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Tecmo Bowl Throwback REVIEW

Tecmo Bowl Throwback Review (Xbox 360)

Growing up in the late 80's/early 90's, one sports game reigned supreme when it came to neighborhood bragging rights -- Tecmo Bowl. Before the Madden franchise became the juggernaut it is today, Tecmo Bowl was the quintasential virtual football experience. Utilizing it's "chess" like playcalling mechanics, reliance on homemade gamepad moves, and NFL/NFLPA licenses, Tecmo Bowl came to define a generation.

Twenty years after the first games release -- and 18 after the release of the series' stellar sequel, Tecmo Super Bowl -- fans of the game are being treated to a completely new HD experience in Tecmo Bowl Throwback. For those of you unfamiliar with Throwback, Tecmo has taken the teams and rosters from 1993's Super Tecmo Bowl, added new HD graphics and presentation -- with an option to switch back to the old 8-bit graphics in HD on the fly -- and added online play for the first time in series history.

So is Tecmo Bowl Throwback an enjoyable trip down memory lane? Or should the series have been left to die in the 90's like Ryan Leaf's career? Read on to find out.


Graphics and Presentation

When it was first revealed that Tecmo Bowl Throwback would be including updated HD visuals, I was admittedly a bit worried. As evidenced by Tecmo's HD basketball revival, NBA Unrivaled, updated graphics do not necessarily translate to an impressive gaming experience. Luckily, Tecmo Bowl Throwback's developers took note of their basketball games failure, as the graphics in the game are downright beautiful. Even better than the HD upgrade is that the new graphics contain several animations never seen before in a Tecmo Bowl game. No knock on the beautiful 8-Bit graphics that can be accessed with a simple button press, but they were never quite able to capture some of the smaller nuances (like receivers reaching for balls), that the upgraded graphics are able to capture.

Even better is that Tecmo Bowl's iconic cutscenes are also reproduced in HD, giving a new twist to some beloved classic moments -- the injured player cutscene comes to mind.

Call me old fashioned but even as much as I loved the new presentation and graphics, I found myself playing more with the classic look to experience the classic TB sound effects and music. I was not that fond of the new music and sound remixes present in the upgraded presentation version, and felt right at home with the familiar chimes and midi music files from the 8-bit classic.

All of the teams and rosters are based off of 1993's Tecmo Super Bowl, so for Bo Jackson fans out there you're out of luck. This is a bit disappointing as the '91 rosters are some of the most iconic and recognizable of all time -- because of Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES. Due to the NFL's exclusivity deal with EA, all teams are generic in nature, and the game does not have the NFLPA's blessing so player names are also generic. There is a handy team and player name editing tool out there for those looking for a more authentic experience, with 1993 rosters available already via the community.

Unfortunately there is no way to customize a team's logo or colors, which is very surprising considering this was offered in last years Tecmo Bowl title on the Nintendo DS, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff. There is also no way to share roster files, so if you want the authentic 93 rosters you will need to invest the time and effort to do this yourself, though I am sure rosters will be available via a transfer kit soon.


Gameplay

If you have ever played a Tecmo Bowl game in the past you know what you will be getting in Throwback. The game stays true to it's roots, providing the tried and tested gameplay that put the series on the map. The playbook screen is identical to previous games in the series, allowing for the selection of either a run or pass defense. As long as you correctly guess your opponents play type you will have a shot at a defensive stop, guess wrong however and be prepared to see the cpu rip off big gains.

The game uses 2 buttons, one for player selection, and the other for tackling, breaking tackles, or throwing the ball. The simplicity of the gameplay is a breath of fresh air in today's over complicated sports controlling landscape, and allows for some unforgettable moments -- especially against human opponents. If the gameplay has a weak spot it is that it is very difficult to have a wide-out catch the ball in stride while playing with the enhanced HD graphics. For some reason receivers always seem to come back to the ball, no matter how much separation they achieve. It is possible to hit receivers in stride however, especially with the retro-graphics package turned on. Also, one minor annoyance I have is that you still can not switch players on defense once the ball is snapped. I know this adheres to the classic TB formula, but it certainly would have been a nice addition in today's day and age of player switching.

Overall, Tecmo Throwback plays a great game of football. Some may knock the fact that the classic "cheese" plays are still present (i.e. nosetackle sacks), but I actually enjoy the fact that Tecmo decided to include these money plays as it is almost a reward to long time fans, much like the infamous 30 lives code being included in the XBLA port of Contra.


Online

TB:TB's online mode is fairly basic. You have the option of playing against another user with minimal stat tracking. In a perfect world I would have liked to see some type of online season mode make it into the game as this would have the potential to be huge amongst old school sports gamers like myself. Also, as previously mentioned, there is no roster sharing system, for player names, but edited player names do show up in online matches.

While online may be simple, it is Tecmo Bowl online. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have been dying to take the game online for the last 20 years (PC modders not included), and I am happy to say that games are mostly lag free and a ton of fun. There really is nothing better than running into someone who has their set of 20 year old money plays, only to run your own money plays on them. Sure, every game I've played is a cheesefest, but isn't that what Tecmo Bowl is all about in the first place? Honestly this is some of the most fun I've had online with a sports title, and it is a great pick up and play 20 minute investment.

At the time of this review there are reports of some glitches with regards to quitting early or even intentionally freezing the game to cheat an opponent out of a win. These issues are being addresses via a patch in the coming weeks. I have not personally experienced any of these issues in my time with the game.


Final Thoughts

For a measly $10, Tecmo Bowl Throwback is a no brainer purchase. With the ability to play seasons, All Star games, and online matches, all with glorious HD visuals that maintain the essence of TB, this is a classic gamers dream come true. If you ever enjoyed a Tecmo Bowl game pick this one up as soon as possible. While I can see many younger sports gamers hating on the game due to it's simplicity and arcade style, the game does deserve massive praise for being an amazing tribute to one of the greatest sports games of all time.

On the Field: Classic Tecmo Bowl gameplay. Just as you remember it. Just make sure to bring your money plays to the table because you'll need them.

Graphics: A brilliant HD re-mastering of the original, with the ultra cool ability to change to HD 8-bit graphics on the fly.

Sound: Not a huge fan of the updated music and sound effects, thankfully the old music and effects are a button press away.

Entertainment Value: If you're a fan of the series, the game offers hours upon hours of gameplay, all for $10.

Online: Ranked matches are great. I would have liked to see online leagues and deeper stat tracking though.

Score: 8.5 (Must Download)


Tecmo Bowl Throwback Score
Classic gameplay.
Online play.
Customization options.
Generic teams/logos.
Game not based off of '91 rosters.
No in-play defensive switching.
8.5
out of 10
Member Comments
# 1 CreatineKasey @ 05/03/10 11:12 PM
I agree that it's definitely a must-buy for anyone who enjoyed Tecmo in the past. The gameplay is solid and I've already had some legendary finishes.

I won a game tonight 10-7 in overtime. Despite dominating in yardage and time of possession, I still barely won because my Steeler offense struggles to generate points without some help from special teams or defense. In this game, the tides actually turned and my opponent got the defensive TD to tie it up. It was a great game. Just an example of what Tecmo can do for ya.

Editing the rosters has added a lot to the game. Colors don't even bother me. It only too about 10 minutes per team. The only thing that is kind of disappointing for me is that you can't change playbooks so some teams are a big challenge to use. Other than that, the game is rock solid and offers more than enough to do to get your $10 worth.
 
# 2 Valdarez @ 05/03/10 11:57 PM
Considering I payed $20 to $30 for the original Tecmo Bowl, and this one is far better than the original, at $10 it's not just a buy, it's a steal! Good review!
 
# 3 MMChrisS @ 05/03/10 11:58 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valdarez
Considering I payed $20 to $30 for the original Tecmo Bowl, and this one is far better than the original, at $10 it's not just a buy, it's a steal! Good review MMChris!
Christian McLeod wrote this review...
 
# 4 Valdarez @ 05/04/10 12:03 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MMChrisS
Christian McLeod wrote this review...
lol, I was just about to fix that! Blast you quote button, forever castigating my mistake!
 
# 5 TheWatcher @ 05/04/10 06:57 AM
Yeah, it's a solid game. It gets better as the season progresses and teams play harder.

Tecmo Bowl is back, and hopefully they'll stick around this time.
 
# 6 swiftychampleone @ 05/04/10 08:11 AM
Authentic 93 rosters via transfer kit? Just curious on how this works and what it means? I have a PS3, by the way.
 
# 7 GaryT531 @ 05/04/10 10:44 AM
might be a little off on those original release dates. original tecmo bowl is at least 21 years old, and came out in 1988-89. NES tecmo super bowl is 19 years old. i got the day it came out in late november 1991. i was 13 years old. tsb for super nes came out in fall 1993. another great review CM, thanks!
 
# 8 coogrfan @ 05/04/10 11:32 AM
Quote:
Utilizing it's "chess" like playcalling mechanics...
"Chess like"? Are you kidding me? TSB isn't even "checkers like". A better comparison would be "rock, scissors, paper".

Don't get me wrong... I, too played the hell out of TSB back in the day. I also had braces and a mullet. Knowing what I now know, I'm in no hurry to repeat any of those experiences.
 
# 9 CreatineKasey @ 05/04/10 11:41 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by coogrfan
"Chess like"? Are you kidding me? TSB isn't even "checkers like". A better comparison would be "rock, scissors, paper".

Don't get me wrong... I, too played the hell out of TSB back in the day. I also had braces and a mullet. Knowing what I now know, I'm in no hurry to repeat any of those experiences.
LMAO!

There's some chess like functions. For one, when you guess a run play but not the run play the offense ran, you get better support. This means TSB has both soft and hard counters. That gives it more than rock, paper, scissors depth IMO. There's a 50% chance you'll have "good" defense on a play, and a 12.5% chance you'll demolish the play. There's a 50% chance your D messes up hard.
 
# 10 GlennN @ 05/04/10 11:44 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by coogrfan
"Chess like"? Are you kidding me? TSB isn't even "checkers like". A better comparison would be "rock, scissors, paper".

Don't get me wrong... I, too played the hell out of TSB back in the day. I also had braces and a mullet. Knowing what I now know, I'm in no hurry to repeat any of those experiences.
Very well stated. Honor, remember and cherish the past . . . but I do not plan to game in it.
 
# 11 rocket21 @ 05/04/10 12:38 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rm217
Your loss. All I can say is I'm having more fun with this game then I've had with the next gen Maddens. To each his own. Tecmo Bowl for life!
I second this. I'm having a blast reliving the past, even if it isn't exactly as I remember it. This is the best $10 I've spent in a while!
 
# 12 swaldo @ 05/04/10 12:54 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by rm217
To each his own. Tecmo Bowl for life!
My all time favorite is APF2K8 which was rated much lower this this game

In the new OXM magazine they rated 'Tecmo Bowl Throwback' a 4/10 ...

+ Great for old school fans who want the original.
+ Can shift between old & new graphics with a button press.
- No NFL license (the original had it)
- Bare-bones season mode.
- Extremely dated gameplay = frustrating football. A few control & gameplay upgrades would've make for a better experience.
- Glitchy animations
- Handfull of plays with results largely left up to chance.
- Slow as mollasses ball carriers largely invalidates the running game.
- Must cycle through all receivers.
 
# 13 centauris @ 05/04/10 01:01 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by swaldo
LOL, yea OS rated it the same as Madden 10. I bought it, it's fun but my all time favorite is APF2K8 which was rated much lower this this game

In the new OXM magazine they rated 'Tecmo Bowl Throwback' a 4/10 ...

+ Great for old school fans who want the original.
+ Can shift between old & new graphics with a button press.
- No NFL license (the original had it)
- Bare-bones season mode.
- Extremeley dated gameplay = frustrating football. A few control & gameplay upgrades would've make for a better experience.
- Glitchy animations
- Handfull of plays with results largely left up to chance.
- Glitchy animations
- Slow as mollasses ball carriers largely invalidates the running game.
- Must cycle through all receivers.
hahahaha..

funniest thing I have ever read
 
# 14 TheWatcher @ 05/04/10 01:13 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by swaldo
LOL, yea OS rated it the same as Madden 10. I bought it, it's fun but my all time favorite is APF2K8 which was rated much lower this this game

In the new OXM magazine they rated 'Tecmo Bowl Throwback' a 4/10 ...

+ Great for old school fans who want the original.
+ Can shift between old & new graphics with a button press.
- No NFL license (the original had it)
- Bare-bones season mode.
- Extremeley dated gameplay = frustrating football. A few control & gameplay upgrades would've make for a better experience.
- Glitchy animations
- Handfull of plays with results largely left up to chance.
- Glitchy animations
- Slow as mollasses ball carriers largely invalidates the running game.
- Must cycle through all receivers.
That OXM reviewer isn't on his/her game at all. Yeah, I've given a number of criticisms to it myself, but none of them have to do with the core of what makes Tecmo Football, Tecmo Football. That just makes no sense.

But the worst of the criticism is "- No NFL license (the original had it)". Wow, really? To hold something against them that they have zero control over, is just foolishness. What a poor review
 
# 15 dbeth @ 05/04/10 01:36 PM
That OXM review is a perfect case of reviewing something through today's eyes...forgetting what the game is/was about and comparing it to HD games that are supposed to be realistic.

I'd love to see their review of Pac-Man:CE: "This game sucks because you're looking from a top-down perspective and not from the first-person. Basic color scheme. Limited to four-direction control."

When did games lose the allowance to be fun without all the bells & whistles?
 
# 16 swaldo @ 05/04/10 02:25 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWatcher
But the worst of the criticism is "No NFL license (the original had it)". Wow, really? To hold something against them that they have zero control over, is just foolishness. What a poor review
If you don't have the NFL license then apparently it's fair to criticize if developers offer poor customization features. APF2K8 was slammed hard because of this - just like Tecmo it had a bare-bones season mode and player ratings could not be customized. At least 2K8 had the most advanced uniform design utility ever seen in a console and a much more robust playbook editor!

Maybe I'll buy an 8.5 review score if Tecmo had offered full uniform and player customization, along with a few tweaks to modernize it a bit. Until then, I don't think this game should be rated higher than a 7. It's a fun little game for $10 but it's certainly not the Holy Grail of football gaming. For heavens sakes, I want the ability to create the (0-14) 1976 Bucanneers in their popsicle uni's and pit them against the '89 candy cane Niners.
 
# 17 TheWatcher @ 05/04/10 02:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by swaldo
If you don't have the NFL license then apparently it's fair to criticize if developers offer poor customization features. APF2K8 was slammed hard because of this - just like Tecmo it had a bare-bones season mode and player ratings could not be customized. At least 2K8 had the most advanced uniform design utility ever seen in a console and a much more robust playbook editor!
I agree that a uniform editor would've been great, but to make more of it than that we'd have to ignore some of the factors which more than likely prevented it...

From what I was told, when Tecmo Bowl Throwback was being made it had somewhere between a 150-350 MB limit for XBLA. It's since been increased by MS, but I'm sure this game was well into production before that happened.

Disc-based products like APF had gigs of memory to work with. While the few hundred megs of memory needed to put out the editor in APF would be considered small by disc-release standards, that same route would not be possible for a game being created under much heavier size restrictions like TBT was made under.

As for playbooks, well that again is an unfair comparison for some of the same reasons. The other thing is, Tecmo Football was never deep on playbooks anyway. But I'll venture to say that the average player in any football game doesn't use most of the plays in the game anyway as evidenced by some research numbers other franchises have reported.
 
# 18 CreatineKasey @ 05/04/10 02:57 PM
Running game inept? See points like that completely invalidate the reviewer. I guess he never ran into Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith. He can go back to World of Warcraft...

Fortunately there's a "trial" mode for XBLA games so people can figure out for themselves that review is garbage.
 
# 19 Drocks @ 05/04/10 03:44 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWatcher
I agree that a uniform editor would've been great, but to make more of it than that we'd have to ignore some of the factors which more than likely prevented it...

From what I was told, when Tecmo Bowl Throwback was being made it had somewhere between a 150-350 MB limit for XBLA. It's since been increased by MS, but I'm sure this game was well into production before that happened.

Disc-based products like APF had gigs of memory to work with. While the few hundred megs of memory needed to put out the editor in APF would be considered small by disc-release standards, that same route would not be possible for a game being created under much heavier size restrictions like TBT was made under.

As for playbooks, well that again is an unfair comparison for some of the same reasons. The other thing is, Tecmo Football was never deep on playbooks anyway. But I'll venture to say that the average player in any football game doesn't use most of the plays in the game anyway as evidenced by some research numbers other franchises have reported.
Yeah, I think people need to realize that this is a $10 downloaded game, not a $50 disc that you're buying in the store. There really shouldn't even be comparisons made honestly. Just take the game for what it is, an ode to the past, with an HD spin. Can't wait to try it out on PS3 whenever they decide to release it....
 
# 20 JkA3 @ 05/04/10 06:34 PM
good review.
 

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