|Ice Hockey North American Release Date - March 1988|
Episode #49 - Ice Hockey
In a world where sports video games have become deep, complex, virtual simulations of their real-life counterparts, Ice Hockey still stands out. It's the epitome of the saying "Less is More". Sure, if you're looking for a hockey game where you can develop rosters, play 100+ hours of a franchise, and manage my salary cap, there are better options. But if you just want to play a quick game of hockey against a friend, and have a really good time doing it, it's still hard to beat Ice Hockey.
It's not a very deep game. You play against either the computer or a friend in a single game, and that's it. No seasons or tournaments. You get to pick from one of six national teams, and then you make up your four man roster. You can pick between skinny players (fast but wimpy), medium players (meh), and heavy/fat players (slow but powerful), and you can mix and match to create any combination of four that you want. And within that lies the genius of Ice Hockey. Do you roll with a team of four skinny players, skate circles around your opponent, but get knocked off the puck every time somebody sneezes? Or do you load up on heavyweights and just hope the other team skates into one of your guys? It might not be as deep as navigating the AHL looking for a fourth line winger, but it works perfectly. The combinations are practically endless.
I guess technically there's 256 combinations. But whatever.
The gameplay is insanely simplistic and easy to pick up. Steer your highlighted player with the D-pad. "A" passes or steals, and "B" shoots or changes players. The D-pad controls your goalie at the same time, which is also really fun. I'd argue that controlling the goalie in Ice Hockey is as fun as controlling the goalie in any hockey game ever made. And that's it. Most of the basic rules from hockey are here, and you just try to score more goals than your opponent. There's no load times, no rosters updates, it's just simple, arcade hockey. And it's awesome.
Most people compare Ice Hockey to it's NES counterpart Blades of Steel. I knew a ton of people that owned one, but I don't think I knew anybody that owned both. I preferred Blades of Steel as a kid, but I think Ice Hockey has held up infinitely better over the years. It recently released on the Nintendo Switch as part of their NES Online service, and I can confirm it's as fun to pick up and play today as it was over thirty years ago. It's not perfect; and it certainly isn't worth paying anymore than a few bucks for these days. But for my money, it's the Ric Flair of Nintendo sports games. One of the all-time greats, and I love it.
My buddy David Rae does too. He's my guest this week, and we had a ton of laughs talking Ice Hockey. I hope you guys enjoy this one as much as we did!
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