Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1993
First off, I have to say one thing before I start this review: Barry Sanders is unexplainably awesome and was sent from the gods to the Detroit Lions. He single-handedly made it cool to be a Lions fan in the 1990s, and when five years from now our kids ask me why I loyally sit on the couch on Sunday afternoon hopelessly rooting for my Detroit Lions when everyone knows that they are going to probably finish 4-12 or worse, they will know that someday, somewhere, the Lions were a power in the NFL. Don’t believe me? Watch this before I start my review.
Madden ’94 is up there with the games that you find for a quarter in a giant bin at a retro game store that you haunt frequently, and man, it is way worth it. Loyal readers of mine will know that this game is the basis for the un-bay-leavable Bill Walsh College Football. If you know me, and by now chances are you do, you know that I go absolutely nuts for that game. So, logically you would assume that this title shares in the greatness. Does it bask in the glory of Sunday glory, or does Madden ’94 end up like the two infamous Leon Lett plays? Read on my loyal weekend warriors, and lets dig in on the line.
The ’94 edition starts off fairly straight forward with a golden autograph by Mr. Madden, and you can be at ease, he is actually in this game, unlike today’s Madden games. He actually says “Hey everyone, welcome to John Madden Football,” which is awesome. The only time you ever see John is in the studio view, like in the beginning and after each game. However, you hear him throughout the game. We’ll get to that later.
The options are frankly kind of sparse in terms of gameplay but not in the number of teams available. There are franchise all-time teams, an All-Madden all-year team (funny story about that: If you play as the All-Time All-Madden team on the SNES version, you can take the kick return guy all the way around the field, check it out! They have all-time franchises and Super Bowl year franchises (thus no Detroit Lions, BOO!) for exhibition and postseason play. The other option is for the usual seventeen week regular season with little frills or anything. That’s one of my beefs with this game: there really isn’t anything you can do besides just playing football. Well, I guess that’s actually a good problem to have.
But you can’t even save your stats in a season mode. All they do is show you standings between games, which is kind of lame. I guess with all of the bells and whistles of today’s football games I just want more than the bare bones. But wanting the game to keep season or playoff stats isn’t too much to ask, is it? It’s like going to McDonalds®, think and knowing that this time it’s going to taste good, but then when you eat it, you get the Mcgurgles, and it’s the same as it always was. I’m frankly a little bummed when it comes to that part of Madden ’94.
The actual game on the field looks and plays just like Bill Walsh College Football, but the play selection screen is a little different, which is nice. I don’t understand why every time the ball is fumbled it pops up in the air though. I guess they did it to make it more clear, but it’s never fumbled like that. The score, time, yadda yadda is all shown in a scoreboard type fashion. That’s cool, and they have the helmets and logos above the score on the left. There aren’t a whole lot of differences in the plays between the two games, but there are no HB passes and options (or student body plays) in Madden. That actually caused me to change my game plan a little bit, as I wasn’t used to it, and it cost me a few games. Oh well, we Lions fans are used to losing.
There is one thing to note about the game, and that is that you can’t go for the two-point conversion, as that rule was not implemented until the 1994 regular season (Thanks, Wikipedia!). The players don’t have names either, since the game was not licensed by the NFLPA. That also came later. The graphics are more or less what they should be, except that the field looks the same before the coin toss no matter what stadium you are in. The only difference is that if you are inside a dome, the blue sky is replaced with lights on a black background. It looks kind of like the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Also, when there is inclement weather, the field is just brownish green and if it’s snowing, its white. Blah. One thing that is blatantly wrong in this game is that all of the players are white. That’s obviously not the case in real life.
The voice samples in this game are really rocking. John Madden says a lot of short things like “Amazing!” or “Pow!” or “Boom!” The announcer says “first down” or “incomplete” occasionally (though not as frequently as in Bill Walsh), and John Madden will say “the quarterback can’t hold on to the ball that long!” or “don’t want to take too many of those!” when the QB gets sacked. Somewhat more frequently “Hey! Heck of a play!” is heard. Sadly, there is no “Boom! Tough actin’ Tinactin!” to be found in the game. The music is decent, though it gets really annoying when you have it paused to go grab a beer or something or if someone calls you on the phone. Ugh, just stop it!
The biggest problem with Madden ’94 I guess is that it’s rather bare bones, especially compared to today’s football games. It’s football, plain and simple, and I love football, especially for the Genesis. Much like my beloved Lions in the early 1990s, this game plays really good football but falters when it really counts. But, it has Barry Sanders, and I can at least pretend that my Lions are decent. For a title that has so many things that irk me, it still is quite fun. It’s fun to play on an emulator and on a Nomad when you are watching the real NFL, and it’s quite cheap. There is no good reason why you shouldn’t run this one in for six. Whether it’s six minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years is up to you, and in this reviewers opinion, you should play ten times more Bill Walsh College Football.
SCORE: 7 out of 10