Whenever you see a review of a game, it's fair to expect that the person that is reviewing it has a fair bit of background in either the game's genre or the game's series. In the case of Tecmo Bowl, I think I have a good bit of depth in both. The only Tecmo Bowl game that is missing from my collection, currently, is Tecmo Super Bowl 2 for the SNES (I already own the Genesis version though,) so it's safe to say that I know a fair bit about the history of the franchise.
After all of that experience with the franchise, one thing that I can say for certain is that this game is a missed opportunity. After 12 years following their last release, Tecmo has had a lot of time to take stock in the franchise and make improvements to the games, and this game could have, and should have been so much more... but as it is, it's a disappointing effort... Not a bad game, just a disappointing one. I'll explain why.
Almost everything in the game seems to be based upon the code for the first Super Nintendo/Genesis release of Tecmo Super Bowl, which was released 15 years ago. In my opinion, this was one of the two best games from the history of the series, so all should have gone well from there... but other than adding a 30-team league, some online multiplayer, and roster trading features, there just isn't much of anything that makes the game demonstratively better than it's efforts from 15 years ago.
When the series primary competitor was John Madden Football, which is kind of odd... considering that's it's only real competition today... one of the things that really set the game apart was the amount of statistical detail. The game tracked stats for every single player on your roster and you could examine the stats for each player, on any team, just by looking at the rosters.
I don't think it was too much to ask that they would keep that intact. Sadly, that is not the case. Stats are tracked for players, but you can only see your stats if you are in the top 20 for that particular statistic, and only by looking at the league leaders screen. Unless there is some memory limitation in DS cartridges that I'm not aware of... this is a frustrating oversight.
During my gameplay, I also found some statistical bugs in the game. For example, my defensive tackle had 5 sacks in one game. After the game was over, when you see the post game statistics, all 5 of those sacks were awarded to a different player on my team. That's just a miss by the QA team for the game.
Little issues like that just seem to keep popping up in the game as well.
- After you score a touchdown, if you elect to go for 2 points, you start at the 2-yard line. If you decide to kick the PAT, you kick it from the 1.
- End of the game stats show the number of TD's that were scored, but don't ever include defensive touchdowns
- When a punt is blocked, if the kicking team touches the ball first... the play ends.
Are any of these issues major? No.
Are they annoying? Certainly.
Do they make the game unplayable? Not at all.
Something else that I found annoying pertains to how injuries are dealt with. Once an injury happens to one of your players, he leaves the game. You have no idea how long the injury will last, you just move another player from your roster into his slot and keep going. When they come back, they don't assume their starting role, but are placed in a backup role on the roster until you put them back into their starting spot.
The last issue that has really frustrated me has to do with the team roster. Your team carries two kickers and two punters.... but the kicking position doesn't ever get hurt... so why do you need 2 extras on your roster?
I hate to belabor issues, that would seem like minutia, to some people reading this review... but my problem with these issues is that they weren't in the original games that they look to have used to make this version. None of those problems existed in the past, but are all there now.
So, you can see why this effort really frustrates me. They had a perfectly functional game engine and, for reasons that are lost to me, they added 2 teams and removed the NFL license, and somehow turned it into a buggy and inferior game. For the life of me, I just can't understand why.
I've played nearly 40 single player, and a handful of multiplayer games to this point and while I can say that I do enjoy the game, I would have a hard time recommending the game to sports fans who aren't already fans of the franchise.
Verdict: Rental material. Recommended only if you're a fan of the series.