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Madden NFL 99

Rated E for Everyone

Platform:

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Publisher:

EA Sports

Developer:

Tiburon Entertainment

Released:

September 1998

ROM Size:

96 megabits

Players:

One to Four Simultaneous

Genre:

Sports (American Football)

Save:

Controller Pak (see review)

Optional:

Rumble Pak

 

 

> Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Introduction

In 1997, I, along with only a few other critics, were staunch supporters of Madden 64 for the N64, making it known that it was the clearly superior football game on Nintendo 64. To this day, I still can't see how people could say NFL Quarterback Club '98 was the better game with a straight face. There were just too many gameplay and intelligence flaws. To toot my own horn even more, Iguana acknowledged these flaws in its football game this spring—six months after denying them. Now the king of football is back. Madden NFL 99 is here, with the NFL license and high-resolution graphics. Rejoice, pro football fans, because it's the most fun and realistic NFL game yet.

Gameplay & Control

First, let me preface by adding another twist to this drama. Since I was a huge fan of Madden 64, I was actually quite disappointed in Madden NFL 99 the first time I played it. In fact, I even considered taking it back. I obviously have grown much more fond of the game now because it's the closest to the real thing so far.

 

So what are the potential problems? Well, for starters, the game is noticeably slower because of the high-res graphics. It's not as slow as NFL Quarterback Club '98, but it's not as quick as Madden 64. Fortunately, this really isn't a detriment once you get used to it. Next, the sound is a tremendous disappointment. Madden 64 had an amazing amount of voice that sounded even more clear than Madden 98 on the PSX. Now there are fewer voice samples, and they sound much more distorted. The music isn't as good, either.

 

These last two problems are more just superficial nit-picks by a die-hard fan than anything else. One, the playbook has been made a little bit more cumbersome. (At least you can still slyly pick plays not currently diagrammed on the screen by holding Z and pressing the appropriate button for tabs below the window and using R instead for tabs above the window.) For some reason, formations (not actual plays) were enlarged so that only one appears on the screen at once instead of three at once. This requires more time to find and select a play, and that means you'll have trouble getting the play off in time at first. Two, some of the controller functions changed button locations, and there's no option to revert to Madden 64's control scheme. Oh well, I got used to it.

 

Speaking of control, which has always been a major plus of Madden, what's the scheme like in Madden NFL 99? Thankfully, your first option is between the Control Pad and Control Stick. If the Control Pad support is ever removed, I won't buy those versions of Madden. On offense, before the snap, the A button snaps the ball, Bottom C is a fake snap count, and you can call an audible with the B button. When running the ball on offense, the A button is a speed burst/power move, the B button is a dive, Bottom C is a spin, Top C is used to jump, Left and Right C are stiff arms, and Z is for a juke move. For passing, after snapping the ball, you must first call up the passing options by pressing A a second time. Then you have up to five passing options in the form of A, B, Bottom C, Left C, or Right C. Pressing Top C will throw the ball away, and you can do pump fakes by holding Z and pressing a button that corresponds to a receiver you want to throw to. In order to receive the ball on offense, the A button switches to the receiver closest to the ball after it's thrown, the B button is used to dive for low passes, and the Top C button is for jumping to reach high passes.

 

Defensively, you have just as much control over your players, which means Madden NFL 99 is fun on both sides of the ball. On defense, before the snap, the A button switches to a different player, the R button calls bump and run coverage, and the Z button is for a defensive alignment shift. After the snap on defense, here are the corresponding buttons: the A button switches to the defender closest to the ball, the B button dives for a tackle, Left C is a power tackle (or a speed burst if in open field), Right C is a swim move (ways defensive linemen get around offensive linemen), and Top C is used to jump.

 

Madden NFL 99 also supports the Rumble Pak and the Controller Pak. Rumble Pak support is very good in the game; it lets you literally feel the power of the tackles. It's something you very well might like to play with. Curiously, the Controller Pak support in Madden NFL 99 is divided into different parts and, subsequently, requires differing amounts of pages. Here's how it's divided: Season – 107 pages, Franchise – 123 pages, Fantasy Draft – 107 pages, Tournament – 107 pages, User Profile – 6 pages, and Game Settings – 2 pages. As you can see, you'll need multiple Controller Paks if you want to have seasons, fantasy leagues, and tournaments all going on at once. Ouch.

 

When it comes to gameplay, Madden is easily the best in the business. Yes, it's better than Sony's NFL GameDay and better than Acclaim's NFL Quarterback Club. The perfect mix of fun and realism is the result of almost a decade's worth of tweaking. Since you already know what it's like, let's concentrate on the additions and changes to Madden NFL 99.

 

First, the same great "Liquid AI" is back, and it's even more intelligent than before, which is most noticeable in defensive adjustments and offensive blocking. Running the ball, especially, and passing also seem a little easier, but the realism isn't compromised. Second, the game has even more animation and moves than before, including the much-anticipated wrap tackles. Besides having not one but multiple wrap tackles, there are juke moves, pump fakes, shoulder drags, de-cleaters, fancy catches, "almost falling" moves, and touchdown celebrations. (However, I must point out these aren't as cool as in Madden 64 because they lack voice this time.)

 

Other things that come to mind when you think of Madden are features and options, and Madden NFL 99 is certainly no exception. First of all, there's the very cool, brand-new Franchise mode that lets you take the same team and personnel through multiple seasons. A second addition to the series is the option to choose "Game Style." This lets you choose between Traditional (realistic NFL-style gameplay found in previous Maddens), Arcade (easier play-calling, more tackles, bigger plays, and fewer rules), and One Button (every single move is performed with the A button; the intelligence is smart enough to figure out the appropriate function). A third addition is the inclusion of "directional passing." It's kind of like passing in NFL Blitz in which you just aim to the guy and press the A button. Most will prefer the old style.

 

There are many other options and modes to choose from. I'll gloss over them but won't go into detail. You can change at least 10 different game options (from quarter length to fatigue to trading deadline to camera angle), you can create customized profiles so you can keep track of statistics for when the same people play one another often, you can mess around with sound volume levels, you can choose from five pre-set controller configurations, you can save stuff to the Controller Pak, you can view all-time records, and finally, you can choose from several game modes. There's Exhibition, Season, Custom Season, Franchise, Tournament, Fantasy Draft, and Practice. Just as a side note, the Practice mode is surprisingly cool.

Graphics & Sound

Graphically, Madden NFL 99 is very sweet. Just as a general statement, the graphics are very good, but they're not as outwardly impressive as in the NFL Quarterback Club series. What boosts up the graphics rating a little more is the incredible amount of animation and moves in the game, which were already discussed above. But, yes, the game is in the 640 x 480 high-resolution mode now, and, yes, the NFL license means the uniforms and fields are texture-mapped with the appropriate logos. You can also see the player's name on the back of the uniform. A few nice touches are being able to see the player's breath when it's cold and also seeing grass fields leaving divots and marks. The only real downside to the graphics is the slightly slower gameplay pace. But as I said before, it's not a big problem.

 

Sound, on the other hand, is the biggest problem with the N64 version of Madden NFL 99. It's pretty bad. I don't understand how Madden 64 could have had so much more voice that was so much more clear. In Madden 64, there were a few more referee calls, Pat Summerall had much more commentary, John Madden spoke a lot more often, and there were very cool taunts after scoring touchdowns. In Madden NFL 99, the referee comes off sounding the best, but he doesn't have as many voice calls or sound as good. Pat Summerall and John Madden don't speak anywhere near as much to the point you can't call it play-by-play. Their voices also are defaulted to be more quiet and sound too distorted—like the sampling was cut in half or more. Last but not least, they got rid of the great touchdown taunts. Last year's N64-exclusive touchdown speech was great. Why remove it? Think I'm done complaining? Not yet. The music is not so surprisingly in mono, and there's no kind of real-time introduction to go along with it to get the blood pumping, unlike last year. There is one bright side to the sound, however. I find that the stereo crowd noise is very good. I also found that the sound is a little more bearable if you really turn up the volume.

Conclusion

After giving NFL Quarterback Club '98 a run for its money last year despite not having the NFL license (the sales were closer than some led you to believe), Madden is back in full force on the N64 with high-resolution graphics and both the NFL and NFLPA licenses. With its unmatched gameplay, intelligence, realism, and features, along with the Arcade and One Button game styles for casual fans, Madden NFL 99 is the best representation of NFL football thus far. But you have to get past the extremely disappointing sound (which better be vastly improved next year, or I won't be so kind), gawkier playbook, and sometimes choppy frame rate. Since NFL Quarterback Club '99 has been delayed until well into the football season, I recommend you pick up Madden NFL 99. You won't regret it.

 

Reviewer's Note: Since I didn't review Madden NFL 2000, I just wanted to mention that Madden NFL 2000 is probably the best football game on N64. Compared to Madden NFL 99, it features much better sound and improved graphics that run at a solid, fast frame rate. The running and passing games and the defense had the best balance of all games at this point, too. Madden NFL 2000 also introduced a few new features, such as Hot Routes, Madden Challenge, and coaches on the sideline.

 

Graphics:

4.3

Sound:

2.4

Control:

4.5

Gameplay:

4.7

Lastability

4.7

OVERALL:

4.5

 

DOWN THE ROAD

Let it be known: Madden NFL 99 is once again the king of NFL football games on the N64. Yes, NFL Quarterback Club '99 is still better looking and, in this year's case, better sounding. But the gameplay, intelligence, and control in Madden NFL 99 still remain untouched. Being a huge, huge fan of the NFL, I actually feel like I'm in control of a team with the appropriate strategies, philosophies, talent levels, and styles in Madden NFL 99, especially in two-player games. I don't feel that kind of realism in NFL Quarterback Club '99. But EA Sports and Tiburon better improve the graphics engine and increase the ROM size for drastically improved sound in Madden 2000, or I'm going to get very angry.

 

Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: October 2, 1998

Appendix Added: December 26, 1998

 

 

 

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