Tecmo Bowl, along with Konami's Double Dribble and Blades of Steel, marked the perfect balance between arcade action and technical accuracy in the late '80s. Mforma's handheld version, though not perfect, is a welcome update.
Tecmo Bowl is almost a carbon copy of the Nintendo classic. It simplifies football into a barebones affair--you have a choice between two run and two pass plays to run (offensive) or stop (defensive). There are no championship or "make your own team" modes like in more-modern football games, but Tecmo Bowl really doesn't need them. Games last between five and 10 minutes, which keeps the game brisk and intense throughout.
There is only one action button--the 5 key--which is used to begin plays, initiate passes, and tackle knuckleheads, while 2/4/6/8 or the joystick control the highlighted player. The # and * keys cycle through the different players or potential receivers. The straightforward gameplay, easy controls, and clear gamefield are ideal for the handheld.
One area too simplified is the team selection (San Francisco, Dallas, New York, and Green Bay--just the cities, as there aren't any NFL licenses here), which pales in comparison to the original's full roster. However, Mforma is to be commended for varying the strengths and plays of the teams. By my fifth game I already had a favorite team, Dallas, because of its considerable running game.
Two problems keep Tecmo Bowl out of the hall of fame. First, the graphics, though just as detailed as those in the Nintendo version, can create a disturbing amount of flicker when there is too much onscreen activity (which is most of the time). Second, the simple but effective sound effects of the original are sorely missing.
However, the solid gameplay remains and the replay value is almost as high as the original, so expect to be playing this one for a while. Hopefully Mforma will do a Super Tecmo Bowl remake that will be even stronger.