SEATTLE--If you're launching a new system, there really is no better feather to have in your cap than EA's Madden franchise. Nintendo must be mighty pleased that the venerable football series will be hitting the DS right at release, and we got to take a look at a work-in-progress version of the game to see how it's coming along with a scant six weeks left until the system's launch.
Of course, if you've been playing football video games for any length of time, you know what you're going to get in the basic package--a season mode, quick game, two-minute drill, all that fun stuff. So what makes Madden NFL 2005 on the DS unique? When the DS was announced earlier in the year, a football game with plays displayed on the second screen was one of the first common examples of a practical use for the system, and indeed, your plays in Madden will show up on the lower screen (and you can conveniently pick a play simply by tapping it with your thumb). During a play, the view will change over to an overhead view with an Xs-and-Os display indicating your players and those of the opposition. These new features seemed to enhance the flow of the game nicely since we could absorb more information without ever losing our player's-eye view of the action.
Perhaps the best feature of Madden was the one that unfortunately wasn't available today--wireless multiplayer. You'll be able to go head-to-head against a friend with the DS' built-in wi-fi, and the fact that all your play information is hidden on your own screens ought to make for a much more balanced match than when you're playing on a big console and sharing one television.
The game itself is looking roughly on par with the Nintendo 64 version of Madden that veteran players may be familiar with. It should be interesting at launch to see just how gridiron aficionados take to the unique new features in this latest rendition of the long-running football franchise. Madden NFL 2005 is slated for release at the DS launch in late November, so stay tuned for more soon.
For more updates on the Nintendo DS and other impressions and media, check out GameSpot's coverage of Nintendo's Gamer's Summit.