The Fair ShakeSee all articles in this series.
So I was flipping through previous columns that I had written for 1 More Castle. Among other things, I’ve never discussed a sports game. I also noticed that, in general, 1 More Castle has for the most part, stayed away from that genre entirely. (‘That’s because geeks don’t play sports’ – my girlfriend). A debate for another time. I will however, present to you with one of my favorite sports titles. Ice Hockey, on the Nintendo Entertainment System. If you’re looking at the picture above and asking yourself who the hell those guys are, they are on the Famicom box, and they are your team. I loathe the US box, so I won’t even post a picture of it.
Ice Hockey for the NES was released in 1988 among a game selection that was relatively devoid of sports titles. There were a few (looking your way, 10-Yard Fight and Baseball), but compared to the later Super Nintendo, which had several titles right off the bat, the NES games were few and far between. Ice Hockey was arguably the first one that was actually, well, FUN. The game is, as you’d think, based on the real life sport, which consists of hitting a round puck into the opposing team’s goal net, using a hockey stick, all while skating around on ice, wearing ice skates. This video explains the sport much better than I could.
The actual Nintendo game has five players on your team, and consists of three periods that move quickly. A full game can be played in under ten minutes if you select the shortest time span! Ice Hockey minutes go by quicker than real life minutes. You can choose the speed of game play which in many cases can help a beginner out if they are new to the game. I can’t think of many other games that offer a built in speed handicap like this. Several countries of the world are represented in the game, including SOVIET RUSSIA! Unfortunately, the only difference between countries here in Ice Hockey is the flag and the uniform color. One of my favorite parts of this game is the team setup and selection screen. You can choose the size of four of your players from three different body types. A skinny guy moves quickly, but will get pummeled and lose the puck easily. There’s a very large guy who moves slow, but can body slam the puck out of anyone, and then there’s an average sized guy who is somewhere in the middle of the other two regarding speed and fight ability. The strategy of Ice Hockey is to decide the makeup of your team. Do you go all heavy? All thin? (I usually do two heavy and two thin and it averages out.)
Ice Hockey isn’t the prettiest NES game. There’s no facial expressions on the players and other than size, they are all identical. The game scrolls back and forth over the entire rink as your players and the puck travel across the ice. There’s no cut scenes or instant replays in this game. However, there are fights! THERE IS VIOLENCE! If you’re close enough to an opposing player, you can swing your hockey stick and fight him.
Turbo controllers rapidly pressing the button will result in a large fight that everyone ends up involved in! Love it! Bonus points, there’s a bunch of Zamboni machines (which you can’t drive.. I’m still waiting for that Ice Hockey game) with Jason goalie masks on during intermission. At some point you’d think they’d wear out their welcome, but no, they just resurface the ice.
There’s a pretty catchy tune that plays throughout the entire game.. Hope you like it, because it goes on…. and on……. and on……..The sound effects are pretty simple, but they match the graphics. If you wanted realism, you’d be playing a new game, right? The computer player in this game makes for a decent game, but of course like any sports title, it really shines with another player sitting on the side of you, trash-talking the whole time. Add in another friend or two, and you have the ingredients for a great game.
I don’t play many sports games on any system, new or old. Ice Hockey gets played, however. I first played this in elementary school. I traded a City Connection cartridge for it. I think my father and I would play this 50% for the game, and 50% for the fights. There are much more realistic, or even ‘better’ hockey games out there (BLADES OF STEEL), but I effing love Ice Hockey. It’s a quick pick-up game that anyone can learn. Looking at your NES, wondering what to play with a friend? Give Ice Hockey the Fair Shake.