NFL 2K | Retro Review | Dreamcast - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

NFL 2K | Retro Review | Dreamcast

The NFL 2K series ushered in a new brand of American football on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999. Already up against the wall with competition from the likes of Madden, NFL GameDay and Quarterback Club, Visual Concepts had to deliver a hit or pack up and go home. What the team ended up delivering was the start of series that would eventually bring us one of the greatest American football games of all time a few years later. But does this inaugural entry into the NFL 2K series hold up today? That’s exactly what we’re here to talk about. 

NFL 2K is a pretty straight forward American football experience. On offense, you have a decent amount of moves at your disposal. Ball carriers can spin, stiff arm, dive forward and get a speed burst. The boost can’t simply be held - it has to be tapped to get the most out of it. The quarterback play is also pretty good here, though if you’re coming from Madden, you might be thrown off a little bit since you only need to hike the ball to get into throwing mode. Scrambling is also possible by holding the R Button. 
Defense and special teams also feel nice. You can mash through the offensive line with the triggers, tip passes and, of course, crush the opposition. The kicking game has a no-nonsense set-up. All you have to do is decide where you want to kick the ball, select the trajectory and make sure to hit the A button on the power gauge accordingly. Overall, things still feel pretty good even all of these years later. The ability to juke on offense would have made this even better. 
When playing NFL 2K or any American football game on the big screen with friends, you always have to worry about your buddy taking a peek at the play you’re running. The VMU made this something that you wouldn’t have to worry about. Back in the day, this was honestly a feature I didn’t really make too much use of. I think the first memory card I bought for the system was third party, which meant that it didn’t have a screen. With that said, my brothers and I just played on the honor system…probably to varying degrees of success. Regardless, this is a cool feature to have in the game. [How about you guys? Was this a feature you made use of back in the day?]

The main modes on offer here are Exhibition, Tournament, Season, Playoffs and Fantasy. You can play with up to four players. Quickplay is also an option that will just throw you into a game as random teams. If you’re super impatient and don’t care what teams are on the field, this mode might be for you. The Season Mode is likely where you’ll be spending most of your time if you’re playing on your own. Here, you can play through the entire 1999 season and try to take home the Lombardi trophy. One of the cool features here was the ability to play EVERY game in the season if you wish. Alternatively, you can also sim the season to get to whichever week you like. 
The biggest miss with NFL 2K was the lack of a franchise mode. While some reviewers from the time said it wasn’t a big deal, I definitely thought it was at the time. Sure, playing through the 1999 season over and over again was fine, but I was really hoping to see something more. 

Visuals, Audio & Performance
NFL 2K is still a pretty great looking and running game. It runs (usually) at 60 frames per second and features highly detailed character models, face scans, tons of animations and more. Compared to the competition in 1999, things weren’t even close. The power of the Dreamcast helped bring visuals that were better than anything remotely possible on the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation. Topping all of this off are great commentary, sound effects and menu music.

Japan Connection
As you are probably well aware, the NFL isn’t really that popular in Japan. Still, NFL 2K did see a Japanese release on January 20, 2000. Believe it or not, the game even saw pretty respectable numbers from Famitsu, scoring a 34/40 from the publication. While the game remains largely the same across both versions, there was a special release that came with something very unique to Japan - the NFL 2K “Bible.” Just to squash any theories out there - no, this isn’t some kind of weird prayer book to call on the help of Mike Holmgren or Jim Mora in your time of need. This is merely a book explaining the rules of American football for Japanese gamers. I don’t have it for this release of NFL 2K on the Dreamcast, but this is definitely something that we will be looking at in a different video at another time. 

NFL 2K was a fantastic first step for a franchise that would ultimately be short lived and was a building block to one of the best sports games that would ever be released a few years later in NFL 2K5. The gameplay was sim-enough, but still featured some arcade like touches that made the NFL fun to experience. Not only that, but the visuals really blew the competition out of the water in 1999 and showed what “next gun” sports can look like. The only knock against this inaugural entry into the series is the lack of a franchise mode and the ability to juke on offense. If you can get over that, there still is quite a bit of fun to be had here.

No comments: