E3 2008: Tecmo Bowl Kickoff Updated Impressions

We had a chance to check out the remake of the football game that started it all.

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For many football gamers, this game will bring back fond memories of afternoons spent cheesing your best friend with Bo Jackson--not-so-fond memories for those among you on the receiving end. Regardless of what category you fall into, Tecmo is hoping that nostalgia will be enough for you to give its new game a try. Although the name and many elements of the gameplay are borrowed from the original game, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff's debut on the Nintendo DS brings a few new twists to the classic game. We had a chance to check Tecmo's latest offering at E3 2008.

While the game is in no way officially connected to any American professional football league in existence, the game does feature 32 teams conveniently distributed across eight divisions. Although the game comes packaged with fictional teams, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff will let you customize nearly everything about each team. This includes renaming the team and players, choosing logos and team colors, and even altering attribute values to your liking (although some logos will need to be unlocked first). While normally this would be a tedious task, the DS's stylus makes menu navigation and reentering names much easier. In addition, renamed teams can be shared online with other users, making the creation of NFL-like leagues simple to find. Even the playbooks can be customized for each team (there are 30-plus plays in the game for you to choose from).

Many elements of Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff mimic those of its predecessor. The game uses the same overhead view with profile players. The kicking meter, cycling through receivers, and the cutscenes that follow big plays all function exactly as they did 20 years ago. Even the playbook in the upcoming game features just 16 plays per team (eight offense, eight defense).

As similar as the game is, however, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff does touch up on some elements to keep it in line with what you would expect from a game being sold today. The cutscenes have been entirely redone, and many new cutscenes have been added (including dancing cheerleaders at halftime). The music has been changed (though it still has an upbeat tone consistent with the series). Quarterbacks no longer bark out a stream of eight or nine "huts" before snapping the ball. Instead, they say something more consistent with what you might hear in a football game played today, like, "Green 74 turbo." The graphics have been given a face-lift, and the ball carrier no longer blinks in a translucent manner (he has a circle underneath him).

In addition to the more subtle changes, Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff adds a few more significant gameplay twists. Although you will have the option to use the directional pad and face buttons like in the classic game, the implementation of the stylus adds an entirely new aspect to the control. You will be able to move the ballhandler by simply tapping and holding where on the field you want him to go. To throw to a receiver, you just tap the intended receiver. The one concern we have is that the stylus is so effective that it may imbalance the game for players using the classic controls. We will just have to wait and see how this plays out.

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff also introduces "super skills" for the first time (though Bo used to have many of these in the original game). There are 13 super skills in total that can be earned during the course of a game and are available only to quarterbacks (five), running backs (four), and wide receivers (four). For instance, the sack evasion skill will break your quarterback out of a guaranteed sack, while lightning dodge will let the running back juke past up to two defenders right in front of him. Some effects last only for the single play, while others have a less-drastic passive effect for the entire quarter. Although the defense doesn't have access to such weapons, both players will have the opportunity to earn and use them.

The game will offer multiple modes, including season mode, all-star bowl, preseason, quick game, and multiplayer. Multiplayer offers connectivity through local Wi-Fi or wireless.

We will continue to bring you updates on Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff as we learn more. Be sure to check out the full list of super skills and control schemes in the game on SportsGamer next week. Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff is scheduled for release on the Nintendo DS and Wii (we haven't seen the Wii version yet) on September 15.

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