Developer: New Star Games
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Also Available On: Mobile
The Nintendo Switch is slowly building a solid library of sports games. The majority of them are arcade-style games, but that doesn’t make them any less fun. Despite the growing library, there is still a significant lack of American Football games. Until now, Football fans were limited to Mutant Football League. Retro Bowl is now available on the Nintendo Switch, giving football fanatics a little more goodness to chew on.
Retro Bowl owns its name and presents itself as a 16-Bit game that looks a lot like Super Tecmo Bowl. Players are dropped into a coaching position for a down-and-out team and will work towards winning the Retro Bowl. Players will be able to make pick most of the team’s personnel, including players and coordinators. Player decisions are simplified, and only the superstars are managed in Retro Bowl. The rest of the players on the team are considered to be mediocre or worse. They are nameless and their stats aren’t tracked.
This system takes some of the control away from the player but makes it accessible to players of all skill levels. Since only the best players are managed, only the first three draft picks are made by the player too. A salary cap system prevents players from building a super team, ensuring balance and a challenge. t doesn’t perfectly imitate the NFL but makes for a fine arcade franchise mode. Players can increase the salary cap by spending the in-game currency they accrue by winning games and making certain decisions.
The gameplay itself is solid, and Retro Bowl does a fine a job at translating the original game’s touch controls to the controller. Before the play starts, players will pull the stick back and adjust a marker to indicate where on the field the ball will be thrown. Players won’t have forever to make a decision though, as the defensive line will be pressuring the quarterback at the same time while the receivers run their routes. If players want to run the ball, they will do a button press instead of using the stick to start a play. Running is simple, as the runner will already be moving forward. The player can move them from sideline to sideline, juke, and dive forward. The quarterback can also scramble with a button press, then utilize the same running controls.
The player will only get to enjoy offense in Retro Bowl, so they will need to build a great defense if they don’t want to watch the simulated defense result in touchdown after touchdown. It would be nice if there was a little more depth to defense, but playing offense only allows for quick games and fast seasons. The quarters are rather short, and players might get two drives per quarter. This format is perfect for a mobile game, allowing for quick games in less than 5 minutes or entire seasons in less than an hour.
In my review of the original game, there were plenty of flaws, but over the last few years there have been plenty of quality of life improvements. Players can audible, with how many being indicated by the quarterback’s experience. There are also many difficulty modes available now, including a dynamic mode that will change based on how often the player is winning or losing.
For those who already have the mobile version, there are a few more nice additions to the Switch version. As mentioned before, the player has control of the runner with the stick. Prior to this, players could only do sudden, juke-like movements. The new passer controls don’t feel better or worse than the touch controls. It is now easier to make precise throws, but it takes longer to move the marker. Deep plays are easier, while quick screens are harder. It takes time to get used to, but Retro Bowl isn’t any less enjoyable on the Switch.
In addition to the changes in controls, there are now kickoff returns that allow for players to have more control of their starting field position. There aren’t punt returns though, so if things are going well for the player’s defense, they won’t get to many returns in a game. There are also more crowd noises during the plays, which is a nice addition. The game can now be paused (It’s silly that pausing wasn’t available before), and replays can be fast-forwarded and viewed in slow-motion. There is also support for the NES and SNES controllers to add to that retro feel. Leaderboards are promised for the future, but aren’t in the launch build.
The game has a simple but effective presentation. The retro aesthetic looks nice and will make Tecmo Bowl fans nostalgic. The 32 teams have the same cities and colors as the actual NFL teams but don’t share the same name. Instead, games are always something like “Indianapolis at Seattle.” I like that the developer took this approach rather than making up team names since it makes Retro Bowl feel as close to an NFL game as possible.
Retro Bowl is a fun arcade football experience that features an interesting franchise mode and addicting gameplay. The charming graphics and simple controls make this one of the best sports games on the Nintendo Switch. The lack of a multiplayer is disappointing, but at the low price point, this is a must-buy for fans of the sport.
Retro Bowl is a fun arcade football experience that features an interesting franchise mode and addicting gameplay.