My Tecmo Bowl Renaissance

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Having recently downloaded Tecmo Bowl: Throwback from Xbox Live Arcade, I thought it would be great to talk about Tecmo Bowl this week. My love for the franchise dates back to middle school, however I found my rediscovery of this awesome game as an adult a more amusing tale to tell.  I’ll talk about the XBLA version later in this article, but first, let me take you back to a few years ago when I crossed paths with the beloved football classic as a grown man.

open stadium

It was the Fall of 2010. My wife was visiting her family several miles away, and you know what they say; when the cat is away, the mice will play. It was a Friday night, and having nothing else to do, rode up the street to visit my neighbor, a fellow firefighter by the name of Kevin. The weather was unusually chilly, even for North Georgia at that time of year. Kevin opened the door and let me in, and next to the warm fireplace was his TV set, complete with an NES sitting beneath it.  The luminescent glow of the fire cast a flickering glow on all the labels of the NES games he had left on the coffee table. I made a mental note of this as we exchanged pleasantries.  Kevin offered me a shot of whiskey as we talked fire department politics as firemen are wan to do, and one shot turned into 4 or 5 shots, with cigarettes and beer in between. For Kevin’s benefit, I will clarify that the cigarettes were mine and this man has never smoked a day in his life; in fact, the man was, and still is, in tremendous shape.

colt 1911  One sick machine.

We proceeded to get hammered and my pal gets this great idea of opening the back door of his house and firing a couple of rounds into the woods with his M1911 Colt .45 handgun. Keep in mind, that this is by no means a wussy gun, and that we are also in a residential area. This sounded like delightful fun, but I also, despite my high level of intoxication felt that this was indeed a terrible idea. Kevin proceeded to argue with me on the subject for about 15 minutes, with intense deliberation concerning the approximate time of police arrival versus how long it would take to clean and put the pistol away as well as my travel time home on foot, since I was not in any shape to drive my truck.  I won the argument in the name of maturity, to which we toasted with yet another round of beers and shots.  The NES that I mentioned earlier played a prominent role in us not going to jail that evening because I was able to divert my friend’s attention from shooting that damn gun, to playing some old school games. So, Kevin puts the .45 away and tells me to pick a game. He had a decent collection of about 25 games, including Ninja Gaiden, Zelda II, and Tecmo Bowl, among others. Also, he had an inordinate amount of ‘game show’ cartridges, such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and Win, Lose, or Draw. Remembering how much I loved Tecmo Bowl as a kid, we chose to hit the 8-Bit gridiron.

newbojacksonThis got old, fast. (NES Version)

With all the talk of how some games age well and don’t lose their appeal in this day and age, Tecmo Bowl is no exception.  Sure, there were only 4 offensive & defensive plays to choose from, the cutscenes were sappy, the entire NFL wasn’t represented in the original, and the fact that Bo Jackson is clearly the best player in the game; the original is one of the best football games of all time. Kevin proceeded to utilize Bo Jackson to punish my defense in every game we played.  Every time I would get pissed off and demand that he not play as the Raiders, I beat him. Without fail, he’d hand the ball off to Bo, and his workhorse would run the ball through my defense with lightning speed.  We must have played until well after 2 in the morning.  It was one of those defining evenings in my new catalog of retro game memories.  I enjoyed myself so much that night, that I put the game on my Christmas list. A couple months later, Santa delivered, in the form of a mutual friend of my wife and I, a teacher named Zack. We were having a little Christmas lunch at a Chinese restaurant and we exchanged gifts, mine ended up being a copy of Tecmo Super Bowl, for my SNES.  Like when I was a child, I couldn’t get home fast enough.

tecmosuperbowl Tecmo Super Bowl (Super NES)

Tecmo Super Bowl, released in 1991 cross-platform, was an updated version of Tecmo Bowl, which featured all the NFL teams in the league at the time, a grand total of 8 offensive & defensive plays (with an option to edit your playbook), player injuries, yet even more new & improved cutscenes, an actual season mode which included playoffs, and customizable weather options.  I loved having Tecmo Super Bowl, as it was a great way to blow off steam after getting home from work.  I’d play right up until dinnertime. One of the things I always found amusing about this version was when one of your injured players would return from the hospital, you got to watch a cutscene of said player walking out of the hospital carrying a bouquet of flowers, in full uniform (helmet included) as the hospital staff waved goodbye.  My friend Brett used to come over on Friday nights and try to beat me, but he never could. This could be in part to his faithful love of the Kansas City Chiefs, or my astonishing SNES prowess. He would complain how Tecmo Super Bowl was “not an accurate interpretation of American football.” Any excuse some people would come up with, I guess.  All in all, Tecmo Super Bowl was a great update to a classic game.

TecmoSuperbowl BearsWin

Tecmo Super Bowl (Sega Genesis version)

In the years that have passed since Tecmo Bowl’s heyday, Madden has been the football game of choice for American gamers.  This is in part due to the fact that Madden has the NFL license on lockdown. I’ve never enjoyed Madden, and most likely never will.  I’m not knocking the series, I just prefer my video game football to be in more of an arcade format. In my life, I have enjoyed only two NFL video game franchises: the Tecmo Bowl series, and the NFL Blitz series. The NFL Blitz games were awesome. However, after Madden gained the exclusive NFL license, NFL Blitz became plain old “Blitz,” with fictional teams replacing the NFL teams. The gameplay remained the same, and indeed some seriously cool features were added,but the fact is that I am unable to enjoy a football game that doesn’t feature true NFL teams, logos, and players.


NFL Blitz 2000 (Nintendo 64)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this article. Tecmo Bowl: Throwback.  I was on XBLA yesterday browsing for some cheap fun, and came across this title. I went ahead and downloaded it, and was not disappointed, for the most part. Like I said, I am unable to enjoy a football game with fictional teams. This is a problem with Tecmo Bowl: Throwback. The cities of the teams are all represented, but you have fictional logos and players for each team. There is the ability to customize the city names as well as the players, but I am simply not willing to do all of that work.  What’s really cool, however, is the ability to switch between the classic 4:3 8-bit style and the 16:9 aspect ratio during the game. The cutscenes remain, and are even updated when looking at the 16:9 version. You can tweak between the two at any time by pressing a button on your controller. Also included is the online mode, where you will always have a real person to play against. This is great, especially if you utilize The only gripe I have besides the lack of true NFL teams and players is the unnatural way the game feels on an Xbox controller.  I do, really like the online option, which gives a ton of replay value, and for only about 10 bucks, at that.

throwback tampa bay endzone

Tecmo Bowl: Throwback (16:9 ratio)

All told, Tecmo Bowl: Throwback is a worthy purchase, even if you already have a killer retro setup like I do. If you can deal with fake football teams, the ability to play anybody in the world in Tecmo Bowl at any time makes it a worthy purchase.  Now all I have to do is order a copy of Tecmo Super Bowl III: Final Edition for my SNES and my life will be complete…


Tecmo Super Bowl III:Final Edition


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I am a full time Firefighter/EMT living in the United States. In my spare time, I split my time between modern games on my Xbox and the rich universe of the systems we all grew up with.

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