Review by CokeSage
"Nintendo's done it again, this time, with sports."
Ice hockey may look like a rough game on television or in real life, but look no further when playing ''Ice Hockey'' for the NES; it can be frustrating or fun playing against a computer team, or immensely hilarious backstabbing a fellow gamer in two-player mode. For me, a person not really into sports and just plays video games of aforementioned sports (call me lazy, it's just a gamer's nature), ''Ice Hockey'' is the closest thing I'll ever get to the sport of the same name. Controlling a diverse four-member virtual team, each differing in stamina, speed and power against a team with amazing strategic tricks up their sleeves is one of the many fortunes of the game. With amazing gameplay mechanics, steady graphics and overall amazing music that fits the intonation of the game, ''Ice Hockey'' in my opinion, made up for the unforgiving and painfully simple sports games Nintendo produced in the beginning of the Famicom era.
''Ice Hockey'' allows the player to choose a team of their choice, which is signified by a nationality. It doesn't matter which one you choose, but you can also choose how fast your and the opposing team's players can move, and how long the match will go (the basic formula is multiply the number you choose by four and voilà, you get how long the game will last). Next is the option to choose the layout of the team. Fatties are good for enforcing that no one has the puck but him through physical means but alas, they are slow. Skinnies are good for maintaining a fast pace but they can easily be overwhelmed and knocked over easily. The last choice, the small players, who are potent in all of the qualities, but are weak due to their tiny appearance. The other player, whose appearance cannot be changed, is the goalkeeper.
Now, the objective of the game, which can SOMEHOW relate to the sport of the same name, is to score points by shooting small pucks past the goalkeeper and into the net, and the team with the most points wins. That's something I've never heard of. But scoring isn't easy, oh no, you have to formulate strategic passes, dodge aggressive opponents with leftover skill and time shots with precision and accuracy.
Shooting the puck is usually performed with the A button. The intensity of the shot can be controlled by holding down the mentioned button; releasing it unleashes the full power of the shot, either wimpy or emphasized.
Team-members can pass with the B button. Passing is extremely important if one of your team members is overwhelmed by opponent members and another one of your players is eager to shoot for a goal. The B button also makes itself useful in face-off mode; it can be button-mashed to steal the puck from the opposing team. Obviously to move, you have to use the D-pad. The mechanic of skating is pretty advanced and can be manipulated to move in nearly every direction (not literally...).
''Ice Hockey'' clearly resembles a hockey game in a child's view and does an excellent job at portraying it. The skating and shooting/passing of the puck is responsive and makes for the ultimate hockey gaming experience. Not to mention, it's also fun playing against another gamer.
Eccentric to say at least, the graphics of ''Ice Hockey'' display simplicity; not going all-out like ''Blades of Steel'', and also illustrates Nintendo's image: childish while maintaining a somewhat serious nature. Nintendo was obviously paying attention to detail in this game, with details on the team members, hockey field, and secondary objects. The Zamboni drivers' have their vehicles epitomized, the nets have specific animations depending on the vehemence of the shot, and the crowd appears to be drawn in by the action of the game (or they're just chatty).
''Ice Hockey'' shows off its impressive graphics by infusing it with the gameplay; animations coexist solely for the game, why, it works like peanut-butter and jelly! But as a stand-alone category, it basically pictures Nintendo subtly.
Despite being solely a sports game with rough-and-ready gameplay, the soundtrack, composed by the great Soyo Oka, is upbeat and cheerful, but knows when to get serious amidst the strategic sequences of ''Ice Hockey''. The title screen and selection screen, if I haven't stressed this out a little ''too much'', depicts Nintendo's fun with sound and music. ''Super Mario Bros.'' knew when to get serious without being ''too'' serious, but ''Ice Hockey'' is a step-up.
Sound effects are everywhere, sometimes you don't notice them among the orchestra of bumps and swishes. Sound effects include the solemn skating on the ice's surface, the bumps that signify contact made by players, and the melodious beep of the timer, insinuating the end of a playing period.
Overall, the music balances out whimsicality and action, and the sound effects speak out every action that is occurring inside the arena.
'''Replay Value''': 10/10
''Ice Hockey'' seems a sports game for all ages, and this predetermination of the game suits it. Each game is never the same, the opponents have a new trick every minute, and new strategy will always be composed. The addition of a second-player mode makes it even more memorable, with recollected thoughts on the time you beat your friend with only seconds to spare, or the time a minor mistake led to a loss. With ''Ice Hockey'', satisfaction is guaranteed, whether you play by yourself or with a friend.
''Ice Hockey'' is a game no one can hate, unless you have no patience or you're not used to fast-paced sports video games. With an upbeat soundtrack, well-designed gameplay mechanics that bring this game to reality and an addictive simulator that can be enjoyed against a computer team or another player.
'''Overall Score''': 9.3/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/15/11
Game Release: Ice Hockey (US, 03/31/88)
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