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Tecmo Bowl (VC)
Review By: Jared Black
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Genre: Sports
ESRB: Everyone
# Of Players: 1-2
Online Play: No
Accessories: Wii Remote, Classic Controller, GameCube Controller
Buy Now: Buy Tecmo Bowl (VC) at Amazon.com!

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Oh forlorn dash, how we feel your pain! We know you’re lonely, what with your sleek linear exterior at the top left of the screen in Tecmo Bowl now serving no apparent purpose whatsoever. When they replaced all of those player names that used to be to the right of you with blanks, they didn’t even bother to delete you too despite the fact that you’re no longer needed. As a result, you continue to toil on meaninglessly, and remind us all of what once was. Don’t worry little dash, we too share in your pain.

You see, where you once separated player name from number, you now only separate numbers from…blackness. We’re not going to blame anyone for this grievous transgression…although EA now owns the exclusive NFLPA license, we don’t know what kind of effort was made on Nintendo and/or Tecmo’s part to get an exception for this re-release. Whatever the case may be though, the loss of rights to the license means that player names are no longer in the game, and your existence is useless. Fortunately for us little dash, you’re still stuck inside a pretty good game.

It’s important to clear this up right now – (see, we still care about you little dash!) this is not Tecmo Super Bowl. The first game in the series was a shell of the classic that Tecmo Super Bowl would become a few years later. Since Tecmo couldn’t secure an NFL license for the game, Tecmo Bowl doesn't have any actual team nicknames or logos in it. Instead, this game mimics 12 of the real teams (at the time of its original release) with city names, while using real player names (since Tecmo did have the NFLPA license at the time, whose inclusion influenced football games for years to come) and players that perform close to their real-life counterparts did at the time. Of course, as you know little dash, for this re-release there are no real player names anymore due to the NFLPA licensing issue, and that alone takes away what semblance of realism the game had left.

The single-player mode is made up of a tournament against the 11 other CPU-controlled teams (beat one and move on to the next in random order), so potential purchasers shouldn't expect to be able to emulate a real season of NFL football here. There is also a two-player multiplayer, with players either controlling a team directly, or coaching it and having the CPU carry out the plays. We're not talking Madden-esque complexity here, but just having a coaching mode at all that actually works is pretty impressive for a NES title.

Other shortcomings Tecmo Bowl has versus the far superior sequel Tecmo Super Bowl: only 9 players to a side versus the full 11, easier difficulty (Tecmo Super Bowl ramps up the difficulty as a season progresses), no stat-tracking, four plays to select versus eight, no fumbling, and most importantly, no super-cool cutscenes that play (as they do in Tecmo Super Bowl) whenever a player is injured. The latter in particular was perfect for taunting other players whenever a top team member would go down with an injury.

But enough about what’s not in Tecmo Bowl – what’s left (you included little dash) is still a pretty good game. The series has always had an arcade slant to it, with the real key to victory being play selection. Pre-snap, both teams choose one of four plays; the offense chooses the play it wants to run, while the defense chooses the play it thinks the offense will run. If the defense guesses correctly, it’s virtually impossible for the offense to gain any yards on the play. Should the offense decide to throw the ball anyway on a pass play that the defense guessed correctly, it almost always ends up in an interception.

Of course, it’s well known that there are ringers in the game with super stats, including the infamous Bo Jackson (best video game football player ever) at running back, Mike Singletary on defense, etc. With faster players, the player can zig and zag down the field, breaking long plays almost at will as long as the plays aren’t chosen by the defense (and sometimes even if they are). It’s also much too easy to block extra points, particularly with top defensive players such as Lawrence Taylor. Oddly enough, this imbalance only adds to the arcade-like appeal of the game, and rarely feels like "cheating" since both sides can do it, and it still isn’t enough to allow bad players to beat good ones on a consistent basis. Of course, this highly unrealistic style of play won’t appeal to everyone, and players new to the franchise may not “get” it like they would’ve when it was the only NFL game in town.

Graphically, Tecmo Bowl was ahead of its time, and still looks pretty good with big cutscenes after a touchdown and at half time. The sound was also advanced for its time, with different background music for offense and defense, little jingles after a turnover or touchdown, etc. Most famous though is probably the voice work, which includes an announcer yelling “Touchdown!” and the QB barking out “Ready, Down, Hut Hut Hut…” infinitely until the ball is snapped. If you ever want to annoy someone, leaving that playing is a perfect way to do it fast.

Bottom Line:

On the Virtual Console, Tecmo Bowl is a difficult call despite being one of the most important sports titles in video game history. On one hand, it’s still a fun game of arcade football, particularly when two players are involved, and well worth $5 when considering only that fact. However, the missing player names do take something away from the experience, and the far-superior Tecmo Super Bowl is destined to arrive on the Virtual Console eventually.

As a result, I can only really recommend Tecmo Bowl to gamers with nostalgic ties to the franchise (such as myself) that don’t want to wait on Tecmo Super Bowl. Everyone else should probably punt on this release.

Pros:Cons:Final Score:
  • Revolutionary (and quirky) gameplay that still holds up well today.
  • A lot of fun when two players are involved.
  • Splashy graphics and catchy in-game music.
  • Player names are gone, and whomever removed them didn’t even bother to remove the dangling dash.
  • Tecmo Super Bowl is infinitely superior, and you’ll have absolutely no use for this game when it's superior sequel inevitably arrives on the VC.
6.5

Posted: 2007-03-24 06:52:47 PST