|Madden NFL 97|
|Platform(s)||Game Boy, Genesis, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Super NES, Microsoft Windows|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Madden NFL 97 is a football video game released in 1996. Though it was the fifth game in the Madden NFL series to be created in the 32-bit gaming era, it was only the second to be released for any current generation consoles of that era (the first being the 1994 release John Madden Football). Versions were released for the 32-bit PlayStation and Sega Saturn, the 16-bit Super NES and Genesis, and the 8-bit Game Boy.
This was the first edition of Madden to implement the use of a salary cap when customizing team rosters. It also featured the new Baltimore Ravens, the expansion franchise that absorbed the roster of the Cleveland Browns for the 1996 season. The game also adds a team of real free agents (as opposed to the blank slate used in Madden 96) which can be traded and added to other teams' rosters (led by recently semi-retired quarterback Randall Cunningham), and could be played by using a cheat code.
Madden NFL 97 was the number one selling game on the PlayStation including all games released in 1996.
Classic teams were once again used, although most were different from the previous year's teams; the years ranged as far back as 1952 (Detroit Lions) and as recent as 1990 (Buffalo Bills). Jacksonville and Carolina, once again, did not get classic teams, but Baltimore was attached to a classic Cleveland Browns team.
The best team in the overall ranking, with a score of 85 was the Dallas Cowboys and the worst team with a score of 62 was the Baltimore Ravens. The best ranked offenses were between the Cowboys and the Lions with a score of 92. The St. Louis Rams had the best ranked defense with an 86. The Miami Dolphins had the best ranked special teams with a 93.
Critics hailed the PlayStation version as a strong comeback for the series after the cancellation of the PlayStation version of Madden NFL 96, citing outstanding gameplay, graphics, and options. The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) were pleased that all the teams are available from the beginning, as opposed to having some teams unlocked via hidden codes as in earlier installments. Johnny Ballgame wrote in GamePro that "Madden PlayStation is not only the best football game on the market today, it's the best 32-bit sports game, period." A Next Generation critic was particularly impressed by the control and skill demanded by the gameplay, though he criticized that the AI can be consistently beaten by one specific play, something he said had always held back the Madden games from being as outstanding in single-player mode as they are in multiplayer. EGM named the PlayStation version a runner-up for Sports Game of the Year (behind Wave Race 64).
Reviewing the Saturn version, GamePros Slo Mo praised the gameplay, playbook, animations, sound effects, and "full-motion video that looks TV-real, even with its typically Saturn graininess." Paul Glancey of Sega Saturn Magazine echoed Next Generations criticism that the AI can always be beaten by one play, but recommended the game on the basis of the large selection of teams, motion captured animation, and combination of strategy and action.
Johnny Ballgame was much less pleased with the Super NES version. He said that while the game is good in absolute terms, with a wide selection of moves and attention to detail in the backgrounds, it is inferior to Madden NFL '96 due to its weak AI even on the hardest skill level, slower gameplay, awkward graphics and animations, and limited number of voice clips from Madden.GamePros Scary Larry called the Genesis version "an immensely enjoyable game with great action and stat-soaked strategy", going so far as to suggest that it made buying a next generation system unnecessary for football enthusiasts. He particularly praised the fact that the game is not a simple update for the series and offers new features and more realistic graphics.
GamePros brief review of the Game Boy version criticized the overly small ball and players, prominent slowdown, and lack of any licensing apart from Madden himself, but praised the realistic plays and strategy.