People tell me “Tecmo Super Bowl” for Sega Genesis is way better than “Tecmo Bowl” for Nintendo. I haven’t played the former, but I don’t care – it’s simply not possible to create a more perfect arcade football game.
This is not a game of skill or football realism; “Tecmo” is like a game of chess, with perfect pixilated passes and some legendary quirks. There’s Bo Jackson’s unreal speed, Lawrence Taylor’s unparalleled kick-blocking skills and Herschel Walker’s infuriating ability to shed tacklers. There are only 12 teams, nine players per side and four plays. Guess the same play as the offense and you’ll blow up your opponent’s line and cover all its receivers.
There is some skill involved. Reading routes and knowing when receivers break takes repetition, but since one game takes only 15 minutes, you can be pretty much up to speed in an hour. All you really need to do is get inside your opponent’s head. Will it be a run or a pass? In fact, the hardest part might be picking a team.
Debate is open about which team is the best, but the top tier is clear as day: San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Dallas. San Fran has Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and a speedy defender in Ronnie Lott. Chicago can’t match Montana’s firepower, but Mike Singletary and the rest of the team’s defense is stifling. The same goes for New York and Lawrence Taylor. Dallas is a bit of a dark horse, but Herschel Walker is a monster.
A good match-up is crucial if you’re going head-to-head with a buddy – but against the computer it doesn’t always matter. For the purpose of putting off a few papers, pissing off my girlfriend and, uh, journalistic integrity, I decided to buy a couple bottles of wine and try to beat a season in one sitting.
I chose San Francisco, partly because I like the fact that the team has three passing plays and partly because I find its uniforms aesthetically pleasing.
Playing a whole season might take only a few hours, but the frustration might take years off your life. Passes that were completed in week 1 are all of a sudden interceptions in the divisional round of the playoffs. As the season wears on, your players get slower and slower, and the computer seems to get faster. Since when is Kevin Mack ripping off 80-yard touchdown runs?
Maybe it’s just the Protocolo wine, but no football video game will ever be quite as satisfying as “Tecmo.” Certainly, none will be as timeless – do you ever play “Madden 2003” anymore? That’s the nature of simulations and reality, at least compared to arcade games, because you’ll never be able to match reality on a plasma. You’re only as good as your latest bit rate. With “Tecmo Bowl,” graphics, processing power, stats . none of it matters. What does matter is that you can play it fast, simple and fun – for now, and forever.