1989 wasn't just an amazing year because that's when this writer was born. It's an also amazing year because that's when Tecmo Bowl received its home console release on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Boasting an impressive roster from the 1988 NFL season, players could now run the field as star players such as Bo Jackson or play defensively with the likes of Lawrence Taylor. The most impressive aspect of Tecmo Bowl was how it was able to overcome the technical limitations of the then-aging NES. 9 players on each side of the field, choosing from 4 different styles of plays (2 runs and 2 plays), utilizing a hidden stat feature from each team based on their players and playbook in real life - this football game really pushed the limits.
The first thing that you experience with Tecmo Bowl is its fantastic score. Each track is equally, or more, catchy than the last. The shift in music is used to depict the start of plays, to split up the game at half-time, and as a clever way to send cues to the players that an interception has occurred. The one thing that sets Tecmo Bowl apart from not just football games - but most sports video games - is that it plays its music during the action. Rather than leave you in silence with sound effects echoing out, the chip tune melodies add to the experience. The title screen music is catchy enough that you may want to boot up the game just to listen to some sweet tunes.
Although football games have come a long way (Madden games sport each team's full playbook), Tecmo Bowl still had an impressive start with its take on changing up the type of play and at least offering alternatives. Presenting all possible plays before the snap, the player chooses by holding the directional pad in a specific direction and pressing A to start (thus keeping the option hidden from another human player). Passes are little more versatile, since you can pick between a shorter or a deeper play. Runs are essentially running left or right. What is impressive is that on your 4th down, you're presented with three options. Kick a field goal, punt kick if you're too far away, or "cancel" to try and play for another first down. The downside to these options though is that they are menu based, and human players can view your selection (you can't fake anyone out, unfortunately).
Once that game starts though, it's quick and precise like a real football game. The ball snaps and you run your quarterback away from the line. If you chose a running play, the ball is automatically handed off to your running back and you push through the defensive line (sorry, no stretch plays to run the outside). If you chose a passing play, then you hang back and you move your cursor between receivers and choose who you want to pass to before the defensive line gets the sack. You want to be really careful who you pass to, because if there is strong coverage on your man, you're looking at a guaranteed interception. These happen often in the game and help to keep you on your toes, but it's pretty frustrating when you play against a computer player.
Tecmo was able to acquire the rights to use player names and modelled, in the game, the player's hidden stats off of the real-life counterpart. What Tecmo sadly wasn't able to acquire was the right to use the team names from the NFL; only the city names are used. It's said that the most popular/best teams were chosen (with a team roster of 12, some teams obviously couldn't make the cut), but Green Bay isn't in the game, so "popular" and "best" are debatable.
Should you be playing solo, you'll be squaring off against randomly chosen teams, picking them off one by one as you make your way towards the World Championship. At the end of quarter, the score is displayed on a "JumboTron" with ads for Tecmo games listed at the top (Rygar and Ninja Gaiden). Games all have a a half-time that plays music and shows off stills of the crowd sporting an American flag, cheerleaders waving their pompoms, and players on the sidelines. Between each game you're presented with a password, so if you need to take a break, you can "save" your progress in your season towards the championship. If you've got a friend over, you've got two other options in the game. You could play the classic two-player, which is a head-to-head style exhibition game. Your other option is a rather unique gameplay style labelled "coach". In the coach game, you and another human player merely choose the plays, acting as each team's coach. Not as fun, but still an interesting idea at the time.
Tecmo Bowl comes from Tecmo during their golden years, and reflects the company's strong ability to push the NES to the limit and squeeze the most out of it. It's much more advanced than many of the football games at the time (even more advanced that football games that followed in the few years after it too), and arguably much more fun as well. Simple controls allow for a pick up and play, but the subtle complexities with the player stats and varied playbook will spark the interest in NFL fans as well. With this Wii U re-release, you can once again experience the 1988 NFL roster on your home console, and it comes with a strong recommendation here.
Love this game....just wish they could release the superior later versions but NFL licensing probably makes that too much work
I assume the screen shots are from the original NES version? Or does Europe still get player names on the current VC version. We just get player jersey numbers.
So you really think if I play this now I will love it this much?
If player names are back, this is a must own!
TOUCHDOWN, BO JACKSON!
No really, it's almost cheating to play with Los Angeles.
@spurgeonryan I do.
It has a much more arcade-y feel to it, and it's a blast to play with another person.
8/10 good job! I'd say that's correct. Awesome football game. Played the hell out of this as a kid
If only Rygar NES could be released on the VC. Another Rygar-less generation.
This game is freaking awesome. And did I read that correct??? This version has some licensing put back into it? If that's the case I will have to download - there is no question.
Bo Jackson hacks.
This one was good but I really want the far superior Tecmo Super Bowl on virtual console. Greatest sports game of all time!
Did the reviewer even play the Wii U version? Going by the Wii U VC trailer on YouTube, player names are NOT in this version. This is something that should be mentioned in the review.
Never thought of it before, but isn't it strange a Japanese developer created a football game. Has any j-developers ever created western sports game before, or since? Not counting Mario sports or soccer games...
This is one of the best games ever! It shines brightest with two players. When I was a kid you had to hide your controller from your opponent so they wouldn't pick the counter play on purpose. So many good times with this one.
BO JACKSON SCORES A TOUCHDOWN!
Couple things here--
One, are you implying player names are present in this Wii U version? That is not made clear in this review and would be a huge boon for Tecmo fans; to my knowledge this would be the first version of the game with player names present since the Game Boy version almost 30 years ago.
Two, it had nothing at all to do with "the most popular teams" making the cut. These are the playoff teams from the 1987 season.
@SquirrelNuts they are not in the 3DS version, you don't know what you're talking about.
@Blastcorp64 Konami's Run & Gun games are JPN developed licensed NBA titles. In terms of games with an NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL license, the pickings are indeed slim, however in the glory days of Japanese game development many games based on those sports were made in Japan.
This also highlights a key difference in the way Japanese and American game developers view making sports titles. American devs make sims, with micromanaging of depth charts and an fervent desire to make it "realistic". Japanese developers make them fast and arcadey, like an action game with a sports setting. The Tecmo Bowl series is probably the single best example of this.
If you visit tecmobowl-vs-rbi.com you will see tecmo bowl is a crazy complex game. Bo Jackson is the greatest video game athlete of all time but he can be stopped easily if you apply the right defensive
scheme. The computer coverage shuts him down.
Miss the days when madden wasn't the only non soccer football game
While I am fond of this game, I wish they would have released Tecmo Bowl Throwback instead.
@Gerbwmu Electronic Arts has exclusive rights to the NFL and NFLPA licenses, so no game other than Madden can have real NFL teams or players. It's a shame, really.
Is it possible to manually edit the names in yourself?
@Technosphile the ability to switch between classic and modern, put your own team names and players into the game. What exactly is the problem with it?
This is one of the weirdest NES games to survive the passage of time. People are still in love with this, but basically 99.99% of all other sports games meet their demise a year or so later and we forget about them.
@HawkeyeWii agree with you 100%!!!
@Darknyht a better question would be: what is good about it? Developed in the west, it is a cheap imitation of what Tecmo Bowl is supposed to be. The classic mode is the same as the DS version, which in turn is the same as the SNES version, the worst of the first four games. The modern mode is hideous. No license of course, that almost goes without saying. But most of all and most damning is the fact that the Edit mode, the one thing that could have saved it, is awful. Its more egregious of a failure with the DS version, but the fact that nothing was done to fix it says it all for who was behind the modern zombie Tecmo Bowl games.
@Dankykong says a lot about the unique gameplay. Practically every single football game made ever since takes the same sim game approach, with the view always from behind the line, and never any music or whimsy. Tecmo Bowl NES, and to a much greater extent Tecmo Super Bowl NES, were lightning in a bottle.
Anyone else have this game on Wii and are NOT seeing the ability to "upgrade" to the Wii U version for the reduced price?
They should re-release the DS version and turn the online play back on for Wii-U that will never happen though......the online play that is. Nintendo is still very weird when it comes to online gaming. they just cannot gain any kind of identity in respect to online play. they seriously don't know what they want to do. or it seems that way.
@Technosphile The teams chosen for the original Tecmo Bowl were for the most part the most successful franchise of that era, and not the playoff teams from 1987. The Giants and Dolphins were not in the playoffs in 1987 and are featured on TB. The Saints and Oilers were in the playoffs but missing from TB. Furthermore, the NFL only had 10 playoff teams back then and Tecmo Bowl has 12. Indy had been bad most of the 80s but traded for Eric Dikcerson and won their division in 87....appears they got the flavor of the month treatment with Tecmo. Minnesota had been pretty mediocre and not as good as the Rams in recent years, but had an impressive playoff run in 87. My guess is that performance propelled them onto Tecmo Bowl as well.
@Tecmo-Player this is almost an argument of semantics. 8 of the 12 teams in Tecmo Bowl were indeed the 1987 NFL playoff teams. The two participants who didn't make the cut, well:
*the Giants were the defending champions and I can't name anyone offhand who was on that Saints roster. So that makes sense.
*The Dolphins had Dan Marino. Enough said, really.
Frankly I think the wrong call was made with the Colts; if the deciding factor really was Eric Dickerson then that is an even worse decision in retrospect because of his tantruming that got Albert Bentley to replace him in revision copies of the game. The Warren Moon and Ray Childress Oilers would have been a better choice.
All that being said, the inclusion of the Seahawks (who spent nearly the entirety of the 80's looking up at the Broncos), the Colts (who were terrible from before Elway was drafted and well into the 90's), and the Vikings (who were by no means a perennial contender, but did make a great push in the '87 playoffs including a stunning upset at San Francisco) really makes the "for the most part the most successful franchise of that era" argument a shaky one. These by and large are the 1987 playoff teams, save for two stragglers who got blown out in the Wild Card and Divisional round, respectively. The Raiders and Cowboys cruised in on huge fanbases and exciting running backs, but in the 1980s the Raiders also were forced to watch as the Broncos took control of the division, and the Cowboys were so bad they became a sellable commodity.
So maybe it didn't have nothing at all to do with the most popular teams making the cut, but who made the playoffs in 1987 clearly played a part.
I think Dickerson was too big of a star to not be included, just like Marino. Had he not been traded, it might have been the Rams in the NFC side instead of the Vikings. In that case, perhaps the Oilers would have made the cut, but the Jets and Pats were in play. The composure of the Tecmo music was a Jets fan btw.....for some reason.
I stand by point that the game showcased the most prominent franchises of that era(for the most part), and the flavor of the month teams (MIN/IND) made the cut.
Seattle wasn't that great, but they were a .500 team in their down years leading up to Tecmo Bowl's release.
A primiary reason I believe its era based in general is because the 49ers kick return man (Derick Crawford) last saw action with SF and the NFL in 1986. There are some other special teams players that prominent roles in 86, but not in 87, but are featured as such in Tecmo Bowl. Leads me to believe this project started following the 86 season at least on paper. The fact that the rosters are primarily derived from 87, but also featured prominent player movement heading into the 88 seasons leads me to believe the development of this game was a long process.
@Tecmo-Player I would guess also that the NES color palette played a role in it. Maybe the development team thought adding another light blue jersey, white helmet team would be too much of a programming hassle with the Dolphins around. I’ve always assumed this is why the Seahawks wear pink, aside from them being a bunch of pussies.
If that actually is one of the reasons for team selection, it gives yet another reason to lavish praise on Tecmo Super Bowl: not only are team colors accurate, but every team has two color sets for when they match up with a similarly colored opponent.
Tap here to load 33 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...