Genre: Sports Developer: Park Place Productions Publisher: Sony Imagesoft Players: 1-4 Released: 1994
One of the “myths” that has plagued the Sega CD to non-Sega CD owning gamers is that there are just too many games with unnecessary cut scenes that only take up half the screen and were too grainy to make out. Another fact of life from those bygone days of the early to mid-1990s was playing street hockey (for those of us north of the 30th parallel) in the summers is moving the nets and everything out of the road so cars can drive by (Car! Game On!). Now, imagine both of those things mixed together and put on a disc. That’s what you get when you play ESPN National Hockey Night on the Sega CD.
Now, believe it or not, you can file this game in the “I didn’t even know this game existed” file. I knew quite well of the Genesis version, it was one of my most frequently rented games. Back in the day, ESPN National Hockey Night was a great game… on the Genesis. So, when I got a phone call from one of my local gaming haunts saying that they got this game in (as well as Cosmic Carnage for the 32x, but which self-respecting 32x owner doesn’t already have this game?), I got excited and drove across town to get it.
Cutting out all the fluff, just looking at the box I knew I was in for a giant sigh of an experience. It’s a converted DVD box where someone must have taken a scissors and snipped off the top of the manual so it lines up with the box! That’s garbage. But, as I’ve digressed for the length of this article so far, the game is more garbage than the case that I have. Really, it’s all because of one thing. THE DANG CUT SCENES!
Seriously, you’re playing along, and if you’ve read my review of the Genesis one, you know about the gameplay. You’re playing along and you hit a guy into the boards and BAM! The game stops, shows you a hockey puck with the NHL logo on it and then loads a video that’s nearly completely unrelated to the play you just completed. You better get used to that screen, too because you’ll be staring at that at least two or three times a period. Seriously, you’ll be playing as the Red Wings (or whichever inferior team you root for) against your opponent and you’ll get slammed on to the ice then BAM! Stop. Load. A video of a LA Kings player slamming a Montreal Canadian onto the ice. Okay? Thank you. Totally needed to see that.
Other than that, there isn’t anything any different than the Genesis version of this title. However, in the spirit of the reviews, I’m contractually obligated to discuss the game with you. I think it’s quite fun in and of itself, however perhaps I rated the Genesis version too high. If you read that review you notice I gave it an eight, then I commented on it and should have given it a six or seven. This game is nowhere near as good, because of that one big flaw.
Basically, it controls fine, looks great and plays well enough to warrant a good score. But it’s just not fun to play because it keeps stopping all the time! One thing that has bothered me about this game (both versions) is the manual line change system. Unless the play stops or you remember to press the button to change the lines, the line stamina goes down very fast. Leave your line out there for more than a minute or 90 seconds of game time and they’re dead tired. I’d leave the line change option set to off for this one. Some games, like Mario Lemieux Hockey, get it right. I’ve never liked this one.
In terms of control, National Hockey Night is fine. The friction isn’t bad and the views are okay. It’s just that it epitomizes the gaming world’s opinion of one of the two types of Sega CD title: it’s the same game as the Genesis version, almost to a T, only it has a cool “earth-shattering” introduction video and extremely irritating cut scenes that ruin the game experience totally. I would only purchase this version if you needed it for your collection, as it’s one of the most annoying games I’ve played, and it’s a shame because the gameplay itself is good.
SCORE: 4 out of 10