Tecmo Bowl


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

There's something to be said about a sports video game that remains playable even though nearly all of its star players are now in the Hall of Fame. While other, more realistic games would take over the genre, Tecmo's little masterpiece still remains an undeniable classic. It's also a great way for Chicago Bears fans to remember a time when their team could secure a solid playoff spot.

It's pretty surprising to realize just how much is missing from Tecmo Bowl. Most apparent, there are only 18 total players on the field compared to 22 in the real game. As gameplay progresses, it will become obvious that fumbles have disappeared, incomplete passes are a rarity, penalties don't exist, and 108+ yard kickoff returns are commonplace. Yet, who cares?

Twelve NFL teams are represented, though only in player rosters. Logos and team names are absent. Classic players are represented here from Dan Marino to Joe Montana and you'll be hard pressed to find such a plethora of memorable faces in their prime anywhere else. Statistics are not tracked and the previous years are only available before a play. Season play is done via password and even that doesn't follow the "rules."

Gameplay is stripped to the bare basics of football strategy, likely why the game is still so playable (and accessible to just about anyone). Only four plays line each teams playbook and defense boils down to a guessing game. Select the same play as the offense and it's an all-out blitz the offense probably won't be able to get away from. Kicking is as simple as stopping a pink bar at its highest point. Passing only requires a tap of the A button to select a receiver and B to toss it downfield.

There is little challenge put up by the computer, and after you figure out a few shortcuts, you can almost prevent it from scoring at will. The only real way to play Tecmo Bowl is with another player. You're not getting the full experience any other way. This is easily why this game is such a classic. Ask anyone who had this one during its prime and you'll surely get a story about some incredible match up they had with a friend.

TB's sprites are pretty much unforgettable, taking up most of the field real estate with their bodies. These pudgy guys fly all around the field, being slaughtered at the line of scrimmage and being piled on when tacked. Flicker is an issue, but you never really lose sight of the ball or ball carrier. The titles (then) unique use of cinemas provides a half-time show and a touchdown celebration, an obvious inspiration for today's sports games.

Each play is accompanied by great music, though it can get grating by the fourth quarter. It starts over with every snap. The title screen music has yet to get old 16 years later. Getting into the end zone brings with it a voice sample proclaiming the scoreboard shift and each quarterback calls the snap.

Not only are some of the players hanging on the wall of the Hall, some of them are still playing (like Jerry Rice). That's the type of player that something in common with Tecmo Bowl. Pure timelessness. This is one of those games that simply defines what classic gaming is all about, not to mention this is a rare sports game that is still just as fun today as it was during its initial run in stores.


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Last updated: Monday, January 03, 2005 08:19 AM