Genre: Sports Developer: Park Place Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
One of my favorite things to do in life is to head to downtown Muskegon and root on my hometown Muskegon Lumberjacks with an ice cold beer in my hand. I wouldn’t trade anything in my life for a Saturday night in January where the temperature outside is way below freezing, and downtown is hopping for “hockey night in our hockey town!” and our beloved Jacks come from behind to beat whatever bums decide to invade my beloved barn of hockey, the L.C. Walker Arena.
I have so many hockey memories about Muskegon, I could write a book about them. If you don’t live in a town or an area natural to hockey, then I recommend you take to our beloved Sega Genesis for a quick game to bring you up to speed. NHL ’96, as we all know, brings a tear of joy to my eye because it’s so good. NHL ’94 is widely considered by most gamers to be the preeminent classic sports title on the Genesis, and is often mentioned in the same sentence as Tecmo Super Bowl. NHL Hockey for the Genesis isn’t a BAD game per se, but I consider it to be the pilot episode to what continues to be a historic series today.
So, why is NHLPA Hockey ’93 a forgotten game in the mix? I have wondered this for years. It was the first EA Sports Hockey game released on the Genesis, and everyone that I have ever confabbed with either remembers NHL ’94, the original NHL Hockey, or NHL ’96. NHLPA Hockey ’93 has a lot of things that make it look and feel exactly like the original NHL Hockey, and only a few things different that make it feel and look like an original game. Before I move on with the review one thing is clear: this game has the same exact gameplay engine as the original game. It plays and looks more or less like the first game.
One thing unique about this game is its EASN (Electronic Arts Sports Network) feature, which is found throughout the game. I guess the idea of the game was to make it feel like a sports broadcast from top to bottom. Two things come to mind when I think of EASN in this game. One, a friendly cease and desist letter from an evil four-letter sports network nicknamed “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Two, EA did not have the league license from the NHL to portray the teams, so they had to have something in the rinks and on the scoreboards. If I recall correctly, other EA Sports games released in ’93 had this as well, the most prominent being that years’ John Madden Football release.
Companies to this day have released sports titles without one (players) or the other (the professional league) licenses, but I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to be successful with both of them than it is without ( i.e. the original Tecmo Bowl having just the player licenses – still a very exciting and fun football arcade game that should be a part of any classic gamers collection). But, how many games have fallen by the wayside? Many games, including good ones like Jerry Glanville’s Pigskin Footbrawl have. So, if you don’t have both licenses, it’s not necessarily a death knell, but in this writer’s opinion, it makes it a lot tougher to be a good and/or memorable game.
With that being said, how does NHLPA Hockey ’93 stack up? Well, for one it’s not a horrid game. If you’ve played the original, you know how it works. C is shoot/check, B is pass/change player and A is dump/(really nothing, but officially it looks like a poke check. Seriously, who uses the poke check?). They seem to have fixed the friction issues that plagued the first game, the players are clearly animated and there are very few if any exploits to get dirty goals that I could decipher.
The game looks great for its time period. The intro screen is clear, though sparse and the menu is on par with the other EA Sports Hockey titles of its time, with the star players skating into view like a TV intro. Of course, we have the overlord of early ’90s sports gaming, Ron Barr, explaining who is likely to win each match up. On the rink, however, I think the game is sparse. Every game seems to be played at “EASN Lawsuit Arena,” which is quite generic. However, I believe that in this game we have one of the first moments of advertising in a sports video game – Pro Set (a second/third rate sports card company that I remember being around from 1990-1994 or 5 or whatever). Also, the Zamboni gets a makeover for what it’s worth.
Other than that, the displays on the screen are pretty bland, with three letter descriptions like DET or PIT instead of the logo, taking away yet more color from the screen. I often ask myself “why doesn’t this game get any recognition? Why does no one mention NHLPA Hockey ’93 when they remember old hockey video games?” Truthfully, I just think it’s simply because the game isn’t very good. It doesn’t have anything that makes it pop out and make you want to play it, nor was it ever a game that was remembered for being the first of anything. Unfortunately, it is games like this one that make for good coasters for an ice cold Molson Canadian while you play NHL ’96. I recommend getting this game for only less than a dollar or if it comes in a lot. Other than that, this is a game to pass on.