Genre: Sports Developer: Sega Midwest Studio Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Somewhere near the latter half of the Genesis’ run (1994-ish), Sega decided that they should swing for the fences with their in-house sports games and release their own games in all areas, most likely (and logically) to compete with EA’s fiercely successful sports series. The most famous of these is clearly the World Series Baseball series, with the yearly roster updates… I mean new games every year (actually, WSB is the only Sega Sports game to make it to the 32X). Along with it, Greatest Heavyweights is pretty epic as well. Less famous are Sega’s tennis effort on the Genesis, ATP Tour Championship Tennis, and this effort, NHL All Star Hockey ’95.
Off the bat, I felt that NHL All-Star Hockey ’95 was pretty mediocre. The gameplay is so-so, sound and graphics are kind of bland, just blah. It turns out that my initial feeling was pretty much correct, but the game really isn’t that bad either. It’s just kind of… there. It doesn’t come out and make me want to play it all the time, nor is it a horrific display of extreme butchery. After playing it for a good two hours, I have decided that it is plain mediocre and is worth the .98 cents you are going to pay for it.
Final Sco.. Oh, wait. I have to actually review this game? Sigh, okay, I guess. A lot of this seems similar to NHL ’95. The introduction screen has a cool action scene (this one actually moves), just like the picture where Kirk Maclean is defending his goal as a New York Ranger player slides into the net (presumably in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals). It also features an in-game menu that’s a scoreboard, similar again to NHL ’95. In this title, though, it shows little animations when you score or when there is a penalty. But again and again and again and again (and again), you have to ask the question: is it any fun?
Well, I think I can say that the answer is no, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is atrocious or anything. There are plenty of modes available (the basic garb) such as exhibition, full season (battery back-up, that’s a plus), and playoffs (one or seven game options). Okay, well, I wasn’t expecting much. There are team history cards available for viewing for the background of each team on the game (but esteemed professional Genesis Sports Game Reviewers don’t need any of that, now do they?!), and boy were the Ottawa Senators awful. 24-129-13 in two seasons. Ouch. That being said, I haven’t felt much difference between many of the teams on the ice, frankly. Anyway, there’s a sound test, along with basic options throughout.
On the ice is where the problems start to crop up. I’m not even exactly sure if they are “problems” per se, as much as the game just not feeling as real as really any of the EA hockey games ever made. When I was playing NHL All-Star Hockey ’95, it felt more like I was playing a video version of table hockey than a realistic simulation hockey game. (Off topic, I have one of those table hockey games, and it is an epic experience. If you can find one – most of them like the one pictured are very expensive – it is totally worth the money spent.)
Anyway, the face off screen thing is exactly what I am talking about. You just have to kind of whack at it until you win, and sometimes the sticks get caught together. If you have played this game before, can you see what I am getting at here? The skating movement doesn’t look natural at all, which again makes me want to reach for the pegs on the table and twist wildly. I have a real hard time straight up beating the goalie, instead relying on rebounds for the most part. Of course, there is no one-timer, and actually, I don’t believe that there are even wrist shots in this game. Every single shot I have taken required a wind up and back swing which warrants a deduction of some sort. You can’t just shoot it.
Like I said at the beginning, you can squeeze some fun out of NHL ASH ’95, but not much fun though. One good thing about this game is that Marv Albert lends his voice to this game, and it isn’t half bad. Most of the time it is a comment on the save, but sometimes it’s on a check and a goal. It’s not a Sports Talk Hockey, by any means (could you imagine how funny that would be?), but it gets the job done. The rink is fairly weird, with big thick lines making the circles and the corners aren’t really curved enough. Playing this game with offsides on is a hoot, that’s for sure. The puck physics are so-so, I would say that they teeter on the side of moving too slow, but the puck does bounce in the air an awful lot. I would say that the puck moves fine when shot or passed, but the rebounds simply die pretty much before they leave the crease, which is really annoying. Another thing that really grinds my gears is the amount of blocked shots, which just get on my nerves. Can’t anyone shoot through people’s legs?
To be fair, nothing here really makes me want to pick up the cartridge and throw it against the wall, though, like I did with Sunday Night NFL and Pro Quarterback. It’s just going to make me not want to play it, which I won’t. I think I remember first getting it in 2002 at a baseball card shop in Kalamazoo, alongside the first 3D Madden game for Playstation. I must have been a masochistic gamer that day. NHL ASH ’95 is just another dust collector, my friends. Which is probably why no one ever brings this game up when they talk about Genesis sports titles. Go play NHL ’94, or any EA NHL game instead. Sega Sports (the brand) games on the Genesis as a whole are fairly iffy, and this game is just not fun and did not serve it’s purpose of dethroning EA from the hockey gaming throne. That didn’t stop Sega from trying though.
SCORE: 4 out of 10