Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions/Neurostone Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1996
Imagine that it’s the mid ’90s and you live in little Sweden – the country no-one cares about when it comes to video games. Imagine then that – as from the heavens – some people release a hockey game all in Swedish, with Swedish teams for your favorite console, the Sega Mega Drive. Wouldn’t that be the best thing that ever happened? Almost, but of course you wouldn’t understand, because you probably live in America with new games in all sports in all national leagues every year. Allow me to sigh…
Actually, Elitserien ’96 is the second Swedish game on the Mega Drive since Elitserien ’95 was released one year earlier. But I decided to review the second and last version because it’s better and I don’t actually own the former game, so there you go. To start with, Elitserien ’96 only has twelve teams (and two made up all star teams). That’s because the competition is so hard, only twelve teams are allowed to be called 1337 in Sweden. Of those twelve teams, only one is worth mentioning: DjurgÃ¥rden (Mats Sundin came from here) – my favorite team – which is of course the best team in the game. To make it even better, there is an option to create new players. You simply enter a name, position, number, weight, length and then the stats. You can’t give him 99 in all stats of course, so think about what suits his position best. For example, a center could use fast skating and shooting hard best, while the defense should be as tough as possible. With new great players, you are bound to win, even if you choose the lousy AIK (ooops! shouldn’t have said their name). There are other options that use the battery save in this game, play-off and full season. They may be fun once you get the game, but if you are an experienced Mega Drive hockey game player, they won’t entertain you that much.
If you play alone, I’d say Elitserien ’96 is the kind of game you take out once in a while just to play a match or two. But the funniest thing is without doubt playing against human opponents. With the 4-Way Play adaptor from EA, you can face three friends (future enemies). One bad thing I just have to mention here is: the Mega CD 2 is blocking the input for the 4-Way Play – really irritating! Playing with human opponents on the Mega Drive is a lot more fun than on the GameCube I tell you. But I would strongly recommend playing 2-on-2, because 1 against 2 or 3 makes the game really easy for the single player somehow. It’s probably because it’s so hard to cooperate in these fast games.
The control in the ’96 version is different to both ’95 and ’94 and exactly the same as NHL ’97 and ’98. While ’95 opens for more dribbeling and ’94 for more skating, ’96 is somewhere in between. There is a new feature called “spin-o-rama,” used when you have the puck and skate. Press the start button then to do a fast circle to avoid opponents. Other new features the back of the box tell me about is 60% more animation, and yeah, it’s very well done. On this console, it probably can’t get much better than that, and that’s probably the reason they kept the same graphics for the two later NHL games. On the other hand, some people prefer the controls of the ’94 version, so you’d better try out every version from EA Hockey, NHLPA ’93 and NHL ’94 up to ’98. Oh wait, forget that, only try the Swedish versions, they are the best. Anyway, you have three different difficult settings and also the possibility to fight with your opponents, which is an old feature actually. It is only fun if you face humans, because its so easy to win against the computer. A great thing about Elitserien ’96 is that the oh-so-hated music during the matches is gone. Too bad you have to hear some of the worst tunes of the Mega Drive library in the menues before starting the game.
If I had to complain about this game, I’d say it should be harder. After a while the computer is just too easy for you, and you know “direct shoot from pass” is the best way to score. I dislike the fact that “bad goals” occur way to often, meaning goals where the puck reaches the goal just by accident or luck when there are a lot of players in front of the goal. It’s not as fun as doing your goals by struggling hard, but the game is still fun to pick up once in a while (especially when a wrong team wins in the real Elitserien) to just play a game. And with human opponents the game lasts longer than most others on this console. So go to Tradera (www.tradera.com) and hunt down a copy, it’s a lot more special to have a Swedish hockey game in your Mega Drive library, than one of those gazillions of NHL games you find at eBay.