Genre: Sports Developer: High Score Productions/Neurostone Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1995
About a year ago I had my first review posted on this site – Elitserien ’96. Now I have finally laid my hands on the prequel thanks to my pal, who hates hockey games. Back in 1994, Sweden was all crazy about hockey. Peter Forsberg had feinted Corey Hirsch up to the grandstand and the Olympic Gold was ours for the first time. Around that time, some Swedish distributors came up with the idea of a Swedish hockey game during a brainstorming session at Sega of America’s office. Thanks to EA, the Swedish Elite League and some Swedish programmers, the idea came true. It became the top-selling game of Sweden that year. But how was it?
Elitserien ’95 is, simply put, a Swedish version of NHL ’95. You have twelve teams, their players and some graphics and game modes adapted to the Swedish Elite League. The game modes are several. Regular match, training, playoff (one game or best out of five), penalty shots and full season. Regular match is the one you play the most, while you quickly get tired of most of the other modes. This is, like so many other sports games, the type you pick up a rainy day for a game or two, or sit with an evening together with a friend, if you have one. If you are lucky enough to have three friends, all can be used to replace the computer if you have the 4-Way Play adaptor (Sega’s adaptor WON’T work). Then you can also trade players between the twelve teams or create your own players. The controls are quite easy: tackle and shoot with C and pass with B. I rarely use the A button, which lets you feint or block shots. I just think one-timers and coma-inducing cross-checks are more efficient. Compared to other versions, you have more freedom to move the hockey stick and puck when controlling players. It feels good, like in most other EA hockey games.
When it comes to a hockey game, and especially one from EA, you know what to expect in graphics, and so it is with Elitserien ’95. Players lack in colour, and Djurgården’s clothing is even lila when it is supposed to be blue. Thankfully, the smooth animation makes up for that. Overall they could also have used more colour and detail, but I shouldn’t complain too much considering the slowdown is zero. But hey, why no team logos on the ice? A nice feature are the faces of the players we see from each team before the matches start. We also see Tommy Töpel (Google that one folks!), some boss of Elitserien. And to all Swedes: yes, I also wanted Arne Hegerfors, sampled!
The music is actually quite good, and far above the anonymous tracks of the sequel. The sound was handled by the Commodore 64 legend Rob Hubbard. The music we are talking about here is the one that plays during menus. They have a good hockey feel to them and I especially like the heavy bass lines that plays between each period. I’m not very fond of the music that plays during the games though – some organ stuff you will recognize. It will drive you crazy in the end and wish you hear The Final Countdown with Europe and other regular hockey music instead. The sound effects are quite realistic and fit well in the game. The “gallehoh!” tackle grunt is one exception, as well as the audience noise. Developers who couldn’t handle the sound hardware right were just lazy and/or dumb, as there are gazillions of good voice samples in other Mega Drive games.
There are some things that make this game annoying, and it has a lot to do with the AI of the computer. Dumb forwards stay close the goalie when he has the puck, so he never shoots it out and the referee blows for a face-off. Far too many times per game shots go to the grandstand. Your computer-controlled players tend to always get unnecessary penalties. Your other players decide to stay in your zone while you get four opposite players against you in their zone. You get it? It raises the irritation level so much I have to cut down the score one point.
On the other hand, this game is perfect for people with a 60 Hz switch, as it plays too slow in 50 Hz like Sonic The Hedgehog. The customizable gameplay, several game modes, and the create a player option gives the game long and varied lastability. And don’t forget Rob Hubbard. Since both this game and the sequel have 16 MEGA POWER, they had to both remove and add positive and negative things for the ’96 version. I’d say it gives the edge slightly more to that one, but you can’t go wrong with this one either. It is just a weaker eight-pointer.
After Elitserien ’95 was released, EA began doing 3D versions to keep in line with technology. I’ve never had as much fun with those as with the 2D versions. When buying a hockey game today in Sweden, they are NHL games that say “Elitserien included.” I don’t like that. I prefer my Elitserien ONLY cartridge. You can try to change my mind, but you’d have a bigger chance converting the pope into a satanist.
SCORE: 8 out of 10