Lets start with the basics. For those of you unfamiliar with Tecmo Bowl, it’s a pretty simple game. You have 8 plays on offense (4 running, and 4 passing), and you only need the control pad and the A and B buttons (Note: You can play with the stylus as well, though I didn’t bother testing that out). That’s it. Tecmo has improved on this formula with the additions of a dive play (useful in short yardage situations, it’s a cut scene that the player has nothing to do with), and super skills. Players have certain skills that activate at certain times. Some, like the drag players 3 yards, come at random times, while some like the QB improves in the last 2 minutes, are timed. The game play is solid. As usual, early games are a little on the easy side. As you progress, the AI ramps up, making for a tougher challenge. The addition of weather makes for a cool visual effect, but it’s hard to tell if rain and snow add anything. The cut scenes have improved (and yes, the classic injury cut scene is still there), and there are a few more of them as well.
Of course, what’s a football game to do without the NFL license? 2kSports chose to sign former NFL Legends for their All-Pro 2k8 Football last year. Tecmo decided to create 32 fake teams and players, and make them fully editable. So you can turn the Los Angeles Supercocks (yes that’s a real team in the game) into the New York Giants. Or the Los Angeles Rams of the 1980’s. Or a team of your favorite Outhousers. The choice is up to you.
While you can edit the team names, uniforms and colors, the logos are limited to the 16 the game comes with. This is a minor issue in my book, since you can only really see the logos in the pre-game menu. Editing the players is fairly simple, though the games “naughty word list” makes creating Matt Cassel a challenge. Which is ironic given the LA team above. Speaking of menu’s, this is one of the games problems. The menus are messy, and unclear. They are also very plain and boring. While the original’s weren’t very interesting, they were straightforward and easy to navigate.
The sounds is pretty bland as well. The game features some spoken word (Touchdown, Hike, etc), and the music is generic rock filler. On to multiplayer. Due to the limitations of the game being on the DS, you can only play a season with 1 team. You can play online or local wireless play, and you can even trade teams and players both ways. The game has a ranking system as well. A quick note about season play, you can play up to 5 seasons in a row in Kickoff, with the game tracking stats and records for those 5 seasons, a fun little touch. That feature puts other DS sports games (I’m looking at you MLB Power Pros) to shame.
Graphics wise, its pretty much standard Tecmo Bowl fare. No more, no less. If you’ve seen the standard Tecmo sprites, you know what you’re in for. Of course, the biggest question remains, is it still fun? You bet it is. Tecmo did a nice job of recreating a classic for a new generation, given the limitations of the NFL license, playing on the DS, and releasing the game 2 months after the start of the football season. The game is not without it quirks, which I’ve stated a number of them, but on the whole, this game is worth the $29.99. Wi-fi multiplayer and tradable rosters will add to the games longevity, and I would not be surprised to see online leagues form (though it is not something the game supports) crop up.
GRAPHICS: 7 Standard Tecmo fare, not as good as most DS games, but they work, and are less blocky than Madden for the DS
SOUND: 6 Meh music, and some random words. Not much to see here.
GAMEPLAY: 8.5 Not without its quirks, but still as fun as ever. This is a great game to have for train and bus rides, given how quickly a game plays.
LONGEVITY: 9 Five seasons of stat tracking, customizable rosters, online play. Not much more you could ask for, other than a true franchise mode.