Madden NFL ’96
Firing up this game gave me goosebumps with memories of yesteryear.
What a great game Madden NFL ’96 was. The last bastion of 16-bit Madden football titles came to us in 1995, as the era of 32-bit and beyond gaming was dawning. CD audio on the PlayStation would set everything apart, and a game for Sony’s new console was in the works, but scrapped, leaving gamers to contend with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis versions for at least one more season.
This NFL season was intriguing as it featured a few changes. In real life, the Cleveland Browns were heading to Baltimore, so this was their last year as a real team in the game while the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars were expansion teams with made-up rosters – one of which including “free agents” from the new create-a-player mode, freshly introduced in this iteration.
The create-a-player mode was a fun gimmick and not as truly refined as we’d get in later editions, but being able to make your own guy, complete with position and jersey number, was hella cool. The way to level them up, however, was pretty nasty and required some quick button pressing from your fingers!
Each of the NFL teams has their own “stadium” in this one, with painted endzones to match their locale. The audio has the usual boom’s and pow’s you’d come to expect, and it was the last year to include the FOX Sports NFL theme song within the game – as well as an instrumental riff lifted from Queen’s We Will Rock You to open up the game.
Pat Summerall, John Madden’s long-time broadcast partner, also makes an appearance in this game – his first.
While the FOX themes, world/league records, ditching the windows for passing and a few other tidbits made their way into the 1995 edition of Madden, ’96 really upped the ante with improved graphics and touches. ’95 had made some progress, but aside from the already aforementioned, ’96 is where it was at.
We finally got player’s names attributed in the popup windows after each play, rather than calling them out by jersey numbers – and in fact, star players had their portrait shown as well.
The playbooks aren’t all too expanded, but an often-overlooked feature sneaked its way into 1996 and that is the “Madden” portion of the playbook which would eventually grow into a suggested play category to simplify football play calling for people new to the game – real or virtual.
Overall, the game just feels crisper than the previous 16-bit entries. It plays A LOT faster, even between menu loading and placing players on the field.
For some NFL nostalgia, including the Houston Oilers, and the Rams and Raiders residing in Los Angeles, this is an old entry football fanatics should definitely checkout.