Review by Psycho Penguin
"It's different from 94, I swear!"
I love the NHL series of video games that were released by EA Sports for the Genesis in the later parts of the 90's, and it all started with NHL'94, which I find to be one of the best hockey games of all time. It was also the game that started the whole series, and it will always have a special place in my heart because of this. NHL '95 is a worthwhile addition to the series, and actually outclasses the original in many regards. I would choose NHL '95 to be the best hockey game on the Genesis that I have played, just because it's so fun, and had a lot of great game modes to choose from. Plus, the watering down of the series did not occur here, and therefore you'll find a lot to enjoy with this terrifically fast-paced and high-voltage hockey title.
The goal of the game, is of course, to get to the Stanley Cup. To do this, you can choose the Season option. All you have to do is select a team, and then you'll be on your way. The team selection process is quite cool here, as each team is rated based on their finishing standings of the 1994 season. Of course, this means that there are stronger teams than others, and it would be wise to select a stronger team, but it is not imperative to your overall outcome of the game. The ratings don't only apply to the team, as each player is also individually rated based on a number of things, ranging from charisma to shooting ability. You can also create a player, but sadly it is far too easy to create a God-like player with statistics far better than any other player in the league.
The season mode is actually pretty nicely implemented into the game, as you get the ability to change everything from the options of the gameplay to the amount of games you'll have to play throughout the season. Of course, you can't change the schedule of your team, or the division you play, so you are stuck with whatever team you selected. Plus, you can't change the length of the season once you actually start the season, so you are stuck with the same team for the duration of the game, which you can't control the length of once you start. Oh well, I guess this does imitate real life hockey to a certain extent, so it's not too bad.
Once you get into an actual game, you will find nothing to complain about, however. Games are fast-paced and also manage to be relatively low-scoring, despite the stupidity of the computer AI from time to time. For instance, if you have it on one of the easier challenge levels, you can basically stand to the side of the net, then curve in to the side of the goalie, shoot, and score almost every time. The wraparound shot is certainly a lost art in today's hockey game, and it's always nice to do one, but I shouldn't be scoring off of it every time. Otherwise, the game is fun to play, as the defenses react well to whatever you wish to do. Breakaways are definitely earned in this game, as are penalty shots.
Depending on whether or not you want to have them, this game does feature injuries and penalties. Penalties work the same way they do in real hockey, if you commit a penalty, you go to the penalty box for a determined amount of time (usually two minutes, but sometimes it can be four or five for a major penalty) and your team has to play shorthanded without you. Injuries are not too severe in this game, as they knock your player out for only a few games, very rarely more than that. It is completely unrealistic that with such a dangerous game as hockey, there's few injuries that end a season, but I guess that the game wanted to be fair to a certain extent.
The bad news here is that there is no fighting, which I am sure is going to piss some people off, but it's not really required for a hockey game, and I don't want to turn every hockey game into Mortal Kombat. Therefore, I wasn't too devastated by the lack of a fighting feature. However, if you judge your hockey gaming purchases based off if you can fight in it or not, I advise finding another game, because you are not going to be satisfied with this one. I think EA had some sort of rules or contract or something that prohibited them for including fighting in their sports games, because I have yet to see a sports game from them where you can get into any sort of fighting.
The gameplay is made even better due to the fact it's actually easy to control everyone. Goalies are still automated, so you really can't do much to stop the puck, which can prove to be annoying from time to time. The only time you get to control them is when they actually get the puck, and then you can choose who to pass it to. Other than that, I had no problems with the controls. It's easy enough to pass, and the ability to take the kind of shot you wanted by the power and aiming you select is always a good quality in any hockey game. I also loved how each player actually moved a certain speed, shot differently, and had passing abilities, based solely off their ratings you saw at the beginning of the game when you selected the team. I'm always happy when a game uses these ratings as more than just numerical statistics.
In addition to the terrific gameplay, NHL 95 also happens to be a great looking hockey game. It may take some time for NES hockey veterans to get used to the vertical scrolling of the game, but once you get the hang of it, you will notice some terrific graphics. The player models are quite detailed, and most of them look just like they do in real life (well, in 1994 anyways). You won't have any trouble telling apart the players, that's for sure. The ice is incredibly pleasing on the eyes and makes playing the game much easier. I hate hockey games with distracting ice, and fortunately this game doesn't have that. A minor improvement that I really enjoyed was the fact that when you score a goal, the box that comes up now has shaded words. It's the little things that make me happy sometimes.
As you may expect for a hockey game, there is not a terribly large variety of music in the game. However, the music that was included gets the job done quite nicely. The song that plays when you turn the game on gets you in the mood to play the game, with a terrific fast-paced beat. I love sports games with music that have lots of energy, and the introduction song of NHL '95 is the perfect example of this. The sound effects are incredibly well done, as well, as the whistle sounds dead-on, and you'll hear different crowd reactions based on what is going on. Of course, the crowd is not totally interactive, but it's always nice to hear them cheer for me when I am the hometown team and score a goal, or hear the boos rain down on me when I'm on the road. I also love the sound of the shattering glass!
Due to all these great features, and great aestethics, the NHL series has always been a proven winner in the replay value department, and NHL 95 is certainly no exception. There's not as many game modes as there are in later editions, but the fast-paced gameplay will prove to be quite addicting. In addition to this, this is also an incredible multiplayer game. I know I have yet to bring this up, but you will soon become quite addicted to this game if you invite a friend over to play it. It might not have the great replay value of a Ice Hockey or the incredible amount of features like a NHL 2003, but this game still can prove to be very addicting if you give it enough of a chance and let it be.
The game comes with several different challenge levels to select from, so of course the game will be easier or harder depending on which level you wish to select. The game is FAR too easy on the rookie level, as I already mentioned previously. Due to the somewhat shoddy goalie AI, you can just do wraparound shots a bunch of times and expect to score lots of goals. Winning 17-3 on the rookie level used to be quite a common occurence. That's why I always recommend turning it up to the all-star level. While it is still not the most challenging level in the world, the goalie will be smarter and you will be forced to play much tighter offense and use strategies like smart passing and shot accuracy to overcome a vicious challenge from the opponent.
There's nothing quite like lacing boots up and going out for a hard hitting game of hockey. Very few things will give me a bigger adrenaline rush than that. NHL 95 does a great job of bringing this feeling into video-game format, and I think it's well worth a purchase for those looking for a new and exciting hockey game to play. The only reason not to buy NHL 95 is that NHL 96 is pretty much the same game, only updated. I own all the NHL games on Genesis, and can assure you that this is one of the better ones to own for it. I never had any problems playing this one, even with NHL 98 lying around, because this game is just that damn fun.
Sure, the lack of a fighting engine may be somewhat disheartening to people looking to do more than actually play hockey in a hockey game, but everything else is represented perfectly. The season mode is lots of fun, the controls are dead on, the game makes great use of team and player ratings, the graphics are sensational, the music is as good as it gets, and the sound effects are quite good. There is nothing to love about NHL 95, and there's no reason not to get it.
Unless you want NHL 96 instead. But that one doesn't have fighting, either!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/10/00, Updated 07/02/03
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.