Is it the Cleats?!?!
Action oriented sports games always do pretty well, from the almost historical NBA Jam to the more recent Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey series. In the arcades, people have pretty much no problem cranking up to two bucks into a machine to finish a single game. With sneaky little tricks like personal data saving, these games tend to bring people back, if only to try and better their record.
As a coin-op, NFL Blitz was destined for success. It hauled in a ton of dough as the gridiron equivalent to Jam. Hoping to carry this tradition to the console market, Midway brings us NFL Blitz for both the N64 and the PSX. Subtle differences exist between the two, but both offer just about the same game you'll find at your local Shakey's.
Before I go any further, I need to point out that this is NOT NFL Xtreme. That game sucked. Go read that review to find out why it sucked, or you can just take my word for it. But either way, please understand that THIS game - NFL Blitz - is the one you played in the arcades.
The premise is simple: take the game of American football, pare it down to teams of 7 on 7, douse the rulebook in gasoline, light the rulebook on fire, give 'em a ball, and watch as the knuckleheads pound each other senseless in an attempt to play football. Okay, so maybe it's not so simple. But you get the idea.
Unlike other football games on the console market, you won't find much depth here. You don't have to keep track of many options, and there aren't a billion plays to choose from (though the N64 Play Editor allows for more... well, more on that later). You hike the ball and run or pass for a first down, which is every 30 yards. The clock stops after every play, thereby allowing more time to score. You can stiff-arm, hurdle, or turbo your way over, under, and around the enemy. Try and score touchdowns. Try and stop the other team. Kill, Kill, Kill.
Football has never been a game for sissies. NFL Blitz kindly reminds us that smashing, thumping, and pummeling is the name of the game. Tackles are wickedly loud and brutal, and the end of the play doesn't signal the end of the violence. Late hits are common and expected, though not useful in any way other than to rub your opponent's face in the grass.
There are several play modes, including the standard 'save your progress' Arcade mode. If you're a one team kinda guy/gal, then give the Season mode a shot. You can also play a Tournament in the PSX version, and of course playing a two-player game against a friend is really the best way to go.
The graphics are solid all around. Oddly, the PSX version runs slightly faster than the N64. The textures and smoothness on the N64, however, are unmatched. Players look good and move well, though realism isn't high on the priority list. This is a good looking port.
Midway made sure to not just port the exact same product for the two systems. They ensured that the games were different by adding elements to each not found in the other. For the N64, we have the Play Editor.
The Play Editor allows you to build you own play from scratch. You pick a formation and plan the pass routes for your receivers. This includes setting them to spin, juke, or turbo at designated spots. You can then save your plays onto a memory pack and use them against friends or the computer. And for the first time since the failed Neo-Geo experiment, you can actually take your memory pack to the arcades, plug it into the coin-op NFL Blitz, and use the plays you created at home against complete strangers.
This begs the question: 'Why play Blitz in the arcades if you own it at home?' Frankly, I dunno. Seems to me that if you buy it for your N64, you'll save yourself bags of quarters. But it's still a great idea that may actually work for some of you.
There are a few problems with Blitz that do need to be mentioned. First off, the purely arcade style action, while definitely amusing, eventually wears thin. There's just not enough depth to keep you going for days. You really need to be a fan of NBA Jam style games if you're going to get into this one. Football fans in particular are going to hate the lack of realism they've grown accustomed to with Gameday, QBC and Madden.
And while the gameplay and graphics are strong, the sound for both platforms is a bit weak. Much like in NFL Xtreme, the commentating is obnoxious and random. It's one thing to bail on realistic gameplay; it's another to ditch realistic announcing.
Overall, NFL Blitz serves up some pretty wily football action. Fans of Jam will love it, though you more simulation oriented sports gamers will have a conniption. If you own both a N64 and a PSX, I'd recommend the 64 version, if only for the Play Editor.