John Madden Football
This very well could be my one and only 3DO review on this site!
For those who are unaware of what the 3DO is, it was a next generation console launched in 1994 as a platform developed by Electronic Arts. The consoles would be manufactured by a number of consumer electronics companies such as Panasonic and Goldstar, in much the same way a VCR (at the time) or DVD player (years later) would license those technologies.
The CD-based system was ahead of its time, but a high price tag ($700 USD) and lack of launch day titles (and available consoles to purchase) put it behind the 8-ball. It would eventually fail as titles were delayed and Sony’s PlayStation (as well as Sega’s Saturn) were released a year later.
However, being an EA supported platform had its benefits, and John Madden Football was the biggest of them all. I can recall being at a mall and seeing a 3DO on display running this game at what was then Electronics Etc., today’s equivalent of GameStop.
Returning to this game gave me those fond memories of how advanced this version of Madden is. For starters, there’s literally no comparison between this 1994 title and the Madden 95’s released on 16-bit competitors such as the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.
Madden NFL ’95 for those consoles barely raised the bar from the ’94 edition, which was a leap for 16-bit platforms with a number of new features, but nothing like we’d see on the 3DO.
Done right from the start, the 3DO version includes the full NFL license. That means real teams as well as branding. However, the NFLPA licensing was absent, although player names wouldn’t start showing up on the competition until Madden NFL ’96 anyway.
Once the game loads (which is another sticking point – its super slow) you’re whisked away into the realm of Full Motion Video (FMV) with an animated opening of the iconic EA Sports crawl which fades into team logos and helmets with the famous “John Madden Football” words scrolling into view.
FMV takes front-and-center throughout the game with an actor representing an in-game referee who conducts a coin toss and makes various calls from penalties to touchdown signals.
John Madden himself has a few video scenes – they are all generic enough to apply to every game configuration with audio snippets over what one might call “B-roll” such as grainy photos of a team’s home stadium. Still, this was high-tech stuff for 1994!
In-game, a “scouting report” option may have the best feature in the game, as it will show a set amount of random highlight clips from whichever team you’re viewing.
Getting started, the game menu has its usual modes including preseason (exhibition), regular season, and playoffs. You can also play as historic teams, with one for each franchise and two All-Madden teams.
Again, the player names aren’t included, only numbers – which show in-game below the “star” icon underneath selected players. While the graphics are crude, they’re still sophisticated compared with the sprites on the SNES or Genesis. However, they’re also fairly generic with no numbers on jerseys and palette swapping for the helmet, tops, bottoms and skin tones.
But, they are big players on the screen. Larger than life and anything that preceded it.
As for the game play, it can be a bit slow and tedious. Rather than cut to play calling menus after each play, all of the players scurry around the field back to the line of scrimmage before we get to call a play. There’s a noticeable delay in the action here and after selecting a play too – all while the clocks run.
That can be a bit distracting, as is the tedious passing – which is nearly as bad as non-Madden games in some instances. Otherwise, the rest of the bells and whistles are here, including spin moves, dives and speed bursts. The game still plays like the other Madden cousins, but with a fresher paint job.
Overall, this is an enjoyable game that was far ahead of its time. Within a few years Madden ’97 will blow the doors off of this title in 1996, but we’re talking a full two years later – a lifetime in the tech world.
I would encourage any retro gamers with a hint for nostalgia to check this out, even if you only play a game or two like I did.