Tecmo Bowl Review
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Tecmo Bowl pits the player versus the computer in 11-game, single-elimination playoff action.
Before video game football became just as complex as real-life football, there was Tecmo Bowl. There weren't hundreds of plays with varying formations or special spin moves to worry about. You didn't actually have to even know much about the game of football to enjoy and play Tecmo Bowl. It was this simplicity that made the game such a huge success back during the 8-bit era and it's one of the main reasons that classic gamers still hold this unique arcade football title in such high regard, even two decades later.
There are three modes of play in Tecmo Bowl: Single Player, Two Player, and Coaching mode. They're all pretty self-explanatory with Coaching mode allowing you to call plays and manage your team while letting the CPU carry out your coaching. Since this is an arcade-style football game, there's not much to it. You're given the choice of 4 plays while on offense and defense. They're the same 4 plays for both sides of the ball. On offense you can choose either a running play or passing play. You then hike the ball by pressing one action button and then execute the toss or pass using the other action button. Whichever player currently has the ball is the player you'll be controlling. From there it's just a matter of running. You can press the buttons rapidly to try to break tackles, but other than that, there's not much you can do other than run as fast as you can.
On defense it's quite similar. You get to choose one of the four plays that the offense is choosing from. If you're lucky, you might guess the same play the offense calls and for that you'll normally score a loss on the play. Otherwise it's every man for himself and you just try to run to the ball and make the tackles. There are no fumbles or trick plays, it's just straight-ahead arcade football at its best. The simple and responsive controls work perfectly within the framework of the game, but gamers who are used to a more advanced and realistic game of football might find this game entirely too simplistic in its execution.
Visually the game is what you'd expect from an 8-bit football game and doesn't feature much in the way of realism. While this can make it difficult to distinguish between the various offensive and defensive positions, it doesn't take much away from the overall experience in the end. We've all become a bit spoiled with recent video game football titles, but there's something to be said for the simple visual presentation of Tecmo Bowl.
The music of Tecmo Bowl has always been its strong point. Anyone that spent any time at all playing this game back during the 8-bit era will easily be able to hum the Tecmo Bowl theme song at a moment's notice. Even the sound effects were fairly impressive for the time period. You can even hear the quarterback saying "hut-hut" just before the snap of the ball. It's little nuances like this that made Tecmo Bowl such an instant classic.
Video game football has come a long way over the years, but there's still something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. It stripped the football game down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience around it all. If you're one who enjoyed this game back in the day, it goes without saying that you'll still get a kick out of it today. But be forewarned, if you're expecting a more in-depth football gaming experience with Tecmo Bowl, you're probably going to be in for quite a disappointment, because that's just not what this game is about.