Madden NFL '96
Madden NFL '96 is a football video game designed for the 1995 NFL season, licensed by the NFL. The AI has been boosted and can now hurry in two-minute drill situations, spike the ball, and cover the receivers with better efficiency.
It was the last to explicitly be endorsed by the NFL on Fox, although a knock-off/rendition of the NFL on Fox's iconic theme would continue to be used in Madden for several years afterward.
The Create A Player feature was added, which includes many position specific mini-games that determine the ability of the player.
The game also was the first in the Madden series to include secret "classic" teams, which are unlocked by playing any of the 28 pre-expansion NFL franchises in the playoffs and by winning Super Bowl XXX with that team (a rather easy feat as the playoff tournament system allows a player to abort the game while in the lead and still win). The 28 pre-expansion teams are each represented by a classic era equivalent, which range from 1960 (Philadelphia Eagles) to 1986 (New York Giants), although all players on those classic era teams are identified by their squad numbers only. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, having debuted in 1995, do not have a secret classic team revealed in this manner, nor do the All-Madden team. However, Carolina is attached to the blank slate NFLPA team used for Create-A-Player, and Jacksonville and All-Madden hide the "superteams" with players named after the developers; these teams are accessed using unstated cheat codes.
Madden '96, developed by Visual Concepts, was originally planned to be the first NFL game on the PlayStation shortly after the console's launch in 1995. Features were to include customizable playbooks, penalties, weather conditions, and playing surfaces, and commentary from John Madden, Pat Summerall, James Brown, and Lesley Visser. But after several delays, the game was canceled because it did not meet EA's quality assurance standards. Visual Concepts would later go on to make the NFL 2K series of games.
The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Genesis version scores of 9.5 and 9.0 out of 10, stating that "EA listened to players and has come up with the best 16-bit football game ever made." They praised the "hard as hell" AI and the addition of speed bursts. A reviewer for Next Generation deemed it "a definite improvement from last year's poor effort", citing the more solid player graphics, faster play, and tougher AI. He further remarked that while Sega's Prime Time NFL was still the best football video game in single player, Madden NFL '96 was the best two-player experience. He gave it four out of five stars. Slo Mo of GamePro found the AI a somewhat mixed blessing, remarking that "The mean and nasty A.I. will answer the prayers of hardcore Madden players, but it will surely frustrate rookies and bandwagon fans." He also deemed the new Scouting Combine feature "an excellent idea that could nonetheless use some tinkering." However, he praised the rendered character sprites, the widened camera views, and the new moves, and gave the game a recommendation. He judged the SNES version to be superior to the Genesis version due to its faster animation and inclusion of drills specific to each position, and called it "the top-ranked SNES football cart".
GamePro panned the Game Boy version in a brief review, stating, "This Madden features no NFL license, old lineups, and none of the improvements made to the '96 SNES version. The small sprites will cause eye strain, player control is difficult, and passes sound like bombs falling from the sky." They made many of the same criticisms of the Game Gear version, which they noted had better control but was still "a below-average attempt to bring football into the handheld arena."
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