Liam’s Game Room #39 (NHL 95, Genesis)

Introduction

NHL 95 is a hockey sports game developed by High Score Productions and published by EA Sports for the Sega Genesis in 1994. The game was also released and published by EA Sports for many other platforms like MS-DOS, SNES and for Game Boy. However, each individual version of the game was developed by a different developer, although still published by EA for all versions.

This game was released at a time where yearly releases of sports games was quite a new thing outside of the Madden titles, which by 1994 had been a yearly release for about 4 or 5 years. This was also at a time where EA was starting to get licences from the sports governing bodies directly, so that the player could play as licenced teams rather than having to make up player names like was the case in the first release of FIFA International Soccer. This was quite a breakthrough in these games because it also allowed for customised teams because previously this was not an option.

Gameplay

NHL 95 follows the main rules of hockey and the goal is to score more goals than the player’s opponent. The game has customisable options where such things as specific rules can be turned off or the length of the game can be changed. This allows the player to maybe not play full rules if the player is perhaps not as familiar with all the rules and learn the rules. However, there is not a separate tutorial mode so that the player can understand how the rules act within the game, but these rules are covered with the game manual. This is an issue if the player owns the cartridge only because if the player doesn’t know the rules, then the game might come across as confusing. This definitely was the case for me when I first played this when I was younger because I went into the game not understanding the rules initially and the lack of explanation can be an issue.

NHL 95-1.png

The first thing that I really like about the game is the graphics, which considering it is an early sports game looks really good. There is great detailing on the ice, which looks like an ice rink, as well as how well the colours of the different areas stand out on the ice. The team players that are controlled all look the same, but this is more of an issue of the hardware not being able to put specific details of each player. However, there is a differentiation between left and right handed players and this definitely is accurate to how left and right handed players shoot and pass. The fact that there is also some detailing on the crowd and the fact that the crowd behaves based upon what is happening within the match is quite impressive. I definitely think that the crowd adds a really nice touch because considering the hardware, it was not really required in the game, but the fact that the developer made this work without affecting the framerate is quite impressive.

The next thing which was quite new at the time was the fact that the player can undertake an entire season of the NHL and can customise the teams, as well as make custom players. This was a fantastic addition because it allows players to create their friends within the game and make their own story within the game. I think that the customisation also allowed at the time to update the squads if there were any transfers, of course nowadays pretty much every player within the game has now retired. I think that the season mode is great because the length of the season can be a full 80 game season and the game will save the season progress after each match. The season can also just be the playoffs if the player prefers shorter seasons. I think that this variety of season length really adds to the replayability because it means that the player can either experience the entire season and play every match or can just play the playoffs if it is the player’s preference.

The difficulty of the game is non adjustable and is purely based on the ability of the opposing team and this can be an issue for new players to the game. I think that the difficulty otherwise for players who have played the game before is nicely balanced because even weaker teams have the capability to still score goals. The main reason why this is the case because one of the key aspects of hockey is that teams have multiple lines of players, which are used to rest some of the key players. The game allows for the option to whether have line changes, auto line changes or have just one line where the player picks which of the team to field at any time. What this allows is for players who know the rules of hockey to customise which of the team are on the field, whilst for new players the game can take control of this for the player until they are more familiar with the game.

NHL 95-2.jpg

Music And Sound Design

Whilst the game itself does not have a lot of ingame music, there are multiple tracks in the game, which are organ based short pieces that one would hear whilst at a hockey game. The more interesting thing is that the instrument being used for this short pieces actually sounds somewhat an organ that has been converted to the 16 bit sound chip. For some of these short pieces, the crowd will clap along with the pieces, which in my eyes is such a small and neat touch.

The sound design is also great because there is a meaty sound and a sound of weight when a player strikes the puck along the ice. The only criticism of the sound design is that the crowd apart from clapping, is simply just white noise that shifts in pitch. This can become grating after a little while and sometimes means that I would mute the game so that I could rest my ears from the noise. The final note is the noise when a player is hit by someone from the other team and these noises also have a feeling of authenticity. There is this feeling of satisfaction when a player from the other team is shoved off the puck and I hear the “OOF!” from the opposing player.

Conclusion

Whilst the graphics of NHL 95 sadly have not aged very well, the gameplay and the mechanics of the game remain quite solid. There is a feeling of tactics when I can pick whether to have auto line changes or pick which players I want on the ice at any given moment. I think that the customisation the game offers was unique at the time and really set the standard for future EA Sports titles, which was carried over to later FIFA titles as well. This game is still a great game to play and sets a standard for what sport titles are today.

8/10

Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

 

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