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Tecmo Bowl Throwback

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: SouthEnd Interactive
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2: 2 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Football)/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:

Tecmo Bowl Throwback is more a game of nostalgia than anything else. If you remember playing Super Tecmo Bowl on the SNES, you're playing the same game you did back then. It stands to reason then, older players are going to jump all over the game while newcomers will probably play the demo and promptly delete it.

Tecmo Bowl Throwback includes two visual modes: a "classic" 16-bit look and updated 3D look. The game defaults in 3D mode and looks impressive. It's bright, colorful, and fun - the complete opposite of what games usually offer. The original's side-view is retained, though you can alternate between two camera views for a different look. The change isn't drastic, but zoomed-on mode offers a better look at the player models. Music is also upgraded and features rock remakes of the original music mixed with older sound effects.

At any time during play, you can hit a button and flip into "classic" view. The display is cut down to a 3:4 standard view with pixilated players. The mode is tossed in purely as fan service, but ends up having a massive impact on difficulty.


Gameplay:

For anyone not familiar with the series, it's important to know where Tecmo Bowl Throwback is coming from before diving in. Rather than attempting to recreate a game of football the way Madden does, it aims for a basic, no-frills style of play. It's arcade football at its purest form. This translates into 80-yard drop-back strikes, running backs with the ability to toss defenders 5 yards back and games that sometimes reach triple digits.

Since EA has the NFL license sewn up, Tecmo Bowl Throwback resorts to made-up teams. You're not playing with the New Orleans Saints, but rather the New Orleans Owls. You have the option to dip into rosters and change names, though I didn't see the need. Still, the option is great. Other than renaming players, Tecmo Bowl Throwback is light on choices. You choose a team, run a handful of simple plays and that's about it. No midseason trades, play audibles or franchise management options. It's football at its most basic.

Even play modes are kept simple. Pre-season is an exhibition mode where you play though a single game. Season takes you through an entire season, while All-Star lets you play what is essentially the Pro-Bowl. Any of the single-player modes are available in two-player variants. Online multiplayer is also available, though my experience wasn't the best.

Aside from a bit of lag between hitting a button and its corresponding action, the current player base nearly ruins the online mode. Players will quit or try to force you to quit by not picking a play if they're losing. I know this isn't Tecmo's fault, but some sort of safeguard against this sort of crap should be implemented. I tend to defend online multiplayer when friends complain about it, but this sort of thing makes my job harder. It's just a game people; if you lose, you lose.


Difficulty:

Tecmo Bowl Throwback goes for an easier game of football. It sticks to the same rules as a typical game, but offers more of an arcade experience. It's not Madden, but it isn't trying to be Madden. This is football for people who just want to toss the ball, break out a big run and have no problem with games with higher-than-usual scores.

Visuals have a massive impact on what sort of game you get out of Tecmo Bowl Throwback. Thing is, it has nothing to do with the ability to see what's happening on-screen. Instead, it's all about expectation. Upgraded visuals bring updated expectations. Even though you're playing the same game regardless of look, things feel simpler when playing in the old view. It's a purely psychological block, but it's a block nonetheless.


Game Mechanics:

The heart of Tecmo Bowl has always been offense. There are defensive plays, but the game is first and foremost about scoring. You're given a set of nine plays; four passing, four running and a dive play. Once you've chosen a play, the executing isn't incredibly complex. One button press snaps the ball and another throws. When tossing the ball, you don't get to choose who gets the ball. Instead, you hit the button until the correct receiver is highlighted, then once again for the throw. It sounds tricky, but really isn't.

Defense isn't much fun. As on offense, you're given a fixed set of plays with the idea that one will counter whatever your opponent picks. At least, that's the working idea. Your choice of play rarely seems to matter; most of the time, you're just picking a play and hoping it does something. But, again, that's the essence of Tecmo Bowl Throwback.

For anyone with fond memories of the series, Tecmo Bowl Throwback is a great nostalgia trip. The only downside is the online mode, though you can fix this by collecting enough friends with the game. Newcomers may want to give the demo a try first.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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