Company: EA Sports
Plataform: Sega MegaDrive
Controller: Mando default de consola
Early 90s, with the arrival of the so-called fourth generation consoles (or 16 bits) a particular genre of videogame experiences a great success, almost like a rebirth, is the sports one. We have already wrote about a previous title of the time.
Ice Hockey is a really popular sport in countries where the weather allows its practice. The frenzy pace at which is played, along with the simplicity of the game surely adds up to its popularity. However, being not very known in some of the videogame big markets, well, there were not many titles about this sport compared to other sports like baseball and/or football.
The quality of those few games more than compensate for the low quantity, and the company EA Sports, taken as founding base the success of John Madden, adapts similar concepts proven there, but for an ice hockey game. Getting the license of the strongest league about this sport, the National Hockey League, delivering a great product.
The videogame offers a vertical view of an ice hockey match, it catches my eye how well it’s done the frozen field, how well defined the players and they look real well when playing at the field.
It really shines the fantastic pace of a match in this videogame. A match with the minimum duration feels like a breeze, and one second you are defending your goal, and the next one you’ll be trying to score at the other goal. Or the other way around.
The controls are really simple: with the pad you move the virtual ice hockey player who is controlling the puck while attacking. With one button shoots to the goal, while with other gives a pasa to a teammate indicating the direction with the pad (being few players, it’s quite easy). The third button is used as a temporal turbo. When defending, one button selects the virtual player closest to the puck, other one tries to steal the puck and the turbo one boost the strength of the hit when clashing a rival.
It’s possible to customize certain aspects of the videogame: the duration of the match, if there are penalties or not, overall difficulty, amongst other things. Consider that with penalties, it’s possible there are going to be fights which is quite funny, specially because they are relatively scarse. With fights, there are power plays, because the losing team of the fight is with one less player for a while.
The videogame consider the performance of the teams during the 1990-91 season. So, in case you don’t know too much about the sport, and also selects a weak team, you’ll really note that. On the other side, it happens too if you choose a good team.
Two player matches are allowed, either by competing between themselves, or cooperating against the AI.
The 21 existing teams of the NHL at the time are available to the player to choose from.
The videogame was published just before a time of much franchises changes in the league, which included expansions and relocations of traditional teams.
Only the teams are available, due to license reasons, not the players and/or rosters. So don’t expecto to play as Wayne Gretzky, George Hull or Mario Lemieux. It’s quite notorious playing with contending teams as Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks instead of other not-so-contending like Quebec Nordiques or Hartford Whalers.
The videogame was a great success. As already written, there were not many videogames about this sport, and this approach with great graphics, frentic action and great playability really was successful.
Even so, that the game had many sequels, ported to different platforms, and still are being made at the time this entry was written (year 2020). It’s likely we’ll write about probably the best known sequel, NHL ‘94, considered one of the finest sport videogames of all story.
As a sidenote, there is a videogame with this game for DOS computers, but it’s really a port of NHL ’94, not of this videogame.
I’m not a huge fan of ice hockey, and when I saw the entry of a sequel in a list of greatest sports videogame, I thought of applying the same method than with Madden, and speak first of the oldest entry in the franchise.
My main weakness in this kind of videogames, is scoring, and that was not the case in this one. It’s true, scoring is not a piece of cake, but neither an impossible mission. Come on, I struggled less than in FIFA.
The configuration which we consider is great for beginners is setting the duration for 10 minutes, and disabling the penalties. Given my lack of knowledge about the rules of the sport, it was disorienting not knowing the reason my team received a penalty, and the pace of the game was stopped.
I really loved the frantic action, not having an impossible difficulty to score, and really simple to use controls to either attack and/or defend. A great videogame highly recommended.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.
NHL team’s logos images taken from SportsLogos.