NHL ’91/EA Hockey (1991, Electronic Arts, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
This was the game that for the most part started it all for Electronic Arts’ foray into making high quality console games based on the sport of Ice Hockey.
I will be breaking this review down as I go and will focus a little bit on the virtues of the game, and the problems that it had as well. So let’s begin.
Graphics: EA Hockey/NHL ’91 is where the classic NHL graphics engine for EA really started. Featuring a ¾ overhead perspective with the home team defending the bottom net (as in the bottom of the screen) during the first and third periods, the detail of the arenas are all the same with the exception of the logo at center ice.
A rather smooth frame work for skating animations is present and it needs to be noted that the players while they all look the same, (considering that this was 1991, that should be expected), the player sprites are really well rendered here, and would prove to be the arc-type for every EA Hockey game (aside from Mutant League, but we will get into that later) for pretty much the entire lifespan of the 16 bit era.
Lights reflect from overhead, the boards move a little when heavy checks are done along them, and the fighting animations are the best up to that time. Only Blades of Steel from the NES and Game Boy would be a close second, and that game was a few years older.
Graphics Score 4/5 Tossed Octopi, this game is not really all that great looking compared to some of the other games that would follow, it was all about how it all came together, other games had better looking players, but sacrificed elsewhere, this game was going for balance.
Controls: The controls of this version are rather smooth, and still hold up after 23 years. This is really important to note as the controls are a mere 3 button system that works on offence and defense, with offensive controls being pass, shoot, flip the puck down ice, and defensive controls being check/speed up, poke check, and select next player.
The real difference maker with the controls is that it is really easy to move the puck around, shoot it, and body check the person that takes the puck so you can get it back.
Fighting in this game is little more that mashing buttons, and that is OK for this game, as quite frankly, you are only working with 3 buttons to begin with, and the fights are so quick, and frequent, there is no need to complicate the controls for them.
Control Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi
Details: From players celebrating after a goal, to them skating to the penalty box, to realistic penalties being called. The level of detail on this game is pretty good for its time.
Where it suffers in any way is simply put, the refs are a little too eager to call penalties. I can honestly say, that when I was playing this game, I spent the majority of it shorthanded.
This can be rather infuriating when taken into account that penalties in the real NHL do not happen as often as they were happening in this game.
Before each game, you will get a rundown between the 2 teams showing which team has the advantage when it comes to each position. Another nice detail is that the puck can take odd bounces just like the in real game.
Detail Score: 3/5 Tossed Octopi
Features: Not very many, you have regular season and playoffs (new playoffs which are single game, or best of 7). You can save your progress and play where you left off
Now, above under details, I complained about getting called for penalties constantly, One of the features is that you can turn off the penalties, and if you really want to have penalties, but don’t want the pace to be too broken up, you can also have penalties on, and simply turn off the off-side rule.
Nice amount of features considering that, again, this was 1991. So the features were still leaps and bounds ahead of the other games out there.
Features Score: 4/5 Tossed Octopi
Rosters/Characters: This category was a little hard for me to rate for this game, as the version of the game that I have is not the NHL version. All of the teams that I have are international teams, so I did my review game as the Soviet Union vs Canada, BUT, the teams appeared to be pretty well represented in their skill categories based on the tale of the tape before the game.
I did some research, and it is pretty much acknowledged that while NHL ’91 came out in the midst of the 1991 Hockey season, it was using the rosters from the 1990 season. So players that were traded in the off season were still assigned to the teams that they had finished up with the year before. This would become less and less of an issue in future games.
Rosters Score: 4/5 Tossed Octopi
Speed of Play: Fast.
The periods can fly by rather quickly as the timer ticks down at a rate that is much faster than it does in reality. A 20 minute period of play can pass by in half of that time if you are not using penalties, and if there aren’t goals being scored, the clock just runs at a lightning pace.
This gives the game more of an arcade feel, which is perfectly fine for the time when it was made, as arcades were going through a 2nd golden age with games like Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter 2 having to yet hit the arcades, and gaming systems still not being super commonplace as of yet.
This would keep the game on a fast pace, and keep you on the edge of your seat
Speed Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi
Learning Curve: The learning curve on this game is ultra-sharp, and you will have it down in no time. The controls are simplistic enough that you really don’t have a whole lot to learn so jumping into the game is pretty easy.
Learning Curve Score: 5/5 Tossed Octopi
Legacy/Importance to Franchise: This really is the game that started it all. For the most part, the game series would not change for the next 7 years. The further legacy of the NHL Franchise will be explored later on.
How well has it aged: After more than 20 years, this game is still fun. The controls and gameplay are still crisp, and it has me wanting to play the rest of the franchise just to see the differences as I go.
Overall Game Play: 4.5/5 Tossed Octopi
This was a fantastic game for it’s time, and it holds up pretty well.
Next review will be Mario Lemieux Hockey (1991), until then… “Keep your stick on the ice”
Considering that the NHL playoffs are not too far from now, and by the time we really start getting into the NHL games themselves, their playoff will have already started, I thought that it would be a fun project to do a series of articles based on the progression of Ice Hockey videogames from the 16 bit era.
The criteria for these reviews are really simple:
1. The game must be in 16 bit format, and released on a gaming console.
2. The game does not have to be strictly an NHL licensed property.
3. The games will be reviewed in the order that they were released based on the year..
4. The games will be scored on a point system with 10 points for category.
5. There will be 10 categories that each game will be measured on:
e. Rosters/Character Quality
f. Speed of Play
g. Learning Curve
h. Legacy/Importance to Franchise.
I. How well has it aged?
J. Overall Game Play
6. I will be reviewing the Sega Genesis versions of these games, but will also provide insight to other versions of the games as I have them.
The list of games, this list is not in order, but the reviews will be.
Hit the Ice (1992), Mutant League Hockey (1994), NHL All Star Hockey ’95, EA Hockey (also titled as NHL ’91), The NHL series ’92 – ’98, Elitserien ’95 and ’96, Mario Lemieux Hockey (1991), Brett Hull Hockey (1995), ESPN National Hockey Night (1994) and Wayne Gretsky NHLPA All-Star Hockey (1995).
The reviews will be done in written form, and I may eventually do them as audio/video reviews as well in the future.
The first title that I will be reviewing will be EA Hockey/NHL ’91
I will be undertaking a retro review of the 16 bit era of ice hockey video games.
This will take a little while to compile, but I am looking to have it done by the time the NHL playoffs come about for this year.
I will be live tweeting the Walking Dead tonight. Look for lots of brief posts, and even to NSFW language.
OK, so while this review is a wee bit late, here it is. And hopefully, it will make you think about picking up this trade paper back.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is a game changing story for “Arrow” as is does something that had not been done with good old Ollie up until that point.
It made him a very believable character. Released in 1987, Longbow Hunters is very much the Green Arrow’s equal to 1986’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Here is the plot summary of Longbow Hunters according to Wikipedia, and I will preface this with [Spoiler Alert]:
On his fortieth birthday, Ollie Queen relocates from Star City to Seattle, Washington, the home of his girlfriend Dinah Lance. He changes his costume and abandons the use of his trademark trick arrows for more traditional archery equipment. As Green Arrow tries to track down a serial killer, the Seattle Slasher, killing prostitutes in the area, Black Canary attempts to infiltrate a drug racket which may have ties to Kyle Magnor, a wealthy shipping magnate.
Oliver tracks the killer to the abandoned Seattle Underground section of the city, discovering that the killer is a disturbed ex-tunnel rat from the Vietnam War. The Slasher jumps Oliver and gets away to apparently kill again, but a mysterious female archer with an elaborate dragon tattoo on her arm shoots the slasher (as well as a passing motorist) before vanishing.
The archer is revealed to be Shado, the daughter of a Yakuza agent incarcerated during World War II, where American soldiers, including Magnor, forced him to reveal a major cache of Yakuza gold. Dishonored, the agent killed himself in atonement. When Shado comes of age, she is charged with killing those who dishonored her father and the Yakuza. The passing motorist she killed was one of those soldiers, who used the stolen gold to build a financial empire. Ollie tracks Shado down and fares poorly in the confrontation.
At home, Ollie hears on the news that the drug supplier Dinah had been investigating was found dead and mutilated earlier that day. Panicked, Oliver races to the dockside warehouse Dinah suspected the drugs were being distributed from. There, he finds Dinah tied up, tortured, and on the verge of death. Without hesitation Ollie kills her torturer, one of Shado’s intended victims, along with the others in the drug lab. After learning about what happened at the docks, Magnor warns his CIA contact, Osborne, that he wants better protection on their next deal. Osborne assigns weapons master Eddie Fyers to eliminate Shado.
After killing another target, Shado leaves a message for Ollie to meet her on Mt. Rainier where she intends to kill Magnor. Although Ollie initially tries to stop her, he notices Fyers aiming a sniper rifle at Shado and moves to subdue him, inadvertently giving Magnor a chance to escape. Ollie also confronts Osborne about the use of an Iranian arms deal to fund Nicaraguan Contras, mirroring the events of the Iran-Contra story which broke months earlier. Ollie confronts Magnor in his office. Ollie intends to frame him for the murder of the drug supplier, but Shado shoots the target through the window and kills him.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters was nominated for a 1988 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series.
The series proved popular enough that DC Comics commissioned the first ever Green Arrow ongoing series, also written by Grell. The series ran for 11 years. Grell also wrote the official Post-Crisis origin of Green Arrow in Green Arrow: The Wonder Year.
My Review [Further Spoilers]:
Well, here is the skinny. I read the series, and it was awesome. No frills, just good, gritty, realistic action. Longbow Hunters is very much a story that changed the tone of the character, as Oliver Queen takes on the internal struggle of an aging hero that has lost a step here and there.
Couple this with the struggle with Dinah (Black Canary) as she reveals that she does not want to have kids as she does not want to create orphans, as she and Ollie are both superheroes, and as a result, they have an incredibly high mortality rate by nature of what they do.
Ollie, does also come to the conclusion that he was allowing his trick arrows to do most of the work for him, and feels that he has really gotten soft.
So there is a great story to be read, and as you can deduce there are many things in this story that has been part of the ongoing “Arrow” TV series.
To me though, there is something that really stands out above many of the comics of that era and that is the depth that this story really has. The story is a pretty easy read, but at the same time, the level of maturity would have placed it as a Vertigo title (if Vertigo existed at the time).
Violent, gritty, and dark in tone… the story really is accentuated extremely well by the artwork in the comic as well.
But I totally recommend picking it up, as it is in print yet again by DC (mostly due to the TV series being so popular) and I will tell you one more thing about this story. It upped the ante.
If I really had to do a comparison of this story to other comics that I have read, I would without question have to put it up there with Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil over at Marvel, and also with Dark Knight Returns.
I give this 5 out of 5 pints of stout on this one. Go and get it, and read it… read it now.