The Anti-Madden finally returns, but not exactly the way I had hoped. While fun, it may come up short for longtime fans.
I fondly remember spending most of the fall of 1992 playing the 2nd NES Tecmo Bowl, listening to House of Pain's "Jump Around" on my walkman as I controlled my Jim McMahon-led (Poor Cunningham was always getting hurt) Philadelphia Eagles to their first 16-0 Super Bowl championship season. As a diehard Eagles fan and someone who lacked the patience for the longer and more complicated Madden series, Tecmo Bowl was the perfect way for me to enjoy the sport on my Nintendo. Like Tecmo's other great sports game Bad News Baseball, it was easy enough to learn but hard enough to keep you coming back.
For the most part, this xbox Live remake recaptures that same simplistic yet challenging feel. Though it does add an all new 3D mode that attempts to modernize the game, nothing about the mechanics have been changed. This is a good thing, since Tecmo Bowl's outrageous nature is what made it so endearing to gamers. The 90 yard passes, the nose Guard exploit that let you get 50+ sacks a season, the "juiced mode" that activates mid season and makes you throw the controller into the wall...all of this makes it back to the Xbox Live remake for another generation to enjoy.
However, there are a few hiccups that may cause hardcore Tecmo fans to consider passing this one by.
First of all, and perhaps most egregiously, the game exhibits a very high latency during online play. Though I imagine there are people who don't have this problem, it seems that the message boards prove I'm not alone in my assessment that the multiplayer is abnormally sluggish. Switching to old-school "2D mode" doesn't really seem to alleviate this and when you combine it with cowardly game quitters and players who always pick Buffalo or Dallas (Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith must be smiling somewhere right now) you're left with a somewhat disappointing online component for what was once the ultimate multiplayer Super Nintendo game.
Secondly, we have the lack of proper player names. Perhaps I read wrong, but I was told the remake would have the original game's August 1993 rosters, the only rosters that Tecmo had rights to use since EA bought an exclusivity deal with the NFL several years ago. While we do get the rosters, we do not get the names. Though the game gives you the chance to rename everyone in the league to match their real-world mid 90's counterparts, it's a time consuming task that is so tedious and unrewarding that I stopped after only filling out three teams. As an Eagles fan it hurt me quite a bit to see that there existed no option to change my team's colors or make my own logo. My Eagles not only had to live with the shame of wearing bright red and white jerseys but also had to deal with the fact that the Dallas Cowboys had an Eagle as their logo. Knowing how each of these team's fans hate each other you can't tell me that wasn't planned.
While the multiplayer and the lack of any connection to the 1993 rosters other than stats may bother me, it probably won't deter most longtime Tecmo fans from buying this otherwise flawless remake. Granted, the game isn't going to make any converts out of your average teenage Madden fan, but for hardcore Tecmo devotees like myself that still modify the original games with updated rosters every season, it's worth it for the leader board feature alone.
While your mileage may vary, I have to admit that I probably won't play Tecmo throwback again for quite some time. After leading my 14-2 Philadelphia "Hornets" (ahem) to a 14-13 Superbowl win and ending up 45th (Look for Taxonomic) on the Xbox Live passing yards leader board, I found myself wanting to go back to the updated, modified version I had been playing only a couple months prior to this. That version, called "Tecmo Super Coach", was a modified version of the NES Super Tecmo Bowl that not only included all the logos and team names of the 2010 season, but was re-balanced and fine tuned for tournament play as well. I can't help feeling that, thanks to the power and the fanaticism of the online Tecmo Bowl community of which I'm a part of, I'm probably not going to go back to the Xbox Live remake any time soon. With better roster updates, lack of any obligations to the NFL player's association and considerably more time on their hands, the fan community has better "versions" of Tecmo Bowl than what Southend will ever be able to create.
While I don't fault Southend for coming up short on third down, I feel a punt fake is worth the risk. Unfortunately they've already stated that due to insufficient funds no patches will be released, meaning that the clock just hit zero in the 4th quarter and they were only one yard away from the end zone.
Tecmo Bowl has one of the largest fan communities on the internet, and when you compare Throwback to the quality of the fan's work it does seem to come up a bit short. It's a shame too, since an online enabled Xbox Live version with fully customizable rosters and the ability to upload and share those rosters would have went a long way to moving the internet leagues to the Xbox.
In the end, I can only recommend this to curious Tecmo Bowl fans who want the new 3D mode or those of you who want to take a shot at the leader boards. Those two features were nailed down brilliantly, and are worth the 800 points it will cost you to gain them. Otherwise, the fan community online has better mods of Tecmo Bowl that far surpass what you'll find here.