Ice Hockey
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    FDS
    • JP 01/21/1988
    NES
    • US March 1988
    • UK 04/15/1988
Score: 75%

This review was published on 04/16/2015.

Ice Hockey is a sports video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on January 21, 1988, North America in March 1988, and Europe on April 15, 1988. The game was originally released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan before making its way to the NES proper. Hideki Konno directed this game, and he later went on to direct such titles as Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and Luigi's Mansion. And yes, the game is simply called Ice Hockey; no subtitles or anything. This game couldn't have possibly gone with a more descriptive name. One may dismiss this as just another trashy shovel ware sports title, especially with the totally unassuming name, but it's actually quite good. In fact, it may very well be one of the best hockey games ever made. Together with Tecmo Super Bowl, this is one of the best sports games on the NES.

Image

In case you're not much into sports, here's the basic lowdown showdown on hockey: it's a game that involves hitting a puck around with sticks while ice skating. The goal is to get the puck into the opposing team's net, which is called, well, the goal. Every time you hit the puck into the rival team's goal, you earn a point. Get more points than the other team in the allotted time and you win. In addition to all the people skating around to get the puck, each team has a goalie defending their respective goals. Hockey is basically soccer on ice, in a manner of speaking. Of course, they also use a puck instead of a ball and sticks instead of feet, but the similarities are close enough. This game generally stays true to the real life version of hockey, but it does make some alterations for the sake of convenience, like shortening the amount of time games take. You're also able to change the game's speed, with the higher ones providing a more intense experience. If only real hockey worked the same way.

Image

The biggest thing that stands out about this game is the controls. The controls change depending on the situation, like whether you're in possession of the puck. When not with puck, control will automatically switch to the player on your team that's nearest to the puck. At that point, pressing the B button will switch to another player that's closest to the puck, and pressing A will make the currently controlled player attempt to steal the puck. Once you've got puck, you shoot it with the B button and pass it with the A button. Those are all fairly standard fare for a game of this description, but the innovation that changes things up considerably is in how goalies work. Normally, future sports games fully automate the goalie, but this one lets you control them. Whenever the puck gets close to your goalie, any directions you press on the d-pad will not only control the nearest player, but also the goalie. The goalie is restricted to moving within the confines of the goal, and you need to move the goalie around to block the puck. This simple feature makes the game way more exciting, as you're constantly on edge from trying to safeguard your goal. That does make the game harder, though. Additionally, the AI for players not controlled by you isn't too hot, but that's a small price to pay for a greater deal of control.

Image

Picking team members is an important and unique aspect to the game. Teams are made up of five members instead of the six in real life hockey. There are three basic types of team members available; men of medium builds, skinny guys, and fatsos. Each type of member has different strengths and weaknesses. Skinny guys are fast but weak, medium guys are average in all areas, and fat guys are slow yet powerful. For example, even though the fat fellows are slow, their supreme power allows them to easily steal the puck from opponents, provided they can get close. Also, they have extraordinary shooting power, letting them shoot the puck really fast. On the other hand, the skinny dude's extreme speed comes at an extreme cost, because they will almost always lose the puck if someone attacks them. You have full control over how you build the team, meaning you can have everyone be the same character type, or go for something more balanced. There are many different combinations, so you're able to experiment until you find the setup that works best for you. It's a nice feature, because it's simple, yet sophisticated enough system to allow for a little extra depth.

Image

Playing with two players is where this game excels. The main reason for that is the control scheme. Because the goalies are controlled by the players and aren't automated, it's much easier for both players to score points. This gives the game a much faster pace, since scoring points is something that will happen with a high level of frequency. Thanks to that, the likelihood of an endless stalemate occurring is almost completely eliminated. There's also the potential to play mind games. If you tap the A or B buttons, you will fake passing or shooting the puck while still retaining possession of it, which doesn't work too well against computer opponents, but works wonders on humans. The high degree of control, mind game potential, and fast paced nature make Ice Hockey an absolute treat to play with a friend. No matter how many matches you play, it just never gets old. As a result of that, this game has infinite replay value.

Image

Ice Hockey is cool. While still entertaining, the game isn't too great in single player. Multiplayer is where this game truly shines. The controls feel as if they were explicitly designed with multiplayer in mind, as they combine with the mechanics to provide an exhilarating experience. When played with friends, this game is every bit as good as it was when first released. Even if you're not into sports games, you should still give Ice Hockey for the NES a try.

Word Count: 1,039

Tweet