Arcade Archives Tecmo Bowl | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Arcade Archives Tecmo Bowl | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

This is not the Tecmo Bowl you’re used to. 
The classic game, Tecmo Bowl, is known by many, particularly Americans. This Arcade Archives version of the game is based on the 1987 arcade release of the game. Unlike its console brother, which released on the NES in 1989 (1990 on the Famicom in Japan), this version does not feature any licensed players or teams, but rather has gamers take control of either the Wildcats or Bulldogs.

The playbook is non-existent in Tecmo Bowl and are (seemingly) chosen by the computer at random. Although the formations are chosen by the computer, you do have the option to cycle through players before the snap. On offense, the highlighted player will be your target receiver or runner. After hiking the ball with B, you get to see the play pan out. If it looks like your player will be open or that there is a big hole for you runner, you can dump the ball off. Even if your running back is targeted for what would appear to be a running play, the ball doesn’t go the the runner immediately after the ball is in play - you can choose to hand it off quickly, or wait for the runner to run a route. It’s similar with traditional receivers or tight ends as well - you can throw at any time. You do have to be careful when you’re snapping the ball, though. It is possible to move too quickly and fumble before you can even get a play going.
Once the ball is in the air via a pass, you are then given control over the target player. This can be important, especially with ball hawk defenders who will pick the ball off if you’re not careful. To help prevent this, players can also use the A button to jump to try to get the ball before their opponents. When getting tackled on offense, Tecmo Bowl gives you the options to try and escape the grasp of the defenders by wiggling the d-pad or stick. This works well when being accosted by a few defenders, but if you have the whole defense breathing down your neck, you’re probably going down. The gameplay here, overall, feels really great and responsive. The biggest downfall for me has to be the extremely slow movement of your players, particularly the ones you are controlling on either side of the ball. Being an arcade game that is meant to eat your quarters, I get it, but a slight ramp up in speed would have been welcome.

Defense is a bit trickier. Like on offense, you can cycle through all of your players, but only before the ball is snapped. This can be challenging, especially if you opt to control a defender closer to the line of scrimmage to try to go after the quarterback. More times than not, the QB would launch the ball down the field to the often uncovered receiver for a first down or more. To counter this, I typically would control the safeties or cornerbacks to give myself a chance.
The kicking game here is pretty simple. For kicks, a power meter activates and it’s all about timing. Hit it at the right time and you’ll send the ball flying. This goes for both kickoffs and field goal kicks. When receiving the ball on a kick off, you will be running behind (unless there’s a really poorly kicked ball) numerous blockers. They pretty much run in the same direction as you will, which allows them to block incoming defenders.

Similar to the previously released Arcade Archives Neo Geo Football Frenzy (try saying that ten times fast), this arcade version of Tecmo Bowl features big, beautiful chunky sprites. They are extremely colorful and pack in a great deal of animation as well. Small things, like the quarterback scanning the field before taking the snap, receivers/runners out stretching their arms to get closer to the first down and even the sideline cheerleaders and camera men help bring a level of realism to the game that just couldn’t be done on home consoles at the time. You’ve probably also noticed the widescreen look that the game sports. Well, the original arcade cabinet used two monitors side by side to create this modern look in an era when widescreen wasn’t really a thing. Perfect for modern displays.
Of course, being part of the Arcade Archives series, you get the vast array of options that come along with it. Of course you have the base game (Original Game), tons of filters, interrupt save data and online leaderboards via High Score and Caravan Mode. In Tecmo Bowl, High Score mode gives players seven in-game minutes to try and score as many points as they can. When the time runs out, the game is over and you can submit your score to the rankings. Caravan is similar, but here you have a realtime five minute limit. The goal is to try to score as many touchdowns and get as many yards as you can before the time is up. Again, once the time runs out, you can submit your score online.

Both of these modes were the best way to play the game. Given how shallow the game can be on its own (you basically replay the same game with no variety on opponent), this is a good way to get more milage out of Tecmo Bowl. Even after a little bit of time with both modes, I’ve found myself atop the upper echelon of Tecmo Bowl players in the rankings. That’s right. A legit world ranking for your boi! Okay, so there aren’t very many players who have scores recorded up to this point (and some of these scores are insane), but there is definitely some fun to be had trying to go for high scores.
Arcade Archives Tecmo Bowl is another great port of an arcade classic that some people (like me) never played back in the day. It looks fantastic, plays pretty well and is a good option for those missing out on the sport on Nintendo’s hybrid system. On the multiplayer side of things (something I didn’t get a chance to try out), up to four people can take to the field locally. This seems like it would be a pretty entertaining. With the game, while fun, you may find yourself a little underwhelmed with the amount of things to do considering you’re essentially just playing the same team over and over again. Online rankings can help make it entertaining, but you might be putting the game back on your digital shelf sooner than you would like.

Final Score: 7.0

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