RETRO REBOOT - NFL Blitz 2001 (Nintendo 64)

The NFL Blitz window ended up being rather short-lived. That makes sense, as this style of arcade gaming was (stop me if you've read this on this editorial) becoming less commonplace by the end of the 90's, as Midway's reign on the western gaming world was loosening rapidly. I wasn't even that huge of a football fan when I was younger, but NFL Blitz was still a blast and I can safely assume it was more enjoyed by the population than NBA Jam. 

Blitz 2001 was essentially a roster and feature upgrade of the previous Blitz games, including the new expansion Browns, a replay function, and some mini-games. The playbooks for offense and defense are practically the same, so there aren't any fundamental changes to the gameplay. If you're familiar with Blitz, it's pretty easy to jump right in and go to town. The downside being, if you've played or own any of the other Blitz games, there was virtually no reason to go out and grab this game back in the day. Perhaps Midway thought they could squeeze some annual releases from this in the similar vein the Madden and GameDay series were doing. As fun as Blitz can be, it had to have been known this well was shallow.

Contrast to the simulation style football video game franchises (talk about things that aren't said anymore), NFL Blitz, like NBA Jam, foregoes all the conventional rules and just goes for an all-out, high-energy, renegade football game that keeps the complex schematics of the sports as streamlined as possible. The plays run like plays, just yell "HIKE" and the chaos begins. It's easy to turn one's brain off and partake in the explosive action Blitz offers, but there IS a relatively decent amount of strategy to be found here. Since there's a lot of parity in how each team plays, the skill is mostly determined on the player, rather than attributes.

The graphics and animation for Blitz are pretty indicative of the time, which catered heavily to the EXTREME nature of the mid-late 90's. The overly gigantic, musclebound players still have a charm to them, the flames trailing from the ball after your quarterback launches a bomb, and the exaggerated pro wrestling tackles that would break a normal man, yet these player get right back up with nay a scratch on them. 

The Nintendo 64 and PlayStation home ports don't run anywhere near as smoothly as the arcade or Dreamcast. They're a little on the choppy side, the visuals aren't quite as sharp, and the PlayStation version has some horrendous loading times. I would say that I enjoy the N64 version the most, I feel like the controller actually compliments Blitz 2001's play style, and it has no load times whatsoever. I believe it does require the Expansion Pack memory card in order to run at its best. 

When I reviewed the mid-2000's return of the Blitz series The League, there was a part of me that felt in part of not having the NFL license, some of the attitude was lost by this point in time, despite retaining the same gameplay. Back in high school, however, I remember that NFL Blitz was a game that many played. Guys used to bring the N64 to class, and during study halls, tournaments used to partake for an hour. 

It's straightforward and satisfying, even if it can be fleeting, but NFL Blitz 2001 is pretty solid entertainment.



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