Madden NFL 97
What a fun game this is! Especially for nostalgia buffs.
The first 32-bit generation Madden dropped on 3DO, missing both Sony’s PlayStation and Sega’s Saturn for the 1996 edition. This opened the door to competitors, such as NFL GameDay, but EA Sports would make a triumphant return with Madden 97.
The first release on the mainstream next generation consoles totally blows you away from the opening sequence, which shows computer generated players and sequences from Super Bowl XXX (Cowboys vs. Steelers) interspersed with an NFL logo and panning through the streets of New Orleans all the way to the Louisiana Superdome.
Compared with even the powerful 3DO version a year earlier, this PSX release is awesome. The marriage of the NFL, NFLPA (players), and STATS Inc. licensing makes for the first game that truly felt like a TV presentation. Pat Summerall, John Madden’s longtime broadcast partner, joins the booth – the play-by-play and Maddenisms (which you can actually turn off in the settings) are still one-hitters as opposed to true commentary, but it’s progress nonetheless.
Settings, menus, controls and play calling are all much closer to the present-day games in Madden 97 as well. The level of detail is incredible, as we now have player names on the field, jersey numbers (somewhat), and yes, fully rendered home stadiums – as opposed to a paintjob in the endzones from the 16-bit era.
This version of Madden is the first to have the newly christened Baltimore Ravens, plus features real rosters for the Panthers and Jaguars, who joined the league in 1995. (They were in previous games but had fake rosters at one point.)
A full list of real free agents, as well as a salary cap are introduced. No more super teams… maybe.
The other traditional modes are here, such as exhibition or season.
So how does it play?
Much faster – mostly – than what became the painful pace of the 16-bit games. While breaking free on a run still doesn’t have the “he can go all the way” feel that’s coming later, huddles and play call screens load quickly and seamless.
Penalties get a bit more annoying, with the on-screen referee now asking if you choose to accept or decline the calls. (Which can be turned off also – and you may prefer, due to the frequency of them!)
The controls are almost identical to the modern-day games – sprint, dive, hurdle, spin… and of course, easier to pass with the shoulder buttons. The only thing missing here is the lack of using an analog stick with the original PSX d-pad, but I’ll let that slide.
In summation, Madden 97 for PlayStation is a great trip down memory lane. If you’ve followed my path from the Genesis and SNES editions, the improvements from those games to the first PSX entry are astonishing. But don’t take my word for it: try it yourself!