One of the distinct advantages of the handheld market is the ability for developers to either re-release or reimagine some of their more timeless and classic properties.
The Tecmo Bowl series was one of the more memorable games created in the days of the NES and SNES by Tecmo, who nowadays are known mostly for ninjas and boobs, often at the same time. Sure the game wasn't very accurate and often had some hilarious moments where you could throw a pass the length of the fied, but it was fun. Yes a sports game that was fun, a factor that seems to be lacking from EA's latest entries.
Anyway Tecmo decided it was time for a revival, albeit without the NFL license (thanks, EA), and delivered "Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff" to the DS. To make up for the lack of a license, Tecmo allows you to customize everything about the 32 teams in the game, which start out with fictitious and oft-time appropriate names like "New Orleans Zombies" (guess who I decided to make Brett Farve the quarterback of). You can rename and re-spec players, change uniform colors, and even choose from 16 different helmet logos, in addition to just outright renaming the teams and changing the style and color of the font. Seriously.
But of course some people aren't into all that time-consuming editing, so let's talk the modes of the game and some of the mechanics. After registering a name and choosing your player team for quick matches, you can then choose from a multitude of modes including Pre season (exhibition), Season, or All-Star Bowl (i.e. Pro Bowl). Stat hounds will be happy to know that all the team stats from the past 5 seasons you play are stored. Playbook-wise each team has 4 running and 4 passing plays (which can be exchanged for others if you wish), and defense basically consists of guessing which play the other team picked so you can blitz them into oblivion. Not to say you won't be able to stop them from doing well all the time even if you don't guess right, just that you'll need to be a little more hands-on.
Which brings me to control. The stylus controls are fairly intuitive and easy to grasp, mostly just point-and click to select plays, pass, change players, and so forth. Only time it doesn't really work is when you struggle to shake a tackler or do a diving tackle. Otherwise the stylus controls are almost easier to pick up and use than the regular button controls, if only for the passing.
The game plays all right and looks great. Player sprites stand out well against the field and the game frequently intercuts little animated cutscenes into the gameplay for things like sacks, touchdowns, and field goals. In essence being a lot like Tecmo Super Bowl.
Having said all that there are some faults. Namely the AI seems to know something you don't and frequently will run roughshod on you if you're not careful. Frequently their running game will always outclass yours on offense, and their defense will seemingly be able to know when you're running when you're on offense. This makes it almost pointless to run at times. This is counter-intuitive because apparently you have to get 2000 yards rushing in a season to unlock "Tecmo Joe", who is the equivalent of Bo Jackson in this game. Other unlockables include the original Tecmo Bowl music which I think is a really nice touch, but apparently you have to go undefeated in a season and win the Tecmo Bowl to get it. Which may or may not annoy you.
Actually the only annoyance might be the time it takes to finish a season, because, oddly enough, the AI seems to be really pathetic overall. Frequently they seem to enjoy running the same play 3 or 4 times in a row, or they'll do really bad things like pass to a receiver covered by at least 2 defenders which results in an interception. I'm playing on what amounts to a medium difficulty and have frequently shut out the opposing teams in Season Mode. In fact, my team is currently undefeated, so maybe it's high time my opponents start accusing me of sign-stealing and then I blow the Tecmo Bowl only for the winning team's state's governor to get implicated in a prostitution scheme and everyone forgets the victory.
Anyway this is a great game to kill just a little time with or play for extended amounts, especially if you like the visceral form of football without worrying too much about realism. I haven't had the time to test out multiplayer mode so I can't judge on that, but it's probably safe to say this would be a decent game to play against a friend, or anybody you could find on Wi-Fi that is.
Although I'm loathe to use numerical ratings at times I'll give Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff:
But to be more accurate as to how much one might like this game, it's not as much "fun" as NFL Blitz or Tecmo Bowl for the NES, but as far as a simple pick up and play football game it's certainly much better than any of the recent Madden offerings.