Blades of Steel
Review by Aganar
"Let me play the Gradius minigame, damnit! *throws controller*"
In the late 80's, Konami created one of the first hockey games, Blades of Steel. For years, I watched an old tape of NES games always wanting to play it. Finally, I got my chance. That was a little over 2 years ago. Keep in mind that was after a number of new 3d hockey games came out. But even after all of those, Blades of Steel remains the best hockey game eve created. And this is coming from someone who doesn't even like hockey games!
The graphics, for the time, were typical for the time. The characters were not very big, but it was required so that so many would be able to fit onscreen at once. And with so many, its impressive that they looked as detailed as they were, and that the game did not suffer slowdowns. All of the backgrounds were the same, but it still looked fairly good. I wish they could've maybe tried to animate it, but perhaps I'm being too picky. One of the more amusing aspects of the game is the small performance that your characters perform at the beginning of the game. I'm still wondering why they're deciding to ice skate, but I guess Konami just wanted something to show off at first. While every team has a different outfit, it's all essentially the same, just in a different color. So, the graphics are pretty solid, with the exception that it rarely slows down even with a large number of players on the screen at once.
The gameplay is pretty much like your average hockey game. The two teams face off, and try to score as many goals as they can. While you control one player at first, you are actually controlling the whole team. If you lose the puck to a computer, the game automatically switches you to the player closest to the computer, so you can try to steal it back. Along with all the players, you also control the goalie. This makes the game somewhat hard at first to control, but eventually you get used to it. Being on the NES, there are only two buttons to work with. One passes, and the other shoots. To try to aim your shot, there is an arrow on the enemy's goal to show where the puck would go if you shot it. This serves as a guide for where to aim your shot, and an indicator for where the enemy's goalie should move. Thus, it requires some skill to pull off a goal properly.
Stealing is harder than in most games; you must ram the player with the puck three times before he finally lets go of the thing. More often in the game you will get the puck by intercepting a pass. And, also more often, you'll lose the puck when it is intercepted (but I guess you figured that out). I enjoy this system alot because it stays relatively simple to execute maneuvers, but is still fun and takes alot of skill to do.
Game modes don't really vary much. You can only change the difficulty from regular, to pro, to championship. There's also a really fun Gradius-type minigame, but as I have learned, it almost never occurs. The game's only real problem is the control. While you can get used to it, it is still frustrating. Your goalie will usually miss the puck even if it hits him in the face, and will allow computer players to take up to three shots before the guy finally learns to catch the damn thing. Then there's the ability to use your players as human shields, which is both an up and a down. When you're blocking, it seems interesting. But more often, you're getting extremely angry because some moron who sprang out of nowhere suddenly blocks a shot that would’ve surely scored you a point. One of the other frustrating things is the players' ''victory dance''. Whenever either side scores a goal, the player who scores it is suddenly surrounded by other players, where they begin to yell and cheer for a few seconds, with some stupid melody in the background.
But one thing I won't deny is Konami's great and innovative idea for the fight boxes. If you happen to hit one guy too many times, he won't always fall down and be done with it. He might just get angry and attack you. The players will then begin exchanging punches on-screen, but then switch to a totally different screen. Here, the camera zooms up close to the players (looking very detailed and colorful, I might add). In this mode, its almost fighting game-ish. Your players take turns exchanging blows until one falls. The winner continues playing, and the loser takes two minutes at the penalty box. Why only the losing player gets punished for fighting I don't know, but it's certainly a fun mode. If nothing else, you can always relieve yourself of alot of frustration by picking a fight with a random player and beating the crap out of him.
The sound is fairly good for the NES. The announcer's voice actually sounds like a real person when he shouts ''Blades of Steel!'', and can shout something that isn't too abstruse. The music leaves a little bit to be desired, since there's only a couple of tunes, and almost all of them are when a team scores, which as I mentioned above are very annoying.
But, if single player isn't your thing, then you're still bound to have tons of fun playing it with friends. It's addictive behavior and few, but well-done extras make it just the right game to play when a friend is over. You'll have hours of fun intentionally picking fights with your friends so you can duke it out, or trying to make penalty shots. If nothing else, the minigames are always fun.
Overall, this is still a great game. Konami put a fair amount of polish into it when they made it, and it really shows. Even now it still kicks the butt of any other Hockey game to try to take its place. If you want a fun sports game, check this out!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/30/01, Updated 09/09/03
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