Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
When it comes to absolute football greatness on the Sega Genesis, you have to look no farther than Bill Walsh College Football. Everything in this game just emanates 16-bit football greatness. From its plays to the animations, this game wins a spot in the Genesis Sports Hall of Fame. Compared to other games, such as the virtually identical Madden ’94, it completely exceeds all the expectations of every gamer. Now, that’s not to say that it’s perfect, which it isn’t, like any other game or professional athlete. Let’s take our Heisman pose, put on our old college letters and talk football. Bill Walsh style.
At the face level, Bill Walsh College Football has nothing that really makes it exceed any other football game ever released on the 16-bit consoles. But when you look deeper into the game and play it and really grasp it, it begins to shine in football greatness. Pop the cart in, get the usual EA sports logo, the High Score Logo – and then a pretty good picture and intro screen. Then you go to the menus, which are actually pretty well done. However, the overall general menu selections are pretty much the standard garb. Select teams, time, weather, type of game, you know the basic general football stuff. But the thing that sets this game apart is the ability to select one of twenty-five “classic” teams, ranging from the Bear Bryant-led behemoth Alabama Crimson Tide of ’78 to the Jim McMahon 1984 Holiday Bowl “won by the grace of God” Brigham Young Cougars. The regular teams are simply the top twenty-five teams from the 1992 college football season.
The parity here is pretty even throughout, but there are some teams that are better than others. The game even comes with a fold out sheet like in the other EA sports titles of the time describing each teams strengths and weaknesses. Some teams, like Michigan and Penn State, are power runners with ferocious backs who take multiple defenders to bring down, while other teams like Florida and Ohio State have very excellent passing games. It’s all fairly relative, but due to the limitations of the game and style of play, a smart running game is way more effective in my opinion than a solid passing game, because you don’t have to depend on being in the right spot to gain a huge chunk of yardage.
A huge part of the offensive prowess that is available here is the ability to make the defense miss. Often, the computer’s defenders will be faster than you, so you have to do a lot of dodging to gain effective yardage. Gaining yardage effectively relies a lot upon on play calling and this game certainly does not fall short. Each type of play on either side of the ball is awesomely laid out for you to choose your attack or defense. They have a great deal of all types of plays on both sides of the ball, such as the classic sweep, option, and Hail Mary plays, but they have the halfback pass that is very effective, along with a multitude of other plays that will keep the other team on its toes. Defensively, the plays are set up the same way, with a fairly even amount of pass coverage and blitzes. Another cool idea that they included in this game was the ability to hide which play you are choosing by making the play call box just one square instead of the three for A B and C. So when your friend is sitting there waiting for you to pick your play and staring at the controller so he can figure out which play you are running, just change the play calling mode and you are set. Ain’t gonna put up with that anymore!
Perhaps the only problem I have with Bill Walsh is that the players run a bit too slowly, but even that is pretty even across the board – the lineman run like lineman, the halfbacks run like halfbacks, etc. It’s not like other football games (cough, Pro Quarterback, cough) where everyone is the same speed. It’s just that they took the players from Madden ’94 and made them a bit slower and smaller, no biggie. The player graphics are spot on, with their number displayed underneath a clear icon. There is none of that “which player am I controlling?” feeling you get in some other football games.
The graphics are fairly standard for the time, and there is the option for controllable weather, which is good. As I said, the visuals are pretty much as good as they can possibly be for the time. In fairness, there is one other thing that most Genesis football players don’t like that this game has, and that is the feature of passing windows. The passing windows don’t show the yard lines inside them, so you don’t know on the fly which receiver is wide open forty yards down field or which back goes off to the side for the three yard screen pass. So, it is important to know your playbook so you don’t get stuck dishing it off to your fullback when you need a touchdown and you are inside your own twenty.
Most of the fun in Bill Walsh College Football can be found in playing it yourself and amassing stats and creating football memories that would rival some of the all-time great plays and games that have been played on the frozen tundras and fields of battle. The game is not spectacularly built. I mean it’s just basically Madden’94 with smaller and slower players, so where in the face value is the greatness? I guess if by face value you mean the front of the box – which is excellent. Look at it. It almost says “Welcome to Joe Mon… er Bill Walsh College Football” just like in Joe Montana Football. This is such a good game, but like the kids on the beloved show Reading Rainbow say, don’t take my word for it! Go out and pick this one up, it’s pure football greatness.
SCORE: 9 out of 10