News Update: Tecmo Bowl Still Fun
My greatest regret about coming to Japan for the 2008 Tokyo Game Show? The fact that I didn't have a build of Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff for the Nintendo DS to accompany me on the 10-plus-hour trip. Having spent some time with the game at last week's fall Nintendo press summit, I'm happy to report that...
Things I Liked:
- Kickoff plays exactly like the Tecmo Bowl you remember from your younger days, and any longtime fan is going to be using the classic control scheme of the directional pad and buttons. New fans--or people who suck at Tecmo Bowl, like Shanker--might enjoy the stylus controls just as much. When on offense, you can tap a receiver to throw to him and rub the stylus back and forth to break tackles. Like I said, old-school Tecmo Bowl fans won't need it, but the stylus controls are friendly enough for newbs to get going right away. Are you listening, Shanker?
- It also helps that the game speed seems slightly slower than I remember it. Right now, I've got this in the "Things I Like" category, because it made picking apart a defense with the passing game an easy task. If it continues to be this easy throughout a season, this slow pace might become a hindrance...
- One of the many reasons that Tecmo Super Bowl was superior to its predecessor--at least in my mind--was because of pretty comprehensive stat tracking (all-time favorite Tecmo Super Bowl stat: league scoring leaders, which included place-kickers; those extra points and field goals really add up!). That kind of obsessive stat tracking is here in Kickoff, and the game is better for it.
- Finally, the game is surprisingly customizable. You can switch your playbooks in midseason (though the interface is a bit muddled), and you can trade players (either within the game or with other players via wireless connection). Add to that some fairly obsessive team-customization options, which let you create your own NFL (or USFL, or XFL, if you're so inclined) from scratch. I'm not sure who's going to be nerdy enough to take the massive amount of time it will require to re-create their favorite teams and players, but the option is there if you want it.
Things I Didn't Like:
- First up, the user interface can be mighty confusing at times. It's a natural hazard for a game that has lots of options and stats to throw at you. These options need to be presented in an easy-to-understand way. That isn't always the case in Kickoff, especially with things like player substitutions; it's nice that you can sub in players in between plays, but it's not immediately apparent how to do it.
- Furthermore, though certain aspects of the game should be left old-school--such as the controls, and the visuals--there's still a few aspects of Kickoff that feel old-fashioned in a bad way. For example, when playing a season, you have to go in and mark the team that you want to control and then note all the others teams that you want the CPU to control, otherwise you play all of the weekly games yourself. Now, granted, that's the old-school Tecmo Bowl way, but it feels awfully dated in 2008. Why not make it easy for me to control my team and let the CPU handle the rest of that week's games?
- Along with the slightly slower game pace, I'm a little concerned with the game's AI. There's only one default difficulty setting, and though I was promised that teams would play differently, in the handful of games I played against the CPU, I was lighting it up. Granted, it probably won't be that big of a deal if you've got a football-loving friend or two (the game will support wireless play), but if you're rolling solo, you might find the lack of challenge in Kickoff...well, challenging.
Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff will be released on November 11.
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