Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
If you're an American Football fan and can't wait for the season to begin, this excellent new simulation from Sega is just the thing for you.
An extensive options menu on the title screen lets you select a one or two-player game, change the difficulty level of the computer opponent (either easy, medium or hard), the time limit (real time or five/ten minute quarters) and the type of game (either a Monday night game or Road to Superbowl). Monday night is a one-off game, while Superbowl puts you in a knockout competition against top teams. Passwords are supplied throughout the competition, so you can continue where you left off.
When all the options are set, you can select your favourite team from a list of all the American AFC and NFC members - a nice touch that's made even better with each team being represented in their true colours. A coin is tossed at the start of a match to determine who kicks off, and then the action proper begins.
The proceedings are viewed overhead, and the game takes place on a vertically scrolling pitch. Plays are selected from an extensive but easy-to-use menu system. Each play is displayed as a picture which gives a detailed view of what each player does during that move. An option lets you scrutinise the players' movements even more closely. The play can also be reversed.
There's a less extensive list of defensive movements, and these are displayed as text, which explains in short what the play is - movement against long pass, short running play, end zone line, or whatever.
During play, the player takes control of the quarterback until he passes the ball, where upon control is given to the receiver. During defensive moves, the player controls one footballer.
While Pro Football is incredibly simple and straightforward to play, it doesn't compromise at all on the actual gameplay. Novices can sit down and play almost straight away, but with practice, there's scope for advanced players to put together the complex moves and strategies for which the American game is famous.
The presentation is superb, with the best play selection system I've seen on a game of this type - even better than Cinemaware's TV Sports Football! The difficulty level is perfectly balanced, with the easy level just tough enough to challenge a novice for a couple of games, and the hard one giving even the most experienced player a tough time. There's certainly plenty of scope for long-term play, and the two-player option increases Pro Football's longevity to Methusala-like proportions.
The graphics are top class, with nicely defined players and brilliantly animated intermission screens of the referee judging moves - you really feel like you're there!
Pro Football is simply an American Football enthusiast's dream come true: yet it offers enough addiction and enjoyment to appeal to those who aren't mad keen on the sport. It's the best simulation of this sport to date, is a great game in its own right and deserves to be in every Sega owner's collection.
Stunning action, deep tactics and the two-player option weill raelly keep you at it.