Platform: Gameboy Advance

Genre: Sports

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Electronic Arts

ESRB: E (Everyone)

Released: August 13, 2002

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Madden NFL 2003

Score: 7.9 / 10



- Great Stat-tracking in Season Mode

- Create-a-Player mode is fun and novel

- Plays like handheld version of classic 16-bit Maddens




- Screen too crowded

- Players are very pixilated

- Whether plays succeed or fail seems too random



Related Links:

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Playstation 2)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (Gamecube)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (XBox)

Review: Madden NFL 2003 (PC)


"It isnít nearly as full-featured as its console big brothers, but it is at least on par with the best console footballers from the 16-bit era, which, Iím sure, is what most Madden fans were hoping for."


It is hard to get in the right frame of mind to review a GBA sports game these days.  Console sports games are clearly in their Golden Age.  Great graphics.  Incredible customizability.  An amazing variety of modes.  Despite its considerable power when compared to handhelds of the past, the GBA simply isnít able to compete with home consoles in many genres.  Flooded as my living has been with great sports games these past few months, it was difficult to avoid flinching when I first fired up Madden 2003 for the GBA.  Still, some people are always going to want a portable option for their sports games, and Madden 2003 is basically the only game in town.  Is it a good game?  Read on.


madden-2003-1.jpg (35932 bytes)          madden-2003-2.jpg (33825 bytes)


Graphically, Madden 2003 is about on par with Madden í94 for the Genesis and SNES.  I compared the GBA version with the Genesis í94 version using the Nomad and the games seemed very similar.  The new Madden runs faster and smoother and displays at least a few more frames of animation, but it is also considerably more pixilated.  Both games share the problem of not actually being able to survey the whole field and figure out what is going on during the action.  The screen is too crowded and the action too fast for the player to gather much information before making a decision.  While the in-game graphics are similar, the graphics in the menus, start-up screens, scoreboards, and interstitial footage are much nicer in the newer Madden.  Like all the recent EA Sports efforts, the presentation is professional looking, sharp, and nearly flawless.



Like the graphics, the sound in Madden 2003 is a mixed bag.  The new commentary, though sparse, is impressive for a handheld system.  However, the crowd sound is the same, annoying white noise that graced the 16-bit version of the game.  I had the sound turned all the way down before the end of the first quarter of the first game.


One place the game truly stands out from the 16-bit versions of Madden is in its game modes.  The same basic options are present, but they are all deeper and more full-featured than the old school games.  Players can choose from exhibition play (called Play Now) and season play.  Before choosing either, players can enter the Front Office Mode and tinker with the rosters of all the teams in the league through trades.  This means that you can adjust the rosters as the season goes along to reflect the changes made in the NFL (though, unlike in baseball and basketball, such trades are rare in the NFL).


madden-2003-3.jpg (30894 bytes)          madden-2003-4.jpg (42104 bytes)


Also under the Front Office mode is a neat Create-a-Player option.  Here, as in the mini-camp mode on the full-size Madden, players can compete in a variety of mini-games that are used to determine the physical skills of their created player.  The simple games range from a Track and Field like 40-yard dash to the surprisingly fun pass catching mode for wide receivers.  The mini-games vary somewhat according to the position of the player (wide receivers have a catching game, quarterbacks a throwing game).  It adds some much needed pick-up-and-play action to the game.


Game play is about what you would expect and totally devoid of innovation.  Players choose their plays from the same kind of menu that Madden has used for the past decade.  The playbooks are certainly more complete that the older versions, but it still comes down to an advanced game of rock, scissors, paper.  Choose the right play against the defenses choice and you are guaranteed big yards.  Those big yards are the big problem with the game.  Going through the effort of searching for money plays is unnecessary Ėnearly every play will go for significant yards.  The defense puts up little challenge and the offensive AI isnít much better.  It really takes an effort to lose a game of Madden 2003 against the computer AI.


All in all, Madden 2002 is a fun diversion.  It isnít nearly as full-featured as its console big brothers, but it is at least on par with the best console footballers from the 16-bit era, which, Iím sure, is what most Madden fans were hoping for.


- Tolen Dante

(September 25, 2002)


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