Genre: Sports Developer: Sega of America Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, this is yet another Sega CD “TruVideo” title, which means lots of full motion video and very little gameplay. That’s definitely the case here. NFL’s Greatest is a football game where you don’t control any of the players. Everyone knows that the real draw of sports games is being able to play as your favorite sports star and lead a team to virtual victory. It’s titles like these that tell why the Sega CD failed.
Sega did have some good ideas with this one. This game pits two of the best NFL teams of all time, the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, against each other. Once you boot up the CD, you pick which team you want to coach, either the Niners or the Cowboys. Notice I said Coach, not control. You can also pick the length of the quarters. Once that’s done it’s time for football. The gameplay is basically like those VCR Quarterback games of old. You get an interface showing you the score, quarter, time, and so on; as well as where the ball is on the field. There is a selection of plays you can choose on offense and defense. The big thing about this disc is you don’t actually control the players themselves; once you pick your play, a video clip is played showing what happens. You might see a long pass, you might get a short run, you might even get a penalty. NFL’s Greatest is said to make use of 15 years of footage between the two teams. After the clip is finished you pick another play, and this keeps going until the end of the game. You can go ahead and select the same play repeatedly and odds are you won’t get the same result. There’s also a Scenario mode, which gives you the option of reliving some of the greatest football moments involving the Niners and Cowboys.
Let’s discuss all the things wrong with this disc. First, there’s the graphics. The only real graphics other than the menus are the video clips. The videos aren’t too good; they’re grainy and choppy. It’s often hard to tell what’s going on without the play-by-play announcer. Speaking of which, the audio fares a little better. You get the same announcer, despite which clip plays, and he does a decent job of keeping up with the action.
The controls work good because you only use the three fire buttons to pick plays. The D-pad hardly gets used at all. All those things aside, the overall gameplay is boring and frustrating. You hardly do anything aside from pick a play, and you don’t have a say in what happens. So, if the other team scores touchdown after touchdown, all you can do is hope you get some clips that show you scoring some points. Plus, the video clips do repeat, even though the results are often different. Finally, who wants to play a game where you can only pick from two teams? My guess is if this disc proved successful, Sega would have probably released other versions with different NFL rivalries. (I wouldn’t have minded seeing Green Bay vs. Minnesota.)
The bottom line is this game joins the likes of Prize Fighter, Slam City, and others as a failed FMV sports title. We buy sports games because we actually want to play the sport on our television. We actually want to control the players, not just to look at highlight films. While a nice idea in concept, this disc is an example of all the non-interactive games that sunk the Sega CD. If you want a football fix, just pop in your copy of Madden ’95 in your Genesis and you’ll be fine.