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Hard hitting men of steel, grueling through 60 minutes of an action packed fight to the death…this is what some think of when they hear the word, football. Tecmo Bowl raised above the many competitors to stand on top of the arcade sports crown.
Super Tecmo Bowl, the classic that many gamers grew up playing on the SNES got its first touchdown in the arcades in 1987. It was later ported to the NES in the form of, Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo, the huge Japanese developer, wanted to break into the sports genre that was so huge in America. They found their success with this game.
The game is an action packed football game, with matches lasting about 10 minutes. The gamer quickly picks from 12 different teams modeled after their real life counterparts, which is great for sports fans. However Tecmo Bowl, only had the player’s license but not the team license so you get generic teams such as Miami, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Each team is made up differently with unique playbooks. There are only 4 plays in each teams playbook so casual gamers can enjoy the game as well. In most cases you only have two running plays and two passing plays to pick from. On defense you once again only have four plays to pick from. Editing plays, creating custom routes and creating your own super star are nowhere to be found in this arcade sports game. There are no franchise modes, no stats to track, no contracts and no features other than the game itself.
A flip of a coin signals the start of each game. The game plays out like a regular NFL games should, for the most part. In the single player mode you are always playing on the left side of the screen, even on defense you will be on the left side of the screen, which seems odd. You are only given seconds to pick your plays, luckily there are only four choices as mentioned before. After you snap the ball the defense quickly rushes your quarterback. You must act fast as your defense rapidly weakens and you are left open for an oncoming attack. If you are running the ball you must have laser accuracy running through the guards as you make your way down the field. Modern games have juke and dive commands but not in, Tecmo Bowl. If you are face to face with an opposing defenseman you simply have to avoid them by running up the sidelines or button-mash them down in a grudge fight when they get close. You can come up with some really interesting routes through the defense that defiantly would make any sports highlight reel.
On offense you have your choice of short and long passes and a few running plays. If your receivers are well covered they will get intercepted however. It seems like your receivers need an unrealistic amount of space around them or they will get intercepted by the defense. If you get tired of losing the ball toe cheap interceptions try running the ball instead. There is no chance of it getting intercepted and at times you can huge junks of yards safely. Shifting and juggling through mobs of opposing players is a blast in the ground game and you certainly will want to add it to you coaching strategy if you want to succeed. There is a true sense of accomplishment that fills the soul when running the ball is done correctly. Tecmo bowl uses a rock, paper, scissors approach to play making. If you are on offense and you choose a passing play and the computer chooses the appropriate pass defense it will be almost impossible to complete a pass without an interception. In these cases when you see the play is falling apart before your eyes taking a dive is the best route to secure position.
The computer is relentless when it comes to blocking as well, and dealing with this can become an exercise in anger management for you. Being in the red-zone about to score a touchdown and only to be picked off and having the ball brought back to your defense’s own 20 yard line happens way too often. Your quarterback will through some of the worst passes in NFL history it seems like, thinking how he ever get drafted will fill your head as you through those heartbreaking interceptions. All NES games have quirks like these and instead of crying about the problems just learn to deal with them and the game will be a much more enjoyable experience.
Speaking of an enjoyable experience, try out the multiplayer mode. If you have a buddy around pop in a second controller and prepare to start trash talking. This is a perfect multiplayer game, it is quick to setup and easy to play. Something can be played for a few minutes or hours on end. The game completely changes its tone when played with another human opponent. Things begin to happen in the game that you never experienced playing as the computer opponents. Suddenly the tension builds, sweat starts to flow from your fuzzy hair, the excitement of the NFL comes through in a wondrous way playing multiplayer.
The magic of the multiplayer experience carries over into the presentation of the game as well. Looking at the screen shots it might not seem that magical of an experience from today’s point of view, but having all those players on screen with no stutter was pretty impressive for the NES in 1987. After scoring a touchdown there is a photo montage effect of a high-five touch down celebration. This was a cleaver trick for showing early video on the NES and it is memorable to this day. The celebrations are simple and show more sportsmanship than modern celebrations such as dancing, throwing the ball into the crowd or getting fined and arrested. The game has cool look that stood out from the crowd of many football games on the NES.
Cheering crowds and the sounds of a roaring stadium are a powerful attribute to any home team in the NFL. The crowd in, Tecmo Bowl, on the other hand looks like a group of former disco singers. They do nothing but spin in their seats; it is quite hilarious to watch and is too comical compared to the rest of the game’s presentation. A nice half time show breaks up each match along with an over the top theme song making it more enjoyable then it should be.
From the catchy main theme song to the amazing touchdown sequences, Tecmo Bowl, stands the test of time as a real classic. If you are looking for a fun, easy-to-learn, but tough to master sports arcade game then look no farther. Those with light pocketbooks are in luck as this game is pretty common and goes for a great price. The game spanned many sequels one being, Super Tecmo Bowl, on the SNES that has the highest praises of the series so far. Newer versions are also on the PS3, Xbox 360 and even the Nintendo DS. Tecmo Bowl, started as an arcade experience but stands as one of the most genre defining sports games of all time and a great addition to your gaming library.
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