With pixel-perfect stadiums, motion-captured athletes, and real plays from real coaches as the benchmarks for today’s football games, it’s amazing that Tecmo Bowl still holds the crown as the most beloved football series of all time. Even today, I fondly remember my game-winning plays with Montana, running the field with Rice, slipping through the defensive line as Bo Jackson, and risking it all on 75-yard field goals, and making them.
Like a time capsule, Tecmo Bowl Throwback preserves those memories to perfection, with an optional coat of fresh paint for a modern spin. The untouched classic, Tecmo Super Bowl from 1991, is playable just as it was nearly two decades ago, but added to this, the developers created a 3D version with updated graphics and audio, including in-game cutscenes of plays, tackles, and cheerleaders. Impressively, players can flip between these two modes on the fly like a light-switch on a time machine. The controls and mechanics are exactly the same either way, so whether you want that old-school look or the new polish makes no difference in terms of gameplay. In a nice touch, even the aspect-ratio changes from 4:3 (classic TV) to 16:9 (widescreen).
While there are only so many changes that can be made and still keep the classic intact, the developer managed to squeeze in a few alterations and additions. One is the ability to change the name of your team. So, if you feel like renaming the Dallas Cowboys to the Dallas Rodeo Clowns (that’s right, burn!) it will show up in-game. It isn’t much, but every bit of customization helps, although team logos can’t be altered.
You may not have realized it back in the days of munching cereal in front of Saturday morning cartoons (good times…), but instead of rocket-cars and space colonies, the future gave us a little thing called the “internet.”. You no longer have to beg your brother to pick up the second controller, and suffer his beatings after winning. Now you can suffer the taunts of players far and wide through multiplayer, and track the competition via leaderboards and ranked scores for both single- and multiplayer. While I can understand why players would be restricted from switching graphics in online-play, it’s not even a concern, since multiplayer is limited to 2D-only.
Tecmo Bowl Throwback is precisely what the name implies. The developers never stray from the core mechanics of the original and choose to remain steadfast with the simple and dated, yet unabashedly fun gameplay. Sadly, the enjoyment lasts about as long as a fleeting memory. The inclusion of 3D visuals are welcome, but they are already outdated and add no substance besides a temporary thrill. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the superb makeovers of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Perfect Dark, and Earthworm Jim. While Tecmo Bowl Throwback is certainly enjoyable, it is hard to justify when the same gameplay can be had for 25-cents at a rummage sale.