Name: Tecmo Bowl
Year Released: 1989
With the football playoffs approaching their climax, I’ve once again been bitten by the retro football bug. Sure, I’ve been playing Madden non-stop every night for the past few weeks in an effort to curb my hunger for the gridiron between Sundays, but that doesn’t mean my palette doesn’t occasionally require a more… aged pigskin taste. For that, I’ve turned to Tecmo Bowl on the NES.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Tecmo Bowl was as close to a football simulation as you could get on the 8-bit system (until Super Play Action Football arrived in 1992). The game featured 12 teams, and even though they didn’t carry the official licensed NFL names, the rosters did come loaded with real players from the time like Walter Payton (Chicago), Dan Marino (Miami), and Lawrence Taylor (New York). Tecmo Bowl had a small offensive playbook (4 plays), which both offense and defense picked from. If the defense picked the same play as the offense, it often resulted in a stop, or an interception. Tecmo Bowl also happened to feature the greatest video game athlete ever, Bo Jackson, a running back for the Los Angeles team. Despite only having one actual play that used him, just about every football fan who ever played the game can recall just how unstoppable a force Bo was.
When I put the game in today, I was excited to play. I started what constituted as a season with Chicago (great running back, solid defense) in hopes of dominating the hell out of the computer. As a seasoned Madden veteran, how hard could it be? Everything started out pretty well. A few runs with “The Sweetness” to get things moving, followed by a few passes from Jim McMahon, and I was on the board in no time. Of course, playing defense is a completely different story. Especially when going up against Dan Marino and Mark Clayton. In a fierce shoot-out, I came out on top, but just barely. Dan Marino had thrown all over the Chicago secondary, but my running skills with Walter Payton proved enough to stave off the unrelenting aerial attack, and I moved onto week 2 undefeated.
The game played about as well as I remembered. With all the advances in gaming over the years, Tecmo Bowl still holds up… at least as well as any game that only uses two buttons can. Having a great running back, like Walter Payton, almost breaks the game, as they can be virtually unstoppable. Getting picked off, as well as intercepting the ball with your team, is a bit too easy. All you have to do is stand in front of the receiver, and 90% of the time, you’ll pick it off. The game doesn’t track stats, nor does it have depth charts (though you can view the rosters if you let the opening credits roll instead of hitting the Start button right away), but Tecmo Bowl still provides some pretty decent entertainment. Playing against another person is even more fun, because both people should know all the exploits the game is so famous for, making any match-up a true battle of skill.
I’m glad that simulation games have progressed to the point they have now. Being able to audible different defensive packages to compensate for mismatches makes the game more true to life, but there’s just something fun about the simplicity of picking a play and running it. Even now, I can see just how easy it was to get hooked on a game like this. Tecmo Bowl is good to have around for those moments where I want to play football, but don’t want to do too much thinking. Which is actually quite often.