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Friday, March 13, 2009

Let's Fix Tecmo Bowl

Tecmo Bowl was one of the all-time great sports games when it debuted on the NES. The franchise has fallen on hard times, though, with the latest version being pretty awful. Some have blamed EA for monopolizing the NFL license, but it runs a little deeper than that. You can still make a good football game without the license, but there are steps that need to be followed. It would be a shame to see a franchise like Tecmo Bowl go completely by the wayside.

One thing that absolutely must happen is for there to be superstars in the game once again. We knew who the superstars were when we played the original versions, like Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders and Darrell Green, because we knew that they were good players in real life. We don't know who these players are anymore because they're not real players.

So let's have this: Every team has at least 1 Superstar. That player speaks for the team. Before a game, he'll issue your team a challenge, like "I bet you can't hold me under 100 yards today," or "I'll pass for over 250 yards against you today!" If you meet the challenge, you gain a bonus. If you don't, you don't get those extra points.

This accomplishes two things: One, you now know who some of the players are, so that it feels less homogenic. Two, you also are able to put faces to the teams, which gives you an emotional response to a team. When I play against Minnesota in Madden, I want to beat them because I hate the Vikings. I have no such emotional response in Tecmo Bowl because Minnesota means nothing to me there. However, if a player keeps taunting me and telling me they're going to run all over me, I want to crush that player and team.

Also, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff made the mistake of letting you beef up your players with stats while not having any other team use theirs, and they also gave you special moves that would turn on randomly, like, say, a quarterback catches on fire when you're using a running play. That's crap. I want to be able to turn it on myself on 4th and long with the game on the line.

Therefore, remove experience points. Make players what they are, and don't add anything to them. This removes balancing issues, as having computer teams try and allocate their experience while you're trying to allocate yours will lead to some wonky results. Better just to leave them alone.

Instead of experience, have bonuses that can be used during the games. For instance, let's say you really need to convert on a long 3rd down. You could use a bonus like "Sure-Handed," which would make all your receivers much more able to catch. Or, let's say you needed a good stop on 4th down. You could use a bonus like "Scramble," which would change the offense's play to a random play. You could only use two per game so it wouldn't turn into a bonus-fest, and it would be really fun besides.

Tecmo Bowl is still struggling with its place in modern gaming. It still can't figure out what it wants to be, but those of us who have played it for years know what it is: A fun, arcade-style version of football. If Tecmo embraces that, we'll be able to enjoy Tecmo Bowl well into the future.