While simplistic in gameplay compared with modern sports games such as Madden NFL 06 and ESPN NFL 2K5, Tecmo Super Bowl is hands-down the silliest and most fun football game, without even trying. The Blitz games sport unrealism and arcade action, but because Tecmo Super Bowl attempts to be a serious, down-to-earth football game and fails, it becomes so fun and exciting to play.
I follow football a bit more closely than I did in 1991 (which is the year whose NFL stats this game uses), but this era has so many legendary football heroes that I prefer these teams. Take on great players such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Bo Jackson, Dan Marino, John Elway, Steve Young, and many others. Tecmo Super Bowl sports official NFL licensing/franchising and thus has real players’ names of all the NFL teams, as opposed to its predecessor Tecmo Bowl, which only has 12 teams to play and doesn’t have everyone’s true name.
While on the topic of Tecmo Bowl, it’s safe to say that Tecmo Super Bowl improves on just about every aspect of Tecmo Bowl. It’s probably one of the best sequels of all time. Super sports all NFL teams and 64 plays in each playbook, of which you can select eight when you’re playing a season. The original only lets you choose from four plays in the huddle, which is pretty lame.
The seasons in Super are much more super. There’s a performance system where each of your players’ physical condition is rated, based on his performance in the game. If he ranks well, he’ll have a temporary performance boost in the next game. If Rice receives four TD passes in the previous game, he’ll perform even better next time. But, if Joe Montana gets sacked four times and throws a bunch of interceptions, he’ll get penalized performance next game. There are enough features to get reports on who’s in the lead and who’s performing well, etc. Sure, you can’t read the newspaper or listen to some shitty/fake ESPN SportsCenter like any recent games, but all that is hogwash.
The core of any football game, in my eyes, is the fun experienced when actually on the field and executing plays, which Tecmo Super Bowl does great in. Also, you can avoid the season mode altogether and play an exhibition if you want. The only thing that is lacking in the sequel is that in Tecmo Bowl there is this really enthusiastic “get your blood flowing” tune when you powered on the game. Super just has the little Tecmo bunny mascot and no audio. Also, the original scoreboard had the word “NINJA” and a shuriken randomly plastered on it, which is always worth a laugh or two due to randomness.
The game mechanics are simple and to the point. You choose your run or pass play if you’re offense. And if you’re on defense, then you choose the play that you think the offense is choosing. If you guess right, you’ll pretty much instantly sack the QB and get a pat on the back, because you kick ass. Otherwise, the QB will generally have enough time to react to hand off to the running back or toss it to a wide receiver.
Since the NES controller has limited buttons, you need to scroll through your available receivers and then throw, which means that a human player knows exactly whom you’re throwing to. However, the human on defense can’t switch whom he’s controlling once the ball has snapped. If you’ve ever seen the Larry the Cable Guy joke about the PlayStation football game that just “needs a damn pass button”, well, this should have been the game he played. It’s very simple.
Now I mentioned this game is pretty silly, and it might just be worth a “What the Crap?” article; but I’ll just leave it here since it’s only a few points. Everything in this game is ridiculously exaggerated. This is most apparent when you play as San Francisco. Joe Montana is an excellent quarterback. He led the team to Super Bowl victory in the 1991 season. In fact, he’s so great, he has absolutely no problem doing a perfect spiral 70 yards to Jerry Rice EVERY SINGLE TIME. That’s right, as long as the defense doesn’t choose the correct defense play and sack you, just drift back a bit and let Rice haul ass down field. Every single pass I throw gets Rice to the red zone, if not the end zone. He can evade grapples pretty easily as well. I have run Montana back to the back end of my end zone, waited, and then threw the ball to Rice on the edge of the other end zone. Throwing the ball 120 yards is incredibly easy in this game. You can’t help but just crack down and start giggling.
Now for your silly running game: There’s plenty of good running backs in the NFL, but you can’t go wrong with the LA Raiders’ Bo Jackson. This guy runs ridiculously faster than anyone else. If he gets a pocket, it’s not uncommon for him to just take it all the damn way for a TD. The game’s quarters are five minutes on the clock, but each second is much faster than a real second, and yet the scores you get are ridiculously higher than typical NFL games.
From a Wikipedia article on Bo Jackson:
Jackson’s legend was further cemented in a most unlikely manner—a video game. His digital counterpart in [Tecmo Super Bowl] for the Nintendo Entertainment System, affectionately known as “Tecmo Bo” in the hardcore TB playing circuit, is the most lethal running back in the game. Easily capable of putting up 400-500 yards per game via his incredible speed and tackle-breaking ability, “Tecmo Bo” was a player to be feared.
Another silly part of the game is the punting. If you have a decent punter punt at 75% strength, he can cover 70 yards or more. It’s crazy. A lot of the times, a yard in this game seems more like a foot. Oh yeah, the defensive AI is really shitty. Rarely will a defense guy run into the ball carrier to grapple him and bring him down—they generally dive for the runner. Once you get a handle on how to do a zigzag run down the field, you’ll evade the defense for quite a ways. The more you evade them, the more the guys seem to become Superman and dash at you with lightning speed, so you can’t avoid them forever. Just run to the upper right, and just as they dive, run to the lower right and you’ll evade them. It’s really silly.
Graphics and sound are very impressive for a NES game. As you can see by the screenshots, there are many cinematic scenes that really enhance what’s going on: close catches, pass blocks, sacks (my favorite), and of course, scorings. The audio is pretty good. Tecmo Bowl only has one song when you’re on the field, but Super mixes it up quite a bit. When you get a first down, there’s this goofy, high-pitched jingle that sounds like a snack cracker commercial, or maybe a trip to the carnival. It’s great. It’s also nice that the game doesn’t have those incredibly fake sounding “potato chip” collision noises that modern football games as well as Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger have. You know—those really fake fighting sounds. Not that the NES could handle such sounds, but still, I’m glad it couldn’t!
One thing that the new football games have over this classic is the replay value. I mean, the silly football action will never leave us, but there’s not much incentive to play many seasons and unlock a bunch of generally useless crap. So, this game gets an average replay value score. Although it is fun to decorate your “crib” in ESPN NFL 2K5.