TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Nintendo’s ‘Tecmo Super Bowl’ still scores like Bo Jackson 26 years later
Perhaps the most asked question of developers of retro classics would be why they feel their game has endured throughout the years? Why are there still legions of gamers looking to purchase and enjoy these games 20, sometimes 30, years later?
If I had to guess, I would say that a game that has a universal appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers would stand the test of time a lot better than a more niche title. This month of reviews, for example, targets sports titles that many non-sports fans enjoy.
Today’s topic on Turn to Channel 3, possibly more than any other on this month’s list of titles, exemplifies that universal appeal and the enduring spirit of gamers still hungry to sit down and play it. Let’s head to the gridiron for “Tecmo Super Bowl” on the original Nintendo Entertainment System!
“Tecmo Super Bowl” (NES, 1991)
Perhaps more than any other developer during the glory days of Nintendo, Tecmo is often an unsung hero in the annals of great video game soundtracks. While “Tecmo Super Bowl” doesn’t have a huge soundtrack, and much of it is made up of short songs or little ditties, if you will, what little there is will forever be etched into the minds of gamers.
Whether you’re simply listening to the title music or your team of choice has won the Super Bowl, there is something there for every chapter that you play through in the game. The preseason, regular season, and playoffs all have different in-game music that perfectly suits that moment you’re in. I still love the intensity in the music when playoff time hits, and the touchdown music remains some of the most catchy blips of music in gaming that never get boring to hear.
Largely undefined, highly repetitive, and definitely diminutive compared to football games that were to come, the general sprites in “Tecmo Super Bowl” have a fondness that is entirely their own, perhaps largely due to the electronic football look to them. While the cut scenes are obviously a step up, there’s not a whole lot of those and, other than some color changes depending on team and player skin color, you’re not going to have a lot to look at. Every field looks the same too, as weather wasn’t introduced to “Tecmo Super Bowl” until the 16-bit era.
Still, that iconic, easily recognizable sprite theme is another part of what has made “Tecmo Super Bowl” an enduring force that arguably surpasses the likes of John Madden’s series of games.
While modern gamers may find the lack of plays a drag, the small playbooks (which can be altered) make this game far more accessible to gamers of all ages and experience levels for sure. I still enjoy taking some of the worst teams of the era and taking them to the Super Bowl, which may seem easy at first, but definitely becomes increasingly more difficult come playoff time.
Of course, this is also the game that led to future car commercials for one Bo Jackson, who is an unstoppable force in this game, and is the equivalent of a friend choosing Oddjob in “Goldeneye 007” in the level of unfair competition. There are still YouTube videos floating around the Internet of someone taking Bo Jackson and literally running circles around opponents, even taking the ball all the way back to the 1-yard line before running the ball all the way for a touchdown.
Simplicity in control is what makes this game so popular. Even gamers who don’t plop themselves down on a couch every Sunday in the fall enjoy “Tecmo Super Bowl” for the one-of-a-kind gaming experience it is. With its demise in the ‘90s paving the way for the “Madden” franchise, it has maybe even increased in popularity.
There are national tournaments still being conducted on an annual basis for “Tecmo Super Bowl,” with players given a specific set of rules (including the ban of the Bo Jackson Raiders team) that are highly competitive. In addition, every NFL season, programmers and game editors create new ROMs and, yes, new carts of “Tecmo Super Bowl” with current NFL rosters, even releasing ROMS and carts to reflect changes throughout the season, so why spend $60 or more on your new “Madden” game you will grow bored with when you can play the classic football gaming franchise that started it all with all 32 NFL teams and current rosters for far less?
Next time on Turn to Channel 3, we head off the gridiron and hit the ice with what is largely considered the pinnacle of hockey games – “NHL ‘94” on the Sega Genesis!
Until then, whether the forecasts are right or not, be sure to have a stack of games ready to hunker down with because, hey, there’s never a bad time to game on, especially in the winter!