graphics are certainly a vast improvement over the visuals in the first 16-bit TSB. While the SNES version looks and sounds slightly better, the controls and overall gameplay are MUCH better on the Genesis (I attribute it to that Blast Processing, naturally.) Oh, and the coolest thing about this game (and really, the reason it is worth going out of your way to experience?) It gives you the option to play as every NFL team from the 1992, 1993 and 1994 season. Which means, yes, FINALLY, you can stage that fantasy match up between the 4-12 '92 Phoenix Cardinals and the 2-14 '94 Houston Oilers, just like in your dreams. 

Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition
Genesis and SNES (1995)

While I will always consider Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES to be the zenith of the franchise, the third and final 16-bit iteration of the series is a kinda' close second. From the opening cinematic - which feels more like something out of The Terminator than Madden - you are just getting a bang-up experience from start-to-finish. The player models, stadiums and animations are all vastly improved, and the playbooks have been enhanced to create a slightly more simulation-like experience (although the core gameplay is still all about the hot and heavy arcade action.) The audibles return and the season mode has been beefed up considerably - in fact, now you can sign free agents and even make your own damn football players and mold them into homegrown superstars over the course of the season (a feature, I might add, which is really a game unto itself.) Sure, it has some glitches here and there (sometimes, when the ball is fumbled, the defender who scoops up the ball will magically transform into an offensive player and recover the pigskin), but on the whole, this is arguably the most satisfying, holistic football game experience of Bill Clinton's first term of office (although Madden '94 and Bill Walsh College Football '95 REALLY put up a fight for that superlative.) Both versions are very, very good, but I consider the Genesis version the superior offering. Its sound may not be as impressive, but the football action is much faster and more fluid, and I actually prefer its animations to the Super Nintendo iteration. You can't go wrong with either, however, and if you've never played this game before, you are really missing out on some high-scoring, mid-90s cartridge-based excellence. 

Tecmo Super Bowl
Playstation (1996)

Now here is a game I had totally forgotten about. Released in the weird transitional phase from the SNES to the N64, perhaps it is not too surprising the game never got a fair shake in the marketplace. In hindsight though, this is actually a really damn good game, which does an admirable job of fusing the old school Tecmo Bowl arcade model with the emerging, NFL GameDay type of simulation. By and large, the game plays a LOT like the last 16-bit TSB, albeit with improved visuals, MUCH better sound (it is a CD-ROM based game, isn't it?) and way, WAY more playbook options. The create-a-player mode from Final Edition is back, but it's kind of a moot point because the in-game team editor gives you the ability to trade as many players as you want - or even rename them, overhaul their technical abilities and change their ethnicity, if you so want. Still, you get a full play-by-play announcer (standard now, I know, but MIND BLOWING at the time), semi-3D player models and the biggie, a totally controllable 360 game camera - which means, yes, you CAN play the game from a vertical perspective, if that's your fancy. All in all, this is just a dandy pick-up-and-play experience, which holds up a LOT better than the more realistic, strategic Madden offerings from the era. This one really deserves more recognition - especially from TSB aficionados, who may have initially written it off as an unappealing novelty 20 years ago. 

Tecmo Bowl
Mobile (2003)

Unless you want to count the Tiger Electronics LCD "port" of Tecmo Super Bowl released in 1993, this was the first portable version of Tecmo Bowl on the market in at least a dozen years. Due to the media format it was released on, however, the game has all but vanished from the face of the earth; I tried as hard as I could, but I couldn't find a single .ROM of the title anywhere. In fact, any information on the game is pretty hard to come by today; there are a few screenshots floating around the Internet, but beyond a few old IGN and Gamespot reviews, that's about it. I even reached out to Brad of, one of the absolute best online repositories for info on Tecmo Bowl, and he was stumped. "I did look for a YouTube video quickly out of of curiosity, but found none," said the dude who is so into Tecmo Bowl that he covered his body in pixel art from the game. "I've always been aware of it, but not interested enough to seek it out." So, uh, what do we know about the game? Well, it came out in the early 2000s and was produced by Tecmo's short-lived mobile game department. Remember, this game came out six years before the first generation iPhone was released, so we're not talking touch-screen gameplay; you had to play this sumbitch with a QWERTY keyboard or the old touch-tone dial pad, like it was a ColecoVision game or something. There was no NFL license or players, and 16 teams to choose from. Gameplay, per the old video game site reviews, was fairly similar to the NES iteration of the game, although the reviewers in question never really got into the specifics of how the controls worked. Did you push "5" to move forward and "6" to hike the ball, or did you select a play and a designated route runner and the game ran it for you, RPG-style? Sadly, it looks like we'll never find out; unless someone still has a Nokia phone from '03 - that's still in working condition, with this game still installed on it - this is one version of Tecmo Bowl that appears last to the ravages of time forever

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff
DS (2008)

Excluding the mobile phone game, this was the first handheld TSB to drop in 17 years, and the first TSB you could walk into a store and purchase in 12. Among Tecmo Super Bowl enthusiasts, it is a very controversial title; the consensus, however, seems to be that it's a halfhearted nostalgic cash-grab, simply using the TSB handle without capturing any of the magic of the old-school 8-bit and 16-bit titles. While Kickoff no doubt has some shortcomings, I have to disagree with the majority (a shocker, I know.) All in all, this is actually a pretty sound little football game and easily the best handheld pigskin game on the DS ... which, yeah, is sort of like declaring yourself the most intelligent kid in remedial math, but whatever. Since EA gobbled up the NFL license all to themselves, there are no NFL logos or players when you first boot up the game - just a bunch of random dudes and teams with monikers like the Los Angeles Supercocks and Pittsburgh Poisons. Thankfully, however, the game comes with a fairly robust create-a-team and create-a-player editor, so if you have enough dedication and time on your hands, you can easily restyle every player in the game to contemporary pro football stars (just as long as their names don't sound like curse words ... imagine my surprise when I tried to rename a character "Matt Cassell" and the game wouldn't let me.) You get a decent regular season mode and multiplayer, including WiFi enabled online play. And that's where things get a bit disappointing. While the gameplay, overall, is fairly enjoyable, there are a lot of iffy things about the control scheme; it is way too easy to get intercepted and running the ball feels stiff (shit, its even a little difficult to do the iconic Tecmo Bowl zig-zag.) The stylus play does very little to improve the passing game (in fact, it probably makes it worse) and whoever decided to include those goofy "power-ups" deserves a thorough lambasting. That said, if you can just appreciate the game for what it offers and what it mostly follows through on, I think you'll find this one to be a rather entertaining little diversion. And for you trivia hounds out there, Tecmo originally had plans to port this game to the Wii, as well; following the slow sales of Kickoff, however, they retooled the title into Family Fun Football, which, as you'd imagine, looks like absolute and total shit

Tecmo Bowl Throwback
Xbox 360 and Playstation3 (2010)

To date, the last Tecmo Bowl game was an online download for the PS3 and Xbox360. Designed by the same guys who made the cult Xbox hits Death Row and XIII, the game is - at the same time - a loving homage to the Tecmo Bowl mythos and a much-more-entertaining-than-it-should-have-been standalone football offering. Of course, the game is sans an official NFL license and no actual players appear, but as with Kickoff on the DS, you can easily rename the characters and franchises to imitate their real-world pro football counterparts. The $10 download had both single-player and multiplayer options, with all of the usual season mode shenanigans. In terms of gameplay, it is actually a lot less in-depth than TSB II and III on the Genesis and SNES, instead offering a more pared back, offensive-oriented arcade score-fest a'la the NES masterpiece. The graphics are very sleek, but if you want, all you have to do is push one button and the game switches from 16:9 3D visuals to old-school, 8-bit 4:3 ratio sprites. Granted, the feature loses its appeal after awhile, but it is nonetheless fun to transform into 2D-mode to cap off a long TD run. Sure, it's not the full-fledged sequel to TSB on the PS1 we've been waiting for for 15 years, but for what it is - and isn't - this is still a pretty entertaining romp down memory lane. An iPhone version was released a year later - and although I've never played it, it looks pretty much identical to the console version

Shameless product placement ... in a Tecmo game? Get out of here!

And there you have it folks, almost 30 years worth of Tecmo Bowl nostalgia. Seeing as how Tecmo is in dire financial straits these days and Electronic Arts won't give up the NFL license until at least the year 3080, odds are we probably won't be seeing any new Tecmo Bowl offerings for quite some time. That said, even if we have indeed seen the last of the series, we can at least take take solace in the fact that, for a good ten year stretch or so, the franchise gave us some of the most entertaining arcade football games ever. Despite all of the fancy graphics and online play and ability to download rosters and gameplay that corresponds to the NFL's real-world concussion protocols (really), today's football video games just can't match the simplistic wonder of Tecmo Bowl. Yes, it is a weird imitation of American football and I'd be lying if I said it is the most technical sports game achievement out there, but what the games lack in realism, they more than make up for it in good old-fashioned fun. The gameplay was accessible to all, but nuanced enough to provide a literally endless array of single player and multiplayer possibilities. As good as games like Zelda and Metroid may be, they are still the same game - with the same bad guys in the same spot and the same bosses moving in the same pattern - every time you play it. With sports games like Tecmo Bowl, however, every time you pick up the pad, it is a different experience. No two games of TSB ever play out the same, and thanks to the hilarity of human err, every Tecmo Bowl contest has an aura of unpredictability to it. 

To this day, Tecmo Bowl and its long-line of successors - most notably, of course, being TSB on the NES - have maintained a huge following, with national tournaments held throughout the country, ESPN producing a full-length documentary on its significance to the world of sports, and even die-hard Tecmo Bowl techies who hack the TSB .ROM files to create annually-updated versions of the game with contemporary teams, rosters and stats (and if that wasn't enough, there are even some folks out there who have created entirely new games out of the tried-and-true engine, including the only NCAA-themed football games you'll be playing anytime soon.) 

Simply put, Tecmo Bowl is much more than an old video game series. It is a part of the American sports vernacular and a reminder of just how simple, uncomplicated and unpretentious video games used to be. There may be prettier and more realistic and more features-loaded pigskin sims out there, but to this day, I don't think I've ever played a football video game as absorbing, as addictive and as enjoyable as the games spawned by Tecmo Bowl. We're still talking about 'em 25 years later, and we're going to be talking about them 50 years later. Shit, we'll probably be living on the fuckin' moon some day, still talking about the infamous "nose tackle trick." 

Consoles come and go, you know, but true greatness never goes away. As long as there is both football and video games, people will forever flock back to Tecmo Bowl - and they will continue to celebrate it, as one would any unconquered champion of the gridiron.