We tried to get Hank Williams, Jr. to kick off this post with "Are You Ready for Some Football?" but he was booked. So, we're just going to assume that you are, in fact, ready for some football ... in this case, a rundown of our recent hands-and-stylus-on with Tecmo Bowl Kickoff for Nintendo DS.
It's been 19 years since the original Tecmo Bowl hit the field on NES, making it one of the earliest football sims, not to mention one of the most famous. For its return on modern hardware, Tecmo drafted its first US executive producer, Ryan Gilbo, to head the project, and he promptly set out to update the game just enough, but not change too much.
Read on for our full impressions and see first video of the game in action after the break.
Firing up the game, we were greeted with ... simplicity. Just as in the 8-bit original, we could choose from pre-season and season play. Our eyes were quickly drawn to the two new options: multiplayer and customization. The former is pretty basic stuff: play head-to-head versus another DS owner locally or via Nintendo WFC. The latter is surprisingly in-depth. It's possible to edit any of the 32 built-in teams to your liking.
You can change their name, city, nickname, emblem, uniform style & color, and playbook (by choosing four running and four passing plays from the game's presets, which include all of the plays from the original NES title). It's also possible to edit each player's name and stats. We know what you're thinking: "Ah-hah! A way to get around the lack of an NFL license!" Well, technically ... although Tecmo doesn't officially condone it. No, not at all.
It's a little odd that you can ramp all of your players' stats up to 90 out of 100, since it obviously introduces a balance issue with multiplayer. Tecmo simply hopes people abide by an "honor system," with producer Gilbo stating that no "real" Tecmo Bowl fan would ever cheat. We anticipate finding a lot of "fake" Tecmo Bowl fans online.
The basic gameplay has stayed, well ... basic. We started a game, kicked off, then picked from one of our eight plays using the same mechanic as in the original (holding A or B in tandem with a direction on the D-Pad selects different plays). The stylus could have been used, if we'd chosen to.
On the field, it was a matter of sacking the other team's quarterback or getting the ball downfield – it's very simple yet fun stuff; you don't need a degree in "Advanced Maddenism" to play, or even that much knowledge of football. We played using the D-Pad, but it's also possible to control players with the DS stylus. We tried it and went back to the pad. We also tried out the one major new gameplay addition: super moves. We only got to see one – a fiery fast pass – but it was a nice, if subtle progression of the classic gameplay formula. Like the game's touchdowns, interceptions, QB sacks, and the likes it was accompanied by a two-screen-tall "cinematic."
Tecmo Bowl Kickoff looks nice and sharp on the DS screens. It's basic looking; the players are a little on the tiny side, and there's not a polygon to be found, but that's fine by us as long as it's fun – and, a couple of months out from its September release, it definitely is.