Tecmo Bowl – the first great sports game, Part 1.

Last week I picked Super Tecmo Bowl as one of my top 5 favorite video games of all time.  The reason I picked it over Tecmo Bowl is that it was a perfect sequel.  It kept the game play similar, but added a few dimensions.  I believe that Tecmo Bowl was a revolutionary sports game.  I’m no video game historian, but it was the first game that I remember that used things that are common in football video games today. 

  1. The scrolling screen.  Before this, almost all sports games had the entire field on one screen.  Using a scrolling field allowed for much more realistic scale and better gameplay.  Madden, the most popular sports game in history, now uses the scrolling field, but switched it to a vertical field, whereas Tecmo Bowl was a horizontal field.  The horizontal field better simulates the way we watch football on TV.  The vertical screen makes for a more realistic players’-eye-view.
  2. Player’s names.  Tecmo Bowl had permission of the NFL Players Association, so actual players and stats were used.  These stats were also used to individualize each video game player.  Even though they all looked alike (except for skin tone), each player had different attributes.  Oddly enough, they did not get permission from the NFL, so the teams did not use team names – just cities, and a loosely patterned color scheme (the San Francisco team was red and gold, but Seattle was pink for some reason).  Super Tecmo Bowl remedied this problem by getting the NFL’s permission – I think the first game to do so – and used the actual logos.
  3. An ongoing season.  The game simulated a season by randomly selecting a team for each “week.”  You were given a password after each week, and if you kept winning, you would advance to the playoffs, and then the Tecmo Bowl.  Super Tecmo Bowl took this a step further, by keeping some basic stats as the season went on.
  4. Play calling.  Tecmo Bowl coaches had four plays to choose from.  For most teams there were two runs and two passes, but for some teams, the ratio was 3:1 (Miami and San Francisco had three passes, LA had three runs).  Super Tecmo Bowl expanded the play calling to eight.  The defense called plays too, guessing which of the four offensive plays their opponent would call.  If they got it right, the defense would overrun the offense (most of the time).

You might be wondering, “Why the sudden interest in Tecmo Bowl?”  Well, I just downloaded it on the Wii, and it is as fun as I remembered.

 

Now, my two-year-old daughter wants to type:

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