Tecmo Bowl

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US NES box.

Tecmo Bowl is a football video game developed and published by Tecmo in February of 1989 for the NES and PlayChoice-10. A surprisingly accurate Game Boy port was developed by Sculptured Software and published by Tecmo in September 1991. The game is based on the earlier arcade game and is the second game in the Tecmo Bowl series.

The game takes a novel approach on football. Rather than try to accurately simulate the sport, it turns it more into a video game by focusing on passing and rushing and removing a lot of the more boring aspects of the sport. Each of the twelve represented teams has only four plays they can make (plus punting and field goals), and the opponent must try and call their play, where success usually results in a sack. Although Tecmo was able to include a large portion of each team's roster and their team colors, the game does not include the official team names, logos, or championship titles.

Personal

If my memory servers me correctly, I first saw Tecmo Bowl on the NES when my step brothers visited from Illinois. Both my step brothers and my older brother loved football, so, naturally, they loved this game while I had far less interest in the sport or the game. Later, my brother got a copy of the game and frequently encouraged me to play with him, but he was much better at it than I, so I always lost so I didn't enjoy playing. Their love only grew when the sequel, Tecmo Super Bowl, was released. Years later, when I was in my 20s, I decided to give the game a fair shot and played it on my own. I discovered that the game, although it features incredibly unfair AI, is actually quite fun and well made. In the 2000s, I beat the NES port with New York, then, in an effort to play more Game Boy title, I played the Game Boy port, beating it on 2021-12-27 with New York as well.

I don't own this game, but I have beaten both the NES and Game Boy ports with New York as my team.

Review

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6 5 7 7 8

Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • When this game came out, it was far and away the best football game on any platform. Not necessarily the most realistic, but certainly the most enjoyable.
  • Calling plays in 2-player mode makes a very interesting psychological mechanic. You have to try and predict what your opponent will do, but they have to try to anticipate what you're going to pick.
  • When playing defense, you're able to dive or grapple. This presents a nice strategic choice because diving guarantees a tackle, but is harder to control.
  • The game has wonderful music by Keiji Yamagishi and makes great use of the NES's DPCM channel.
  • Having the player's names in the game really makes Tecmo Bowl more exciting for football fans in a way that generic names just can't beat.
  • The Game Boy port is shockingly accurate and plays very similarly. The digitized voice and instrument samples are missing, and the screen is a bit more cramped, but still very accurate.
  • The coaching mode, although a bit pointless, is a nice addition.
  • The game has a pretty thorough manual.

Bad

  • Due to the limited hardware, AI-controlled players often stand still doing nothing which is not only frustrating, but also looks stupid.
  • Although calling the opponent's play is a fun mechanic in 2-player games where you have to read your opponent, it doesn't work against the AI which picks randomly, resulting in 1-in-4 hikes being called.
  • Although gamifying football can make it more fun for some players, it hurts the game for those who crave more realism. Much of this is solved by Tecmo Super Bowl which I think finds a happy medium between realism and fun.
  • I hate that you have to select a player with every defensive play. It would be nice if the game just remembered the last player you selected.
  • Passing is noticeably harder in the Game Boy port. I don't know if this is due to the smaller screen size, but, even in the first game, you're given just a few seconds in the pocket before the defensive linemen pummel you. However, this also prevents players from making a 110 yard pass which is possible in the NES port.

Ugly

  • As you near the championship game, the opponent AI becomes unfairly overpowered while your own AI becomes weaker and slower. When you're on defense, your own players will either stand still and do nothing or dive too early and miss your opponent as they run unchallenged for 50+ yards for a touch down. When you're on offense, your linemen will fold like paper as the defense, running double your speed, relentlessly chases you down. By the final game, it's so bad it's often hard to tell when your defense just crumbled, or they called your play. And, sometimes even when you call the AI's play, they still make a decent play! The game is still beatable, it's just wildly unfair, and this kind of lazy AI programming results in a very frustrating experience.

Media

Box Art

Documentation

Videos

Longplay - Game Boy - San Francisco.
Longplay - NES - New York.
Longplay - PlayChoice-10 - Denver.

Credits

Roles Staff
Director S. Cruyff
Programmer Akihiko Shimoji (Akihiko)
Music Keiji Yamagishi (K. Y. Jet)
Title Design Youichi Hirose (Yoichi)
Box and Manual Shinobu Iwabayashi (Bayashi)
Assistants Kenny Duck, Makomaru
Data Works Yotsutin, H. Sato (Nosuke)
Debuggers Haebaru, Uma, Faw, Moritaka Nakamine (Kamine), Meijin, Tsukasa Chibana (Chiba)
Game Boy Director Larry Hutcherson
Game Boy Programmer Adam Clayton

Titles

Language Native Transliteration Translation
English Tecmo Bowl
Japanese テクモボウル Tekumo Bouru Tecmo Bowl

Links

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