Year of Release: 1988
Date Reviewed: 6-10-98 ("Old Era")
I was once asked why, with all the innovations modern videogaming has made on the sport, Nintendoís Ice Hockey remains my favorite game of its kind. My only reply was, "I donít know. I just do."
I didnít know how to answer that question at the time, and it wasnít until I sat down to write this review that I finally determined my reasons.
The reason I love this game is the same reason I love all the preparations of the Christmas season moreso than the day itself, the same reason I relish ordering a pizza as much as I do eating it, the same reason I so luxuriate in packing for a vacation, and the same reason I watch Little League baseball purely of my own volition -- I love simplicity, and Ice Hockey surely advocates it.
The graphics of this game, though simplistic in nature, are actually superior to those of other NES adaptations of the sport. This is so because the characters are not identical. Though the pool of available player appearances is not as vast as that of, say, Nintendo World Cup, it stands heads above its time. To be specific, there are four playable character types -- the thin players, who are the quickest, and most apt in face-off situations -- the fat players, who produce the strongest shots on goal, and body check with the most force -- the average players, whose aptitude in all categories lies somewhere between that of the thin and fat men -- and the goalkeepers, who can never be body checked, and are a given on any team. The ability to comprise oneís roster among these three choices allows for an even greater sense of control, and with a roster of only four configurable players, it does not become redundant.
Much to my delight, this game deals nothing with the National Hockey League. Rather, it goes a level above, and features six playable nations -- The United States, Sweden, Poland, Canada, The USSR, and Czechoslovakia. As an aside, it is somewhat humorous to note that two of these playable nations no longer exist. In that regard, Ice Hockey is something of an anachronism. It is difficult, however, to condemn this gameís designers for lack of clairvoyance. But I digress.
These nations can be differentiated from one another only by the uniforms they wear. There are no national anthems, no particularly distinctive characteristics, and no "home ice."
Also, there is no league or tournament option. Thus, the ramifications of a victory or loss are non-existent. The game carries no memory of Canadaís toppling of Sweden, or American fat guyís historic ten-goal performance. Once a game is over, thatís it -- itís over.
Though some may shun that absence as the result of primitive technology and limited programming, I prefer to think of it as freeing. The prevailing sense of whimsy this game possesses would be diminished if there were an ultimate goal to be achieved. We would no longer see the players as disproportionate, happy pixelated fellows, but as men with missions -- all pursuing a common goal and the glory that accompanies it. Ice Hockey cares nothing for such ambitions, and desires not to evoke them from the player. The men who occupy this rink will never be national heroes. The ultimate promise of this game was, is, and always will be the serene simplicity of the pursuit of fun.
My Score: 8.5
It's futile moments like these that make me love the goalkeeperless overtime periods.
To complete my point from the MIDI Library, this is the second intermission, NOT half-time. (Telling Comment: I crave precision.)
Not the Duke's image of a shootout, but my preference...
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