In 1991, Tecmo released Tecmo Super Bowl, a landmark sports game that paired accurate, licensed NFL rosters, full 11 on 11 play, and season play with easy, simplified controls, small customizable playbooks, and great competitive multiplayer. Tecmo Bowl Throwback is not that game. Tecmo Bowl Throwback is built on the Super Nintendo released of Tecmo Super Bowl, released in 1993. Bo Jackson has retired from football, Joe Montana has been traded to Kansas City and renamed QB Chiefs, and NFL is experimenting with 2 bye weeks for each team but the Bills are still dominating the AFC East on route to setting a record for Super Bowl futility, Deion Sanders can turn any kick into 6 points, and Rod is still God in Pittsburgh.
Tecmo Bowl Throwback updates the formula by adding a new 3D view mode that retains the same camera angle but polygonal players instead of sprites. Some may prefer this, but I stick to the 2D mode that gives more contrast between the field and the players, a benefit for the colorblind like myself. During offline play, you can switch between view modes at any time except during cut scenes by pressing RB. 3D mode also swaps out the chiptune music for generic guitar rock. The controls are just how you remember, two buttons, one to snap the ball, cycle receivers, and break tackles, and one to pass or dive.
With EA Sports holding the exclusive licenses with the NFL and NFLPA, all the teams have been reduced to just city names with generic logos and fake names for players. Eagles fans will know who the fast running quarterback #12 is playing on Philadelphia. All player and team names can be changed to match the rosters from 1993. It will take about 5 or 6 hours of work to get all the players renamed. Team colors have also been changed. Some are pretty similar like Atlanta only swapping their black helmets for silver or New Orleans subbing orange for gold. Most are far off. Dallas is now white and orange, Pittsburgh is black and lime green, and the Los Angeles Rams have dropped blue and gold for red. Colors are not changeable but it's something you get used to.
Online play is extremely laggy if you're not hosting the match, putting one team at a severe disadvantage for the match. Players can quit out of a ranked match without taking a loss in the leaderboards. Tecmo is working on a patch for that at the moment but online play is still flawed. Less-than-honorable players can use the nose tackle glitch to get a sack on any non-shotgun play and those players outnumbered the honorable in my experiences. The leaderboards for single player season mode is a great addition. It's fun to check every couple days to see what teams top players have gone undefeated with. Presently, the list is loaded with Buffalo and San Francisco going undefeated with Dallas and Atlanta sprinkled in for good measure. I'm waiting for the day when someone will pull it off with New England or Seattle.
All in all, Tecmo Bowl Throwback is a step toward a return to glory for a franchise that peaked nearly 20 years ago. Being that it's a sports game from the 16-bit era, it's hard to recommend to those who don't love football or grew up playing Tecmo but for $10, there's enough pick-up-and-play fun with season play and loads of replay value with distinct play styles for each team. Better online play with leagues would put this over the top as one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade but as it stands, it's still and extremely fun game and worth the low price if you want to step out on the gridiron.