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Great Football Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

It seems to me this whole great series for the Master System is a well built roller coaster ride. We start out somewhat decent, drop down a hill that continues to go down with this current title I’m reviewing, back up, down and then up again. A real thrill ride. Okay, no, bad analogy. I’m sorry to say that Great Football is possibly one of the worst football video games in history and is definitely at the top of my list for “worst football game I’ve ever played.” I’ve played some bad ones in my time, but this is by far the worst for a completely idiotic decision on the part of the programmers. It baffles me why in the hell they did what they did, but I’ll get to that. As another sad stain on the SMS’ life in the states, I’m forced to move further on my review quest to tackle the suck that is Great Football. Let’s do this.

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Graphically, Great Football has some potential but totally fails in the end. The opening title screen has a nice little cinematic thing going on there for you, followed by the team selection screens. A nice range of color and detail used on these parts. Nothing flasy or really attention-grabbing, but it looks nice, though this hardly shows one the power of the console. This is followed by the game proper, which features a horizontally arranged field with players. Compared to something like Tecmo Bowl, I have to say the arrangement looks a lot better here, but unfortunately with similar problems. You can clearly make out individual players, but they are usually plauged by flicker so bad that at times you only see one or two limbs moving and nothing else. In addition, character animations are terrible, I’m not sure what they were even trying to suggest with these dopey movements. The field itself, though it sometimes has corny, nonsensical designs on the fifty, is very crisp. However, that’s all you get to see, there are no players on the sidelines, cheerleaders, or even the slightest suggestion of a crowd. You’re lucky you even get to see the goalposts. There are no in game cinematics as you have in Tecmo Bowl, just the basic lay-out, which would have actually been decent were it not for the huge amount of flicker. Considering the time period, and the perfect counterexample I’ve already mentioned, I feel they could have done much more with this. They needed at least some cinematic cut scenes or something, the most you’re treated to during the two-player mode is a little cheerleading, which is probably the most well animated and best looking part of the actual game. This, however, is also marred by more flicker.

Now for the sound. It’s been programmed well for the most part, but it’s just not the same driving tunes I’m used to in Tecmo Bowl. The opening track hardly gets me enthusiastic, and the team selection/play selection track is so worthless I can’t even describe its worthlessness. It has this “fat guys talking about football sitting on filthy couches” feel to it. I suppose that doesn’t work, but picture the scene to yourself and I think you’ll get it. The game proper is no better, talk about an overusage of the computer simulated high hat. Good god, turn that thing down. It overpowers everything else and gets very irritating after awhile. The majority of the sound effects actually aren’t that bad at all. The tackles, catches, scrambling and such are good, but a few aren’t the best, such as the repeating crowd track, which sounds like someone screaming into an empty soup can for half a second and then this is put on an endless loop. The rest of the music is generally uneventful, including the victory theme. At least the tackles sound decent.

Now the gameplay. Damn, this is bad. Great Football is actually somewhat entertaining for two players, so let me start there before I reveal the stupdiest thing I’ve ever seen. First off, the basic arrangement is you can play alone or with a friend. You can choose between one of two leagues with six totally made up teams each. Unfortunately, one of the biggest flaws in this title is that it doesn’t matter at all which team you pick other than having different colored gear. There are no statistics, not even the slightest hint and having players who are better in certain areas than others. Nothing. Plus, some of the teams are real winners, such as the Beavers, the Sharks or the Foxes. The Foxes? I guess they’re kind of sly, but a beaver? Come on. But forget that, let’s get to the play.

The controls take some getting used to because they’ve used a button arrangement opposite to what you’d expect. Still, once you’ve got them down it’s rather easy to play. Thankfully, play runs smoothly aside from the above. It’s very easy to pass, select plays, run and so forth. You have eight plays to select from, plus an additional punt/field goal play that becomes active when you reach so many yards. There are unfortunately no defensive plays, which is kind of stupid, but at least the AI works well. Also, there is no way to select which player you’re passing to beforehand, you have to push the Directional Pad towards whoever you want to pass to after the hike. In the two-player mode, this is all generally easy to pick up and not entirely worthless, though it’s not the most entertaining football game out there. The one-player option, however, is a different story…

So you select your team as usual and all of the above still applies. However, you may notice something when you’re first downed after the computer kicks the ball to your team. Wait, what’s that? Why does the other team have a score of thirty five? We just started to play. This number is actually random, sometimes seven or fourteen or whatever, but it’s the key here. Get this, you don’t actually play the one-player mode like actual football. Seriously, what you have to do is simply beat the computer’s given score to win, as long as you do it within the time limit. That’s it. The computer never has possession of the ball, they’re always on the defensive. What?! The only way they can possibly gain any points is if you get a safety, which will never happen unless you totally suck because the AI is pathetic. In addition to this atrocity, there are no actual downs! You just keep on going and if it you don’t get a first down after four, you just get jumped back a few yards. That’s it, you just have to beat their score. This is possibly the most ridiculous, poorly conceived and worthless idea I’ve ever come across in a video game. What, why, why in the world would I want to play this by myself when it doesn’t make any sense? Why? I can’t even comment any more on it it’s so stupid. One more thing though, there is no tournament play at all. One team, one game, one waste of your life.

Creativity? Yeah, right. This game has none. All they did was take the basic idea behind American football, take out some of the most critical gameplay features and strip it down to one of the most boring and worthless football titles I’ve ever played. Even the attempt at making unique teams failed because it doesn’t matter in hell if you’re the Bombers or the Sharks. Either one is the same damn team with the same damn plays. There is simply nothing here I can call creative. Nothing.

Great Football has absolutely no replay value to me, nor should it to anyone. I suppose it might be halfway decent if you were disturbed enough to play this with someone else on the two-player mode, but why would you want to when there’s better games out there? The game length is pitiful as well, in the one-player mode you don’t even have quarters, just beat the other team’s score within the given time and that’s it. Another score for this game straight to the floor, no need to continue.

This just goes to show you that it’s very likely one of the major factors for the failure of the Master System in America was the release of the great series. SMS fans simply didn’t really have any good sports titles in the states to compete with some of the gems for the NES, so it’s clear to me this had to have dampered the console’s market potential early on, effecting it until its eventual demise. I mean, look at how popular sports titles are today and apply that to back then. There were a number of reasons the system didn’t do so well, but since they didn’t release really any good sports titles until after Nintendo had pretty much crippled the Master System forever, I have to say games like Great Football put a hurting on Sega back in the day, for very good reasons. There is simply no reason to own this or even play it, unless you want to see what I mentioned above for yourself to say you did. Whatever your reason for wanting to check it out, be warned beforehand that this is life you will never return to, so you might want to use it for something constructive.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 3.5
Gameplay: 2
Creativity: 0
Replay Value/Game Length: 0
Final: 2.1
Written by Stan Review Guide