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NHL ’95

Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1994

NHL ’94is the ultimate sports game for the Sega Genesis and can arguably still be in any serious sports gamer’s top five list. So, how do you follow that up? Everything about hockey in 1994 was unbelievable. The New York Rangers finally made hockey relevant again in the Big Apple and all eyes were on Mark Messier. Seriously, if you haven’t seen their dramatic run to the Stanley Cup, YouTube it. It’s unbelievable. A picture of Alexi Kovalev of the aforementioned Rangers sliding into Kirk McLain of the west Canadian underdog Vancouver Canucks adorns the cover of this game, and it has been the subject of a great deal of debate between sports gamers and fans alike.

I should first mention the fabulous review of Elitserien ’95 done by my friend and yours Carl-Johan Brax. It’s virtually the same game as this one, except with Swedish teams and players, which officially gives me another crack at the game. I always have an argument with my friends when we discuss this title, because we don’t remember if we played more of this or Bill Walsh College Football when we were wee little tykes. Anyway, I digress. Is this game worthy of being the sequel to God’s gift to hockey? Let’s lace ‘em up and find out if we get to sip from Lord Stanley’s mug or not.

Okay, you turn on the game and you get quite a memorable theme song. I think that having an epic theme song was a prerequisite of NHL games back in the day. After waiting for about ten seconds, you’re taken to virtually the same menu that you got in NHL ’94, but retooled to look slightly like my local arena’s (the L.C Walker Arena) concession stand menus. With each team you choose, the game will show you their logo and a few of their star players. The menu options are virtually the same in ’95 as they were in ’94, except for one major, major item: you can play a season! Better yet, there are awards at the end of it! Other than that, they are run of the mill. You do get all star teams, and an option to save your user records without a password, which was probably a big deal back in the day.

Alright, so you choose your teams, and you’re ready to play. Alright! Detroit’s own Karen Newman has sung her epic renditions of “Oh, Canada!” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” and we’re ready to go. First thing we notice that’s different from NHL ’94 is the pause menu presentation (and if you played the CD version, the zzzzzz inducing team intro speeches the God gifted Ron Barr gave to us). It’s John Shrader this time, who also lent his voice to the more recent game NHL 2K9. The menu presentation this time around looks exactly like a scoreboard should, up in the rafters. Is it a little less clear than the previous efforts? Maybe, but it’s a welcome change in my book.

So we get on the ice, and we notice only a few distinct changes presentation-wise from NHL ‘94, one being the score and time displays. They just aren’t clear enough for me. No worries, though, as they fixed this for NHL ‘96. Looking at this game in an “ex post facto” way makes you feel like this game was a transition game between the dual greatness that were the two aforementioned games.

Anyway, the game plays quite fast, and it is very easy to overskate the puck. The scale of the game feels perfect, and there are no issues with slippery controls to speak of. The puck moves a little slow for my tastes, though it makes for cool hits and nice plays. That’s what this game does the best of all of the EA hockey games up until this point, that it allows you to set up plays as well as rushing the goalie. The more and more I play this game, I also feel like this game runs on something a little different from its predecessors. It looks a little clearer, and the hit sounds are better.

But there are two main negatives I want to discuss in this review. The big one in this game is that there is no fighting (don’t worry, you’re prayers are answered in next year’s game NHL ‘96). I don’t really care about it personally, but it is part of the game that should be taken in account. I for one thing the hits are bigger than they have been in the past games, as well. The other one is of questionable reputation, and that is that the NHL ‘95 Wikipedia page says that a couple certain moves will almost certainly deck the auto-goalie. I’ll leave that tidbit for you to find out on your own adventures.

The only beef I have with this game is that sometimes the goalie is very difficult to beat, almost bordering on ridiculous. Other than that, I see no reason why this game isn’t a solid addition and is somewhat of a black sheep in this franchise. It’s an upgrade on it’s predecessors, but there is just something that sets it a little short from the classics known today. Is it NHL ’94 or NHL ‘96? No, it’s not, but it’s a pretty darn good game, and worth the pennies on the dollar that you will pay for it.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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