Tecmo Bowl Throwback Review
There was a time when the name “Tecmo Bowl” was synonymous with video game pigskin fun. Then technology advanced, Madden exploded onto the scene, EA managed to snag exclusive rights to the NFL license, and as a result, most people under the age of 25 have only heard of the title in passing. Well, in the continued trend of the PlayStation Network giving old-school classics a shiny digital re-release, Tecmo has issued a 3D, high-definition version of Tecmo Super Bowl. But don’t let that “high-def” part fool you; it’s certainly a slick and colorful presentation, but it’s not exactly intricately detailed. It really shouldn’t be, in fact; not if Tecmo wanted to retain the old-fashioned look and feel of this uber-fun, entirely unrealistic football game. It’s actually a little ironic that in keeping with the spirit of Tecmo Bowl, Throwback both thrives and stumbles. It’s a little difficult to describe, but let’s just say that those who want to get nostalgic and teary-eyed are free to do so.
It was a darn good idea to issue this game with two visual options: the original 2D display that will remind everyone of their Nintendo consoles sitting in the closet, or the new 3D overhaul. The good news (and bad news, as you will soon see) is that regardless of which graphical style you choose, the game basically plays the same. You can even switch between 2D and 3D while a play is in progress, which is an especially cool feature. The 3D portrayal is actually very good, with fluid animations, a few new glimpses of play highlights and cheerleaders, and a healthy dose of appreciated color. It’s too bad that we have to sacrifice the NFL license so the uniforms are entirely foreign but besides that, you should be satisfied with the 3D retooling. The old 2D presentation is exactly as it should be, with absolutely no frills whatsoever; the screen will even switch back and forth between the new 16:9 perspective for 3D and the old-fashioned 4:3 for 2D. I imagine it’s quite appealing to most all veteran gamers.
And of course, as you might expect, the 2D aspect features the late-‘80s/late ‘90s electronic ditties, while Tecmo has tossed in a few more modern effects for the 3D style. The basic foundation for the soundtrack remains very much the same, though, and I found myself wishing for a few simple additions; a few more “impactful” tackling sounds, perhaps a few grunts, etc. But then again, I reveled in the memories; it really sounds very much as I remember, despite my recurring belief that it always sounded just a touch bland. Of course, we’re talking about a time well before voice acting, full orchestral pieces, and professionally created and implemented effects, so there isn’t much else to talk about. You should know what to expect. Even if you’ve never played the original Tecmo Super Bowl, you probably won’t be surprised; overall, the technicals are quite fitting. But does anyone recall the smash-sounds from games like Mutant League Football? We coulda used some of those…
It’s not hard to talk about the gameplay in Tecmo Bowl Throwback. As I said before, the game plays essentially the same way regardless of your graphics choice, so you only need to grasp the simplest controls. The X button snaps the ball and cycles between receivers on offense, and it also lets you cycle between defenders (before the ball snaps) on defense. You also use it to “Overpower” on both offense and defense and the only other button to consider is the Circle button; you use it to pass on offense and dive on defense. That’s about it. The R1 and L1 buttons toggle the 2D/3D options, which changes the perspective on the fly and yeah, the left analog – or directional pad – dictates movement. Real tough, huh? Everything works as it should, but you’ll quickly notice a few drawbacks; they’re the same flaws that plagued the original title, but I was kind of hoping Tecmo would’ve fixed ‘em for this remake. I’m as nostalgic as anyone but I wouldn’t have missed the errors.
For instance, you can’t switch between players on defense once the ball is snapped, and that’s a huge issue and can result in a ton of big plays you’re powerless to stop. It also felt as if there was a bit of a delay when pressing X to change your receivers, but that could’ve been in my head. Also, and I’m not sure if I’m remembering the original game correctly, but I don’t think players could leap up and knock a pass out of the air. I was able to do that many times when rushing the quarterback, which is great, but it seems as if there’s no limit to that jump…when throwing high across the middle, a linebacker leaped silly high and knocked my pass down. I don’t recall that happening in Tecmo Super Bowl and this actually turned out to be a bit of an issue when playing Throwback. Outside of that, this really is the game you remember from start to finish, and there aren’t any major problems, in either the simple 2D depiction or in the 3D overhaul.
You can customize players and teams, but it’s restricted to name changes, and the only other issue I’ve noticed is that too many of the players feel identical. In the original, it was obvious that certain running backs and receivers had the edge on defenses but this time around…not so much. I know you can’t call him “Bo Jackson,” anymore, nor can you call the San Francisco QB “Joe Montana,” but shouldn’t they still be superior? I just remember ruling the field a bit more when controlling such players. But hey, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things, and all those old playbooks are back. Playing this game means you don’t have to search for an old copy of Super Tecmo Bowl and keep an older console hooked up to the TV. You can participate in a Season, try the All-Star teams and in general, get the best out of football from the golden age of gaming. I say “best” because this really was the best at the time. And with the 2D and 3D renderings, this is about as good as Tecmo Bowl ever was.
There’s definitely a bit of lag when playing online but it’s also a big bonus and certainly the biggest addition to the franchise in question. The series took a few more strides – I remember loving Super Tecmo Bowl III on the Sega Genesis – but this is it. Right here. It’s Tecmo Super Bowl and that’s that. Usually, reviews should probably go into a bit more detail but what else do you want me to say? Doesn’t get more straightforward.
6/3/2010 Ben Dutka