Tecmo Bowl Kickoff Hands-On

The football series that started it all is returning, this time on the DS. We get our hands on an early build.

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Chances are that, even if you aren't much of a sports-gaming fan, you probably spent some time playing a few quarters of Tecmo Bowl back in the day. As one of the first big sports-gaming franchises, the name alone is enough to spark a sense of nostalgia among gamers of a certain age. Now, Tecmo is looking to take advantage of that legacy fan base with the upcoming Tecmo Bowl Kickoff for the Nintendo DS. We had a chance to see the game for the first time during a Tecmo press event earlier in the week in San Francisco.

Tecmo Bowl is finally returning, this time to the Nintendo DS.
Tecmo Bowl is finally returning, this time to the Nintendo DS.

Unlike the more realistic football games that have become the standard over the last few console generations, Tecmo Bowl Kickoff is straight old-school. When you're playing on the field, everything from the play-calling screens (which will let you choose from eight plays on offense or defense) to the player animations look like they're straight out of the original games on the NES and SNES. Among the biggest visual differences are the brief cutscenes that happen during touchdowns, sack celebrations, and field-goal kicks; they're reminiscent of the animation in the old game but obviously don't feature real player likenesses or names.

Easy-to-understand controls are another hallmark of the game; though it does make use of the stylus and touch-screen combination for breaking out of tackles, you can play the game simply with the buttons if you like. The controls still play exactly as you remember them. When running, you can tap the A button to break tackles and, when passing, you cycle through your receivers by pressing one button and then throw the ball by pressing another. Super abilities are another of the switches from the original Tecmo Bowl. Certain players will have access to these special abilities, such as the lightning pass, which we saw during the demo of the game by Tecmo. Some (but not all) special abilities will be user-initiated.

With no NFL or players license, Kickoff will include 32 fictional teams with names like the Baltimore Bulldozers, New England Gunners, Indianapolis Narwhals, the Los Angeles Supercocks, and the Minnesota Yetis. Thanks to some handy, extensive editing tools, there's nothing to keep you from editing those teams into their real-life NFL counterparts. You can edit a bunch of different attributes for teams in the game, including city and name, color scheme for all aspects of your uniform, as well as team logo, playbooks, and individual player names and attributes. Curiously, there's nothing to stop you from taking a custom team and jacking every player's attributes up to the maximum allowable, which we figure everyone will be doing once they start playing against friends.

Everything from team name to playbooks will be customizable in Kickoff.
Everything from team name to playbooks will be customizable in Kickoff.

Though the game will feature a single-player mode with preseason, season, and the All-Star Bowl, the multiplayer features in Kickoff will keep you busy. You'll be able to play against a nearby friend via wireless play or take on a buddy via the Internet with the DS's Wi-Fi capabilities. You can use custom teams when playing in multiplayer, so get ready to start jacking up all of your players' stats now.

Fast-playing and addictive, Tecmo Bowl Kickoff certainly isn't doing much new with the Tecmo Bowl name, but it will definitely have some old-school appeal to people who remember the original from their younger days. The game is scheduled to arrive on the Nintendo DS in September of this year, and Tecmo reps also confirmed yesterday that a Wii version of the game will be coming out in 2009. Whether it will be a modified version of the DS game or an entirely new version of the Tecmo Bowl series remains to be seen. Nonetheless, we'll be keeping our eyes on both of these games throughout the year.

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