Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: High Score Productions
Sports games on the Sega CD fell squarely into the “slightly upgraded cartridge game” format. EA Sports’ stuff in particular followed a pretty standard formula – you got the cartridge game with a bit of real music on the title screens; some sort of full-motion video feature; and a real recording of a crowd that played on a loop during the actual game play.
Bill Walsh College Football was kind of an interesting move. Rather than securing the NCAA license (Mindscape probably had that at the time), EA followed the same formula as their hit pro-football game – find a great coach and name the game after him.
Bill Walsh seemed an obvious choice. A great pro coach that had three Super Bowl wins with the 49ers who became a broadcaster after retiring in 1988, only to return to coaching college ball in 1992. The year before this game was released he took Stanford to a co-Pac-10 championship.
For whatever reason, though, there were only two games produced with his name on them, and this is the only one to grace the Sega CD. EA grabbed the NCAA and started releasing their college-ball games under that banner in 1997.
What we have in Bill Walsh for the Sega CD is basically Madden Football with NCAA rules and generic “real” college teams. Folks who remember the good old days of sports games will know what I mean. Instead of the Tennessee Volunteers, for example, the team is just called Tennessee, though they still wear the orange uniforms. No real team names, stadiums, players, or logos in this game, I’m afraid.
The looping crowd effect actually worked better than it should have, in my opinion. While the game still featured a full complement of effects found on the Genesis cartridge, having the constant buzz of the real crowd underneath it all lent a level of depth to EA’s sports games that wasn’t there on the Genny and SNES. Of course, the immersion was kind of broken every time the track finished playing and everything went silent while the system cued it up again.
Outside of that improvement, the only Sega CD-specific feature found in Bill Walsh is a series of videos of the man himself, talking to the camera about everything from the difference between game day at the college and pro levels to the range of play styles found in different regions of the country. It’s all pretty interesting if you’re into that sort of thing, but isn’t really very practical information in regards to the actual game.
Obviously, my experience with Sega CD sports games starts and ends with the NHL series. But I do remember noticing Bill Walsh back in the day, if only because it seemed weird to me that EA would release what looked like a product that competed with John Madden (who, by the way, never graced the Sega CD). Yeah, I didn’t understand the difference between college and pro ball back then.