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Joe Montana Football Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1990 Also On: Genesis/Megadrive

When I first sat down to bash the living hell ut of this I thought to myself “hold back evil one, you’re being too quick with your words.” Hold back, hold back and give it another go.” I always like to play games thoroughly to see how their dififculty ranges, in particular how hard they are to complete. In addition, this is the best way to go because oftentimes a game that presents very well at first may end up a disaster later on. Joe Montana Football first presented itself to me as a total failure, which was a shame since the SMS didn’t have a good series of football games. There were only three in all (well a few more if you count the PAL versions, but they’re the same games) and it seems this is the best out of them, even though I never played the other yet because it’s so far along in the alphabet. Anyway, though not the greatest of sports titles, Joe Montana Football manages to give Master System fans a true title for the sport, one that’s actually pretty fun to play. I’m glad I took the time to look at it more, but it left me wanting in the process.

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One of Joe Montana Football’s stronger points is, thankfully, the graphics. You’re first greeted by an excellent title screen. Superb detail on Joe and the title itself. I’m surprised they milked this many pixels out of it and I wouldn’t be shocked if someone mistook this for 16-Bit. You even get a nice segment for the coin toss that seems a little superfluous, but still nicely done. In the game proper, after the obligatory team selection screens and so forth, you’re presented with a nice looking field. Can’t get any better for this for the time. It looks like it should. Unfortunately, the players have this stumpy appearance to them when they’re running in certain directions and there is a slew of graphical flicker here and there. In addition, this game unfortunately suffers from the once common ‘everyone has the same color jerseys regardless of team’ flaw. A minor note, but still something that gets on my nerves. When you score touchdowns you get an excellent little animated segment. Very impressive. When you win there is this one screen job that has a ton of color and detail, though the black man near the front is put in a very strange position. Because of the position of his finger, it almost looks like the penis of the player being held in the air, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Overall, Joe Montana Football looks pretty darn good. Needed some work in certain areas, but for its time it looks decent. The most complaints are for the players, they just don’t look exactly what I’d call football players at times.

Arrrgh, and then they have to go and do this. I was really hoping the sound would have been good in this game because Great Football was so atrocious. Joe Montana Football opens with a nice little theme, but it’s kind of, how to say, creepy. Here’s why. So the song plays and then it finishes. For some reason they decided to not program the game to show you sample screens of play. Instead, Joe sits there, eeriely staring at you as if begging with his eyes “for the love of god press start can’t you see I’m trapped in limbo?!” Then, in a minute or so, the music just picks up again, almost as if the game was like, okay I’m done now, oh wait they haven’t pressed start yet, dumm de dumm de dumm and so forth. Should have programmed it to repeat. Anyway, that’s a minor example because the song is actually good, the biggest problem is this title completely lacks in-game music. It only pops up when you win, but during play you’re only treated to some pretty bland sound effects. First, there’s the endless, muffled beehive hum of the crowd. Follow this up with some really odd sounding tackles. I’d compare it to someone flatulating into a can. After this gem, you have one of the strangest ball sounds I’ve ever come across. It sounds almost like a a slightly higher pitch of the tackle, but yet mixed with this effect that is seriously no better than something off an Atari 2600. I’d go on, but all that needs to be said is the sound isn’t very good, there are even a few others that sound like Atari bleeps and warbles, but just knowing they’re there should be enough. Actually, imagine the guy in Pitfall running into a barrell and that’s about what you hear.

So does Joe Montana Football play well? I’m happy to say that though it’s lacking several features that affect the gameplay, this title is pretty fun. It’s set up as you’d expect. You select one or two players and then a difficulty setting. That’s my first gripe. I really didn’t notice too much of a difference between ‘Beginner’ and ‘Professional’ other than the fact that it seemed like my quarterback and the computer’s quarterback, surprisingly, made a lot more incomplete passes. I expected them to speed up the play, which would have been ideal, but they didn’t. This is my next problem since I just mentioned it. This game plays way too slow. You’re able to quickly select plays and get the computer to start moving, but when you actually move the players are way too sluggish to suggest the intensity of the actual sport. They’re animated to move like 80-year-olds, I wouldn’t give them any faster, and that’s being generous.

Other than the speed, the gameplay is pretty solid. You have a variety of plays to select from, the best of which is called ‘Joe’s Play’ and is supposedly his pick depending on field position and such. I must say this hardly seemed the case to me and his selection seemed entirely arbitrary, though it did tend to work pretty well most of the time. Nice play selection, so high points for that. However, the main weakness here is that aside from your play selection, there really isn’t much to it. Sometimes you will pick a play that wasn’t the best and the computer defensive line will plow through, but for the most part the AI is pathetic. By selecting a passing play, moving back and then suddenly running, it seems they never, ever figured out that you were doing this over and over again. Even on the professional setting they fell for this trick nearly every time, making it quite easy to advance on the field. Tossing the ball to a running back is pretty pointless, so whenever good ole’ Joe suggest it, I suggest you turn away and go for a pass because there wasn’t a single instance where this worked at getting me more than one or two yards. Passing is the way to go, but for some reason this game has a really high chance of incomplete passes even when it seems you should be catching it. I assume this is an attempt at realism, so I have to give props for that, in fact I think it’s a good aspect, so I’ll hope it’s intentional.

So overall, Joe Montana Football has good gameplay, it’s easy to get into and has a very nice interface. The problems I’ve already mentioned above can be easily ignored. However, the main issue with this game that Sega made prior and for some reason did it again after they should have gotten it right for once is that it completely lacks a tournament mode of play. You pick one team, pick the other, play, win/lose and that’s it. Really boring. Sure, it’s kind of fun to play with a friend, but why would I only want to play one game of this? In addition, there is really no difference at all between any of the teams. It doesn’t matter if you pick Denver or San Fransico because they all play the same. There aren’t even any statistics or player names. What’s the point?

For creativity, I have to drop the score a bit. Joe Montana Football isn’t a very creative game. Sure, you have a nice selection of plays, but the gameplay itself is pretty tame in comparison to other games in this time period and knowing they existed should have led the programmers to do more with this. Clearly, they were beginning to phase out the Master System in favor of the Genesis, because even on the cover Joe Montana is wearing a shirt that says ‘Sega 16 Bit’ on it. That’s the key here, the clear selling point of this game was Joe Montana’s name, that’s it. It plays fairly well minus the flaws I mentioned, but using his name had little to do with the actual game itself. Sure, you can select ‘Joe’s Pick,’ but it doesn’t really seem to matter. Since there are no player names or stats in this game at all, not even fake ones, why did they even use his name? Oh yeah, that’s right, to draw attention and thus sales if they were lucky. Nice try guys.

It’s doubtful to me I would play this again. A sports title needs some sort of tournament mode or at the very least a nice difficulty setting to get me interested. Without this, you simply have a title you’ll play maybe twice, once to play through it and another to have it on in the background while you write a review. Guess that’s it for me, I met my quota for Joe Montana Football. Game length is as to be expected, but again, since there is no tournament mode here it’s way too short. What was with programmers back in the day? Didn’t they get it? Tournament equals interest equals sales equals money. Names only get one so far.

Joe Montana Football, though a generally fun game in certain aspects, is pretty disappointing, especially for someone who likes the Master System and was hoping for a decent football title to make for a nice library. I haven’t played the other one yet, but I’ve heard only bad things, so if it isn’t a smidgen better than this it looks like the SMS just never had a worthy game of this nature. It’s sad too, it seems a number of games from this time period were released by Sega simply with something as a selling point. Dick Tracy was playing off of the movie and in the same vein they released a number of athlete endorsed titles to gather interest. But without a good game backing the name, there really isn’t a reason to do it. I suppose that’s why they gave up on the last of them, Pat Riley Basketball, which only exists in prototype format. A word to the wise and any future programmers reading this, if you’re going to use a famous name, be damn certain the game is good.

Graphics: 6.5
Sound: 3
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 1.5
Final: 4
Written by Stan Review Guide