What a difference a year makes. Although NFL Blitz 2003 for the Game Boy Advance has the same basic graphical and gameplay elements as last year's terrible NFL Blitz 2002, this latest release has been improved and refined so much that it's actually a respectable portable adaptation of the console versions of Midway's extreme football series.
NFL Blitz 2003 isn't your typical game of football. A new series of downs is awarded for gaining 30 yards instead of 10, there are 14 players on the field instead of 22, and brutal illegal hits are generally encouraged. You're always in control of the person with the ball, so once you select a play and get the ball to one of your skill players, you'll have to guide that player downfield toward the end zone. In order to avoid the defense, you can spin and dive or activate your turbo boost--a reserve that constantly refills when not in use. There are 36 offensive and 18 defensive plays, which should offer enough variety for most players.
There improvements NFL Blitz 2003 makes on NFL Blitz 2002 are noticeable in every area. Player sprites are larger and animate much more fluidly than in the last release, while at the same time, the inclusion of postplay attacks makes this portable Blitz almost as exciting as its console cousins. Computer behavior is greatly improved, such that CPU opponents mount a plausible defense and your own CPU-controlled teammates actually carry out their assignments. This latest version also has a greater variety of in-game speech samples for both the players and the announcers.
Except for the addition of a much-needed two-player link mode, the selection of modes and options has not been changed since the last GBA installment in the series. There are exhibition, season, and practice modes, as well as three minigames that let you test your skills at NFL trivia, field goals, and extra point situations. NFL Blitz 2003 is infinitely more playable than its predecessor, however, so the stock options are more than adequate.
NFL Blitz 2003 for the Game Boy Advance is a milestone of sorts, as it's the first portable adaptation of NFL Blitz to live up to the series' arcade roots. It's certainly not as deep or as beautiful as the recent PlayStation 2 and Xbox releases, but it's still pretty fun.