Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1994
The NFL was loaded with talent in 1994. Jerry Rice, Dan Marino, Steve Young, Barry Sanders, and Reggie White are among the finest athletes to ever compete in the nearly one hundred year-old league, and they were at the height of their game in ’94. EA brought in these legendary names, as well as the rest of the ’94 NFL rosters exclusively for the Sega Genesis port of Madden NFL ’95. Along with being the first fully NFL licensed Madden Football game, ’95 pushed the franchise closer to the modern day simulation that we play on the PS3 and XBox 360. Developers completely rebuilt the game, both graphics and gameplay engines were given an overhaul, and the original arcade style of the first four John Madden Football Genesis games was left behind.
It was as if EA gave up in the presentation battle with Sega’s NFL series with Madden ’95, little to no effort at all. A bland, dark title screen with the intro of the epic NFL on FOX theme song starts you off (you also get the Fox logo in the bottom right corner during gameplay). Navigating through the games interface is quite easy, its just all so plain, quiet, and well… bland. No flashy intro’s, player pictures, or anything really, just a few pre-rendered photos of John Madden.
The music and sound is improved over any of the previous over the top, annoying, raunchy guitar sounds used in previous Maddens. The commentary still only consists of Madden’s usual lines, though his voice does sound much better than the cheese grater filtered samples used in ’94. His best line in the game is easily his farewell “Hi this is John Madden for EA Sports, saying goodbye, and thanks for playing”. The in game sound effects are much more tolerable, and the music while nothing memorable at all, and a bit on the flat side, is a nice little improvement over any Madden before it. You do unlock a song if you win the Super Bowl, which is the better tune out of the three or four in the game, but still as a whole the presentation in Madden ’95 was pretty bland, and effortless.
William Robinson and High Score Productions took over Genesis development of the Madden Football series from Park Place Productions in 1993. Even though the burly, man-sprites in the Genesis version of Madden ’94 are large, highly detailed, and very well-animated, the game suffered from some occasional slowdown, minor sprite flickering in certain areas of the field, and sloppy scaling effects. In order to improve these aspects for ’95 William Robinson and co. moved away from the cartoony, hand drawn sprites and instead went for more of a faux 3D, pre-rendered, “digitized” looking player model. They look great, until they move. What happened to the animation? in Madden ’94 everything moved so fluidly, players would hammer the ground with their fist out of frustration of a missed tackle, or do a back flip when hit hard enough.
Madden ’95 took a big hit in the animation department, as the players movements are quite choppy. The field was reworked to be more accurately scaled according to the player size, and everything was given a more realistic, cleaner look compared to the previous installment with much better scaling/field scrolling effects. The team colors are spot on, even the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, who weren’t even in the league yet (and had to be unlocked via cheat code), both home and away jerseys, right down to the two pixel wide stripe down the side of the players pants legs. At first glance the graphics don’t really look all that better than the Madden ’94/Bill Walsh College Football engine (they certainly weren’t as well animated), but once you play for a while you’ll notice that they allow for much more realistic gameplay.
The new gameplay engine has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. One of the advantages is the new windowless passing mode, which opens up the passing game quite a bit, as you now have to scan the field rather than use the three boxes at the top of the screen to find the open receiver in previous Maddens. There is somewhat of a learning curve to the passing game, as getting the ball over the line of scrimmage without it getting deflected takes some practice. ’95 is also the first game in the Madden series with the two point conversion, which was only used in college games prior to the ’94 season. The biggest improvement to the gameplay was the computer AI which would now run down the clock if ahead, go for onside kicks when behind, run the no huddle offense, and maybe just maybe even beat you sometime during the course of the sixteen game season. The season mode was also improved over ’94, with full stat tracking and player injury’s providing some replay value over the previous bare bones madden games. Even though there aren’t any pictures of the players, and only their numbers are still referenced to during gameplay, the names are a nice touch. It is nice to see the names when making substitutions and when viewing season stats. The playbooks were given a much needed facelift as well with nice additions on both sides of the ball.
The controls are quite easy to learn since they only use three buttons in the traditional Madden layout. They just seem a bit unresponsive and inaccurate compared to earlier entries, which seems to stiffen the gameplay up a bit. You’ll notice that the moves just don’t work like they used to in Madden ’93/’94. You can’t break tackles like a maniac with the spin move anymore. You can’t dive fifteen yards to sack the quarterback or score a touchdown anymore either, which takes a good bit of the fun out of the game, to be honest.
Sometimes the controls can just feel awkward, especially when you attempt to block a kick/punt and instead of jumping up or diving forward the player performs an offensive spin move. Occasionally, when running an interception back or making a big break for the end zone on offense, the speed burst button will make your player high step instead, causing you to temporarily lose control of the player resulting in him running out of bounds short of the end zone, possibly losing the game for you. It seems like making use of the six-button controller would’ve helped these issues – more laziness. Much unlike the first few Madden games, ’95 is not very beginner friendly as some knowledge of American football is required to really find any enjoyment in it. Even though Madden ’95 has glitchy controls, and lacked the arcade fun factor of its predecessors, the improved AI, expanded playbooks, and improved season mode were much needed refinements to the gameplay and give the game a bit more replay value when playing solo.
The new features are nice, and the graphics do look and perform better, but I’d rather have the old style of gameplay from previous year’s installments with the tight, easy controls that came with it. Sure, the old games were way too easy, but they were so much more fun to play with other people that its ridiculous. Even with four players via the EA four-way adapter, the multi-player experience just doesn’t compare at all to the arcade style of gameplay in Madden ’93 or ’94. Overall, the steps forward with the features give Madden ’95 more single-player replay value than the previous games, but the steps backwards with the gameplay and controls really take the fun out of the game. Madden NFL ’95 introduced a few things to the series that we take for granted these days in our nearly flawlessly simulated game, and for that it deserves respect. If you’re only a casual retro gamer, looking for a Madden to pick up for your collection, I’d say keep looking. If you’re a football nuthead like me, I’d say pick it up, and play a season with your favorite team. It’s better than average 16-bit football and a decent game to be had for a great price.
SCORE: 6 out of 10