I know most of you (sure, that could be like 10 people
:) know me from writing about wrestling. However, I
have played a video game or two in my day (nowhere
near as many as the Drunk, though). I have played a
ton of hockey games, including every game from the EA
series, and a few more. I know there are more out
there, but as far as the EA series goes: while the
games continue to be more elaborate and complete,
there aren't any as fun as NHL '94.
The thing is, the game is so simple, it's nice to not
have to worry about 20-30 individual settings per
game. You just pick your teams, set your lines, and
drop the puck.
There are several to choose from:
Regular Season: the analog to "exhibition" by today's
Playoffs: Complete 16-team brackets, each series is
Best-of-7: Classic 16 team playoffs, each round is
best of 7.
Shootout: Fun. 5 skaters from each team participate in
alternating, best-of-5 penalty shots.
The only options you can adjust are:
Time: period length from 5-20 EA minutes
(substantially faster than regular minutes)
Penalties: on, off, "on, no offsides" (Note: icing is
Line changes: on, off, automatic
Goalie: manual, automatic
After you get things set up on the main screen, you
can set up which controllers go to which team. If
you're lucky to have a multi-tap (like me), you can
use up to 5 controllers, which is, incidentally, more
than any of the current systems.
Then, you go to the EA Sports desk, where Ron Barr
(remember him? Ron and Bing Gordon were the EA
"announcers" back in the day. On FIFA 96, Bing was
even on the USA roster-heh). He tells you how the
teams have been playing lately (I don't think it makes
any particular difference though), and which players
are on "hot streaks" and "off their game", 3 per team.
The only thing that means is that their stats will be
+/- 2 to 4 points from their regular overall rating.
During the game, and before/after periods, there is a
fairly elaborate menu where you can look at stats,
player ratings and status, edit lines, check other
scores, check the crowd level, and turn the defensive
control off/on (after 10 years, I don't ever use
it.maybe I should look at the book again). During the
playoffs, you can even check highlights from other
games, which is a nice touch. The crowd meter is fun,
too. It ranges from about 60dB-128dB. Anything over
126, and it breaks the meter, which is another fun
Everyone is based on a 0-100 scale. They have
an overall rating, followed by a breakdown in several
areas, including shooting, passing, checking,
aggression, speed, and endurance. At least personally
speaking, it's the most fun to put the big checkers
out there, but that's just me.
Player ratings run from about 28, for Flyers 3 rd
string goalie Stephane Beauregard, to 100 for Boston D
Ray Bourque, Pittsburgh C Mario Lemieux, and Chicago G
Ed Belfour. For skaters, any rating below 50-55 means
that they will probably be pretty slow and
ineffective. For goalies, it doesn't mean too much
except for slower reactions and more rebounds on
shots. The lineups are great, because I can always
remember Gretzky in LA, Jagr in Pittsburgh, Chelios in
Chicago. Mis that with fledgling franchises such as
Ottawa, Anaheim, Florida, and San Jose, and classic
franchises such as Hartford, Quebec, Minnesota, and
Winnipeg, and you've got a recipe for some great
nostalgic fun. The only problem I have with the
players or the rosters is that you cannot move a
forward to defense or vice-versa-they come from 2
player has the puck,
or which player you are controlling, thanks to the
classic colored-stars (eg: green, orange, blue,
yellow, and red, and it fills in when you have the
puck). Passing tends to be as accurate as in real
life, as does shooting. A lot of that depends on the
The controls are simple:
The gameplay is a little slower and a little choppier
than current games, but an improvement over 93, and
way better than the disastrous years of 95-98, where
the gameplay actually got worse. The biggest single
improvement in the game was the addition of the
one-timer, which is a staple in hockey. The players
all kinda look the same, but hey, it's to be expected.
However, it's easy to tell which
A-Shoot (hold to charge)
X-change to goalie
A thing to note about goalie control: If you have any
sort of talent, you should control the goalie whenever
the computer is on a breakaway, it's pretty good about
cashing those in. And the controls for the goalie are
pretty easy (same as a skater when you have the puck)
without the puck:
A: Kick save
B: Switch player
Y-Dive (not recommended)
And lastly, skating without the puck:
A: Speed burst/body check
B: Trip/poke check
The best advice I can give is that when you don't have
the puck, you should be furiously pounding the A
button, and get ready for the bodies to start flying.
The AI for the goalies is a little flawed, in that if
you skate from one side of the goal to the other, you
will be faster than the goalie, giving an empty net to
shoot into. However, the computer makes up for it by
seemingly getting the benefit of the referee's penalty
calls. Fortunately, there's nothing worse than a
2-minute penalty. There is also no fighting, which
could be the game's only major drawback.
Player Animations: Pretty good for the time. The body
checks, while somewhat quick, look and sound pretty
painful. They're really ugly (good ugly) when you
check them into the wall or into the bench. Also, the
little celebrations they do when you score a goal are
cool. And for a hat trick, they do throw hats onto the
ice. The crowd, while not detailed, don't look like
people drawn on a piece of paper like in many games
(wrestling games are notorious).
Note: If you win the game, and manage to get a shot
off after the final horn, you'll do one of the goal
Sounds: Pretty damn good, and I think they are what
keeps bringing me back to the game.
Breakaways: You get a "beep" if you end up on a
breakaway. You can also get the "beep" even after a
stoppage. It counts on your total. There's also a nice
beep sequence when a penalty expires.
Crowd noise: Much better than in 93 if you happen to
be playing on a SNES. If you have the Genesis version,
it's about the same, if you like that sort of thing.
Organ music: My absolute favorite thing about the
game. It has a nice, full sound (unlike 95-98), and
has the widest variety. There's a couple that are
still around today in real life (Chicago and St.
Louis). They did a good job of giving most teams a
unique library of music. The song selections may
overlap, though. Just really great sounding stuff. I
wish there was more of this in today's games. Also,
the volume balance is just right. Hey, the game is
only 5 bucks, it's worth it just to check the organ
music out, unless I can get somebody to make me a CD
or something. The only complaint is, if you press
start, it cuts it off.
Probably my favorite game in history, so my opinions
may be skewed. But I doubt it. This game has the most
fun and replay value I've seen. What are you waiting
for? Go to GameCrazyh, FunCo land, Ebay, and get it!
It was a steal at $60, and now that it's less than $5?
You don't need my permission! BUY THE GAME!
The Good: Player animations and organ music are
top-notch. And besides, Dany Heatley from the Atlanta
Thrashers also endorses it as the best hickey game
ever. And 5-player mode is great.
The Bad: No fighting. And maybe that the computer
loves to grab and hold, but you get stuck with all the
penalties, especially interference.
The Ugly: There is none! Well, except for the fact
that players with low ratings are worthless, and
there's a lot of them. It took them a while to figure
out that most players should be no worse than 60 or
so. But look at it this way: unless you're en
expansion team, or love playing with line changes, you
may never need them.
Goals: 51 (Chicago)
Body Checks: 332 (Los Angeles)