The previous game in this series was one of the more interesting titles on the system. NFL Football Trivia Challenge was a case study in mid-90s, multimedia “experience” design. NFL’s Greatest, on the other hand, is just kind of bizarre.
The 49ers vs the Cowboys is one of the most storied rivalries in NFL history. These two teams have fought over the NFC championship for decades, meeting over 30 through the years. The rivalry features the rise of Joe Montana and his legacy with the 49ers, including the famous 89-yard drive in 1981 that culminated in “The Catch.” Even in the mid-90s, when this game was released, the Niners and the Cowboys were in the middle of back to back to back NFC Championship game meetings from 1992-1994.
In NFL’s Greatest, you’re playing as the coach. You pick which plays to run from an extremely limited playbook, the program decides what the outcome would be versus the play called by the CPU, and then you’re treated to some historical footage of the two teams that’s supposed to depict the outcome of the calls.
The footage is of players spanning the course of the 1978-1993 seasons. The back of the box calls out “Staubach, Dorsett, “Too Tall” Jones, Aikman, Irvin, Smith — take the field against Montana, Lott, Clark, Rice, Watters, Young — just to name a few!”
At the end of each play you see how many yards you gained or lost via a readout at the bottom of the screen.
When you first play the game, it’s kind of interesting. Well, unique, if nothing else. But it only takes a couple of games – sometimes just a couple of quarters – to start seeing the same footage over and over again. A single play is all you need to realize just how limiting this format is. The novelty wears off in a matter of minutes.
The presentation is alright, though the video quality ranges from above average to piss poor. You have two viewing options. You can either watch each video play out on what looks like a jumbotron in the game’s main interface, or you can switch to full screen mode. This seems impressive at first, considering the Sega CD wasn’t supposed to be able to do full screen video. But then you notice that the footage is interlaced like crazy.
You do get a full cheerleader dance routine after a touchdown. That’s kinda cool.
NFL’s Greatest actually reminds me a lot of VCR board games. These were a thing back in the 80s and 90s. There was actually a football game or two. At various points throughout the game you’d be asked to play the next segment on your VCR. Whatever happened during that play is what drove the game forward.
VCR games are fantastic, by the way. I highly suggest you look some of the footage up on YouTube. Clue, in particular, is worth a watch.
One has to assume that more of these games were set to follow if the multimedia, FMV revolution really took off. As it is, NFL’s Greatest is one of those great full-motion video oddities of the era that’s worth having around just to show people how wonderfully weird it was. Oh, and to listen to the fantastic music, complete with vocals!