Tecmo Bowl in MonochromeAugust 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments
Tags: Cross-play, football games, Game Boy, NES, Nintendo, Portable gaming, Retro Sports Gaming, Sculptured Software, sports video games, Tecmo, Tecmo Bowl, video games
When Tecmo Bowl for the Nintendo Game Boy was released in September of 1991, the game broke the stereotypical mold for handheld sports games. Often stunted because of hardware limitations and developer resources, portable sports gaming has always taken a backseat to its big brother on the home console. Sculptured Software’s work on porting Tecmo’s NES classic to the two year-old phenom Game Boy did more than just mirror the NES game to four monochrome colors. They also introduced gamers to something Sony would boast about their own handheld twenty years later.
Tecmo and Sculptured Software brought everything to the Game Boy. You could link up with another Game Boy for a two-player game. The classic soundtrack is the same and the halftime (“HALF TIME” in the game of course) show featuring pixel-pom-poming cheerleaders is there. Rygar’s contract for scoreboard advertising apparently extended through 1991. You can still block every CPU extra point or field goal with the same trick. With the same teams and playbooks as the NES counterpart, the game does show its age a bit with the roster involved. Now this was before serialized sports titles were coming out every year so the gap between release dates with the original has some flexibility, but Tecmo Bowl hocked a 1988 National Football League Players Association copyright over three years later. The cries for 49ers’ WR John Taylor and others would finally be answered in December, 1991 with Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES. No Game Boy sequel would be produced.
Tecmo Bowl for the Game Boy also offered the first cross-play experience in sports gaming history. While Sony’s MLB 12 The Show allows save files to be shared between the PlayStation 3 and Vita versions, Tecmo Bowl technically did it first. The password system for both the NES and Game Boy games is exactly the same. You could start out your quest for the Tecmo Bowl with Los Angeles at home, scribble down your password on some scrap paper, and pick up your season on the ride to Grandma’s house. Tecmo Bowl of course gets better with the different Game Boy support in future handhelds. Playing on the back-lit Game Boy Advance SP-101 is probably the most optimal as the palette is slightly expanded and the animation is very crisp on the small screen (compared to the Super Game Boy).
Sculptured Software would go on to develop a number of Tecmo sports titles after Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo NBA Basketball (NES), Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (Genesis) and Tecmo Super Baseball (Genesis) are solid entries. They also worked on pretty much every Jack Nicklaus golf game in history and a bevy of WWF titles from the mid-90s. That’s quite a resume of retro sports gaming, which is highlighted in a great way by bringing Bo Jackson, Lawrence Taylor and other Tecmo Bowl heroes to the monochrome gridiron of the Game Boy.