Madden NFL ’94
For how groundbreaking John Madden Football ’93 was, it’s amazing how much of a leap this series takes when jumping one year and also between platforms (from the Sega Genesis to the Super Nintendo).
It starts right as the game loads with the famous EA Sports “It’s In The Game” audio tagline and animation. Seeing this over 25 years later just sent chills down my spine as to what I’m about to review…
Obviously the SNES graphics are leaps and bounds over the Genesis just based on hardware, but it’s the included audio, mainly speech elements, that start sending you into a tizzy. This game has such refined menus and elements it’s pretty crazy.
Just choosing teams beyond the start menu shows you a huge upgrade in visuals. John Madden gives you a briefing over a panning stadium shot with moving fans. It’s text-based but still light years beyond what any sports simulation was doing at the time.
Even the referee coin toss moves to dedicated animations rather than just showing players on the field.
The “regular season” mode still relies on a password system in this edition. There are the usual modes such as sudden death or recreating the 1993 playoffs (or pitting former Super Bowl championship rosters against one another).
It’s also cool to flip through and see how each position group matches up against one another. Madden was always stat-based, but this is when I first truly remember seeing it as a player and taking it into consideration when deciding plays and more.
Speaking of plays, “flip play” is introduced in ’94 with one particular pass play allowing for a wide-open receiver 100% of the time – the bug was exploited to death by me playing with then perennial Super Bowl champions the Dallas Cowboys and their “flipped receiver” being Alvin Harper (although due to lack of an NFLPA license, only player’s numbers were shown and not their names.)
The screen also flips, or shall I say rotates, during kicking plays and turnovers, in a way that the team with the ball is always at the bottom of the screen playing toward the endzone at the top.
Instant replays also allowed you to rotate the screen 360 degrees, which was breathtaking in itself – but you could also highlight a dedicated player and watch the entire play, in slow motion or full speed, and see where the play breaks down (as it does with my Steelers safety blitz below in the screencaps!)
Fans cheer. Fans boo. Heck, you can even turn “Maddenisms” off if you choose to.
But go get buried in the pause screen (or halftime – complete with a “halftime show”) and you can relive all of your stats, which goes well beyond what was in the previous iterations of the game, even breaking down pass completion percentages and some other advanced statistics.
In other words, this wasn’t your usual Tecmo Bowl arcade-style game, but turning into a full-fledged simulation where throwing into double coverage often resulted in interceptions and relying on higher-rated players in order to make, or break, a victory.
It gets even better with subsequent years, but its easy to see how Madden started to establish itself as a yearly update and must-have game each season due to the amount of upgrades packed into ’94. In fact, this game is so much fun to relive, I highly recommend retro gamers check it out.