Joe Montana showed up at Microsoft’s press event for E3 to show off the new voice commands for Madden NFL 13 via Kinect. Much respect for Joe’s contributions to the field, but it was just one of those things that felt awkward to watch. Come on, guys, the gaming press has grown up a bit since the nineties when he had his own game.
Joe Montana Football in 1991 has a slightly off-the-wall history. It came out on the Sega Master System and MS-DOS in 1990, but the version most people are probably familiar with was the one on the Genesis in ’91. This was also a year after the second John Madden Football game was released (the first one was on PCs only).
In contrast to Madden’s wider set of options for more serious play, Montana was focused more on getting the player into the excitement of sending their team off to battle right after picking their play. Games were fast, quick, and it was entertaining if you didn’t mind running full field-length touchdowns every so often which my brother would do almost on cue every time he sat down with this. There was even a small “helmet view” for passing. If there ever was a football game for newcomers, it would probably be this along with Tecmo Bowl and Mutant League Football.
Madden, on the other side of the scale, featured beefier graphics, slightly sharper AI, more options in picking your plays, and a little more realism thanks to the NFL license that brought your favorites onto the field unlike Joe Montana’s game. In that, you only had Joe. In Madden, you had everyone though you could still do insane full or half-field touchdowns more often than winning the lottery in real life.
On the more weird side, one of the designers, Michael Knox, said in an interview with fan site Sega-16 that the game was actually “scaled back” because they were worried over it damaging sales for Madden. And EA was publishing both.
Even stranger, the game was something of a “Hail Mary” for Sega. They wanted a football game of their own on the Genesis and contracted a company by the name of Mediagenic to make it for them. Unfortunately, Mediagenic was having problems of its own and development hardly took off, so Sega asked Trip Hawkins at EA to see if they could help out.
Sega’s footballer still missed its Christmas date for 1990 (though a PC version did eke out before the end of the year), but came out anyway in January ’91. Unfortunately, that was also after John Madden Football made its console debut beginning a dynasty of titles that would make it a franchise powerhouse for EA. Yet at this point in the 16-bit wars, titles like these would go on to make the Genesis the “go-to” machine for sports along with action as opposed to the Super Nintendo or the Turbografx-16. If you wanted to play with the NBA or the NFL on a console, Sega’s hardware was where it was at.
Joe Montana’s game got a big, three page ad which was actually typical for a select number of Genesis titles. The last page is a big screenshot listing of the neat titles showing off that “Genesis does it all”. A screenshot of Montana, the Sega Genesis, and a slab of text talking up why you should be playing the game addressed prospective armchair quarterbacks. Whatever its shortcomings, Montana was still a lot of fun for those that didn’t mind making superhuman touchdowns every so often.