IGN Review of Tecmo Bowl Kickoff
I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an old-school gamer who doesn't have a Tecmo Bowl game in their Top 25 list. If you spent countless hours playing seasons in the original NES classic or the Super NES sequel, guess what? Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff was made specifically for you. This game wasn't made to compete with the likes of Madden; it's pretty much a celebratory, self back-patting by Tecmo, reviving a game design that's been lost to the era of realistic sports videogaming. And that's, essentially, its shortcoming: back in 1989 the design worked as the best football game on the market. Today, it's a limited relic that will certainly tickle the retrogamer in many of us, but those who've been born into gaming a generation or two later might be left wondering what the big deal is.
Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff's design revolves almost entirely on the pinnacle of the series: Super Tecmo Bowl on the NES and Super NES. There's a reason for its popularity: at the time it was an awesome game of American football, offering up a quick and dirty arcade-like gameplay experience with some of the deepest season and statistical options seen in a videogame. And, with the exception of Tecmo leaving out the NFL teams and players for obvious legal reasons, the game looks, plays, and feels "just right" as an 8 and 16 bit revival.
The gameplay itself remains untouched from the classic Tecmo Bowl experience, and depending on your perspective that's both good and not so good. For those who crave the classic Tecmo Bowl experience, go you. It's still solid and simplistic, pick-up-and-play football with very few rules to get in the way. For those grown up on the 15 years of Madden, well, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff lacks all the features expected of a current generation football game. Things you take for granted – like, for example, the ability to switch players during a play or directional-aiming passing – just weren't part of the Tecmo Bowl experience back in the day so they're not in Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff. It's a little awkward going back to the Tecmo Bowl design and reliving some of its decisions; cycling through your receivers with a single button just seems so archaic today. But hey, it works and Tecmo didn't want to mess with the classic to appease its target audience. Your enjoyment of this game definitely depends on your perspective and your gaming expectations going in on the first snap.
If you've got the time and patience you can get your full professional roster into the game: each of the 32 teams in Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff are completely editable right down to the players themselves, though you'll have to put up with a frustrating "naughty filter" that will disallow any names that would be considered offensive. Matt Cassel? Not allowed thanks to having "ass" in his last name. Team's cities and names are customizable as well, but you're restricted to existing team slots – there are no extra "blank" teams if you wanted to incorporate a brand new fantasy team into the league.
Because this is a Nintendo DS game your Season Mode is somewhat limited due to it restricting the season to a one player experience, which is sort of a letdown if you're one of the gazillions who grew up with Super Tecmo Bowl in college dorms and played a single team with a dozen other players. But the addition of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection opens up multiplayer features that just weren't possible back in the day. You can even handle player trades over the internet connection. The only real extreme design addition is the ability to play Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff with a stylus. With the exception of a faster way of selecting a receiver (simply tap him), the clumsy stylus control is best left alone and forgotten.
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