Bo Jackson up the middle. Barry Sanders running laps around the field (and circles around defenders). Christian Okoye smashing through any player who gets in his way.
When I think back to the classic days of "Tecmo Bowl" and "Tecmo Super Bowl," those are the images that flash instantly to mind.
And those days are about to return big time as Tecmo is set to release "Tecmo Bowl Throwback," a new downloadable version of their classic series on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network this spring. And when I say those old days are about to return, I'm talking about the classic game right down to the historic rosters and playbooks from the good old days of Super Nintendo football.
The only difference is, Tecmo no longer has the NFL license, so in "Throwback," the Detroit team still has an all-time great at running back, it's just up to you to go in and edit his name.
I caught up with "Throwback's" producer, Mike Fahrny, to get all the dirt on the new/old game.
Jon Robinson: There are so many passionate "Tecmo Bowl" fans out there, why did it take Tecmo so long to get back in the business of making football games?
Mike Fahrny: I think ever since the PS2 version, which didn't really do that well, people were begging Tecmo for an updated version of the old game. "Tecmo Bowl Kickoff," which came out for the DS, was hopefully a good start to that, and we'll take it to the next level with "Throwback." We're not trying to do a full-on sim experience like you would get with "Madden," we're really just trying to stay true to the original more than we have in the past so we don't get too much fan hate like we do tend to get. This is just one of those games that everyone seems to love, so any little change to it and either people are going to love it or they are going to absolutely hate it. And one of the unfortunate side effects of that is one of the reasons why we haven't truly seen a next-generation version of "Tecmo Bowl." I don't know if management is scared to take a risk on it or what, but it's definitely been a hard game to work on. It's probably the most challenging title I've ever worked on as a producer.
Jon Robinson: I still know people who bust out their Super Nintendo to play the game.
Mike Fahrny: The new game actually uses code from the SNES version, the 1991 version of the game, and we actually looked at "Throwback" side by side with the SNES version throughout the entire development process just to make sure we were giving fans that original experience that everybody has been asking for along with some new updates like 3D graphics.
Jon Robinson: Without the NFL license, how are the team and player names handled in the game?
Mike Fahrny: Because of the NFL licensing with EA, we couldn't use any of the teams or players, so they're all different. All the team and player names are different. But the one thing we did do is to allow all the team and player names to be editable by the player. So if you want to go back and play as one of those old NFL teams, feel free to. It just depends how much you want to go back and micromanage. All of the original stats are there, so your favorite players are in there, and we kept the teams in the same city location, so you should be able to find and figure out where your old favorites are pretty quickly.
Jon Robinson: So my old Detroit running back is still going to be there?
Mike Fahrny: He is still there, yes.
Jon Robinson: Will people be able to edit player ratings as well, or are those locked?
Mike Fahrny: No, those are locked in. We thought about that a lot, and I think "Kickoff" is the reason why we didn't end up changing this time around. We got a lot of complaints about people being able to max out the stats, and because we added an online component to this version, we didn't want people to be able to go in and max out all their stats and just kind of run all over people, especially if they're playing against someone who maybe isn't as familiar with the franchise and all of those old exploits that we all love. We wanted to keep things competitive, so stats are locked.
Jon Robinson: Speaking of exploits, what's your favorite "Tecmo Super Bowl" trick that is coming back in "Throwback?"
Mike Fahrny: The good old standard of being able to dodge and run. I can do laps around the field without being tackled. You want to run that stuff up, you can in this game for sure.
Jon Robinson: How about for younger gamers who maybe never played the classic games, why should they be interested in "Throwback?"
Mike Fahrny: I think people who have never experienced "Tecmo Bowl," either because they were too young or they just missed it when they were kids, they need to check it out to see the football game that started it all. I think for people to truly understand where football gaming started and where it has come to, they need to play the original. It's still a very good introductory and intermediate football game for players to really start on if they want.
Jon Robinson: Are the playbooks straight from the SNES version as well or have there been updates?
Mike Fahrny: They're the old playbooks. We've updated the U.I. (user interface) to be more user friendly, and you can play the game in either the new 3D or the old 2D which is cool. You can even switch on the fly between 2D and 3D at any point. So you can have that old school 2D, 16-bit feel, and then you can also have an updated 3D look if you want. But like I said, the plays are all the same from the original with the ability to swap plays in and out of your playbook to customize what the eight plays are you want to use.
Jon Robinson: When you've been playing "Throwback" in the office, who is your favorite team?
Mike Fahrny: I'm still a fan of Los Angeles, I can't help it. I also end up playing as Buffalo quite a bit as well. They are pretty decent. I also like to play as some of the teams that aren't so good, like New England, just to see how far I can make it. It's funny because our Q/A team keeps complaining that the game is too hard, but I keep telling them that it's the same as the old games as far as the difficulty goes. I'm not having an issue with it, but I spent a lot of my childhood playing it.
Jon Robinson: What game modes can people expect?
Mike Fahrny: We have a full single-player season. You can play through three seasons, which is basically what would be the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons, but we just call it season 1, 2, and 3 in the game. We also have an online component. Unfortunately, we just didn't have the time or resources available to make it a full tournament system online, but I think that will probably come in the next iteration. In this one, you're playing preseason against opponents head-to-head. It's still a nice component that has never been had on the console for this game.
Jon Robinson: You just mentioned the next iteration of the game. Does that mean we can expect to see more "Tecmo Bowl" games in the future?
Mike Fahrny: I certainly hope so as a fan, and not just as the producer. I can't really say for sure what the future will hold and I don't know what the company's plans are, but I think a lot of it will hinge on the success of "Tecmo Bowl Throwback." If people buy this, and they see that there's a fan base out there demanding the next version, hopefully they'll take the next step and give fans a true next-gen version of the game.