Our brains are interesting things. We can look at something from our past, and we can instantly remember the stuff we were passionate about. We can leave the radio on, and when a song comes on that you haven’t heard in a long time, you can still sing along with the lyrics, like you just heard it yesterday. A television show you watched when you were a kid gets mentioned by a co-worker, and you remember all the quirks and the catchphrases. Someone mentioned a kids movie from your childhood, and you can probably still recite some of the dialogue.
This happened when I played Tecmo Super Bowl about six months ago with a good friend of mine. I haven’t touched the game in well over a decade, and as soon as I chose my team at the time, the Buffalo Bills, I can still recite the players names from their jersey number, and only sometimes needed assistance with the last name displayed.
As Super Bowl XLVI plays today, we should look back at the game widely considered the best football game of all time. Some even consider the best sports game ever made. And there’s a simple reason for this distinction. It’s fun. By yourself, or with friends, it’s so much fun, and still is.
First thing I did as I dived back into the cartridge, before I even get to playing again, is get into the season mode. If you set the game to skip to week 17, it will skip the season all the way to the playoffs. And if you don’t select a team to play, it will play all playoffs, including the Super Bowl, automatically. I was curious who was the better teams that year. Guess who wins the Super Bowl that way? Well it was the San Francisco 49ers beating the Los Angeles Raiders 35-7. The 49ers, who had Joe Montana and Steve Young as quarterbacks, Jerry Rice was a receiver, and Jesse Sapolu was the center. That was the unstoppable force. Do you know who won Superbowl 1991 for real? The New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19.
There are so many names linked to this game, it’s incredible, and so many now Hall of Famers in their teams, like Lawrence Taylor, Thurman Thomas, and Dan Marino. There are also famous names like Howie Long, and Bo Jackson. Who you won’t see in there? Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham, and Bernie Kosar the quarterbacks of the Bills, Eagles and Browns, respectively. The reason for that is that they were not officially members of the Players Associations marketing agreement, so they were given generic names.
This game is so popular, there are even roms out there that have the most up-to-date rosters and teams out there. This game came out in 1991, twenty years ago, and people still want up-to-date rosters for this game. There’s even a cartridge out there for sale with the updated roster. I may have to buy it before the next season starts.
Now, for those who never played it, let’s finally get into why this game is great.
You can choose between pre-season, a full 17-week season, or the Pro Bowl, which is their all-star game. From there, you can choose if you want a computer to play (COM), whether you play (MAN), or just command the orders, like a coach and let the computer play it out (COA). Each games are four quarters with 5 minute quarters. There are timeouts like the real game.
When you are offence or defence, you have to pick the plays for each downs, like a coach or quarterback would do, before you enact the down. This can get really intimidating if you have never played football ever, or don’t understand any of the rules. That’s pretty much the biggest flaw of the game is the initial interpretation of the controls. It takes some time to get used to, not just the play selection, but the game play. You have to get used to the timing of tackling, and how throwing works and when. But the more you play it, the more you realize how tight the controls are, and how very responsive they are.
When running, you just have to dodge all the players in your way. When throwing, you have to let your receivers get into their respective positions, or else you overthrow or underthrow the ball to them. Also, you have to find someone who is wide open to throw to, because if one opposing player is near or touching that receiver it will likely be an incomplete pass. All without getting sacked. It’s high intensity and makes for exciting highlights.
Most of the rules are there, including touchback and field goals, and even fumbles and interceptions. Each game has starts with a coin toss, and has overtime. Certain rules are missing from the game to keep it simple. For example, after each touchdown, you kick for the extra point, and there is no option to go for two point conversions. There is also no kneeling to let the clock run down, like a real game, but honestly, where’s the fun in that? There is no fair catch rule either, so if you get a safety on a punt return, it’s your own fault. And there are no refs, no penalties, and no instant replays. These are all minor issues, but it shows that they are unnecessary in an N.E.S. game like this.
Every team has many players and all different plays to swap to your desire. You can even customize the Pro Bowl teams. There’s no trading in the game, but that isn’t a bad thing. The season mode has a lot of stats and even has injuries to make it more challenging and gives it more realism.
The graphics are phenomenal. The field and sprites are small enough to give you a lot of room to run around in. Sometimes the team outfits are hard to look at, like the Packers home team is so white and bright, all you see is the outline of the toon. There are random cut scenes that happen in the middle of the game play, that doesn’t impede at all to the game at hand. Even the half-time cut scenes are wonderful to watch, even though they contain some provocative cheerleaders. Not that I’m complaining.
The music is catchy and pleasant to listen to. Each side of the field has their own distinct music to know who’s got the ball. When it gets to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, the music gets a little more serious, but still comes off fun and engaging. Plus, you can always add your own commentary, pretending that you’re the play-by-play analyst, like I do.
Overall, the game is really fun. It’s made, almost specifically for football fans, so anyone who don’t care may not have the same passion as the fans of the game. But don’t let the playbook interface scare you off. It’s a great party game to have with friends over, and when you are by yourself in season mode. In fact, I have the game on computer play in the background while typing this review. It’s like watching a football game on television.
So, who did the game predict for this year’s Super Bowl, between the Patriots and the Giants. Well, let’s get a COM vs. COM game going to find out. The Patriots take an early lead and hang on to beat the Giants 38-21 to win. Which I hope doesn’t happen. Because I hate the Patriots.
So. Very. Much.