Review by ff7bigfan

"Exciting hockey action on the Nintendo"

Blades of Steel is a great hockey game from Konami. It was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Although it is not as realistic as modern day hockey titles, it still packs a lot of fun. Gameplay is entertaining, music and sound effects are well done, and there are some okay graphics. Blades of Steel is definitely fun for a couple of hours, but after that, you may want to look elsewhere for your hockey fix.

You can choose between 8 different teams, including Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Chicago, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver. The teams that you can choose may come from the same city as various professional hockey teams, but that is the only resemblance. Each character on the team is equal, and there is no real way to distinguish between the different characters on the team.

There are two modes of play: an exhibition game, or a tournament. Exhibition is a single game, while a tournament is an 8 team, single elimination tournament. Both options are good, but if you want to see the credits for the game, you will have to win a tournament. There are also three levels of difficulty to choose from including Junior, College, or Pro.

Each game consists of 3 twenty-minute periods. The clock for the game runs at about 8 to 10 seconds in the game for every second in real life. The reason that the game is not as realistic is the fact that there is no real stopping during play. There are no real rules, and penalties do not occur very much at all, so the only time the action stops is when one team scores a goal, when a fight breaks out, or at the end of the period. The two rules that are present and cause the time to be stopped are icing, and fighting, but they are very rarely called, and it may be a while before you notice these. The lack of rules is not really that bad, as it makes it easier to just enjoy the game, without having to worry about going over the line too early, or breaking any of the rules.

You can rough up your opponent while they are holding the puck, by running into them. If you manage to run into them a few times in succession, you will be able to knock them down. However, if you are running into your opponent, and they are also running into you, a brawl will break out. At first, it occurs on the ice, but if nothing can be settled there, you are thrust into a new screen, where the gloves are dropped. You can perform regular punches to the chin, and uppercuts into the stomach. Each character has 5 health orbs at the top of the screen, which disappear as you are hit. Whoever is the first to lose all of their health is knocked out, and play resumes with the puck in the winning players possession. If you lose a fight, you will have one less character on the ice until a whistle is called.

Penalty shots are taken on two different occasions. The first is if you receive a penalty for fighting. This rarely occurs, so you probably will not see this very often. The second case is in the event of a tie after the three periods are completed. With a penalty shot, the net is basically divided into eight different regions that you can shoot, depending on which directions you press while shooting. If you have reached overtime, it is a 5 shot shoot-out, with the team scoring more points winning the game. If the teams are still tied after 5 shots, the shoot-out will become one shot each team, until a winner is decided.

In the regular game, shooting is made fairly easy for you. Anytime you get near a net, you will see a moving red arrow in the net. This shows you where the shot will go if a shot is taken at that moment in time. This makes it quite a bit easier to score goals, and makes defending the net a little easier. Passes are sharp, and well done. If you are near someone, and pointed towards them, your pass will go to them. Once in a while, when characters are too far apart, the pass will go to nobody. If your not careful in your passes, it is possible to score on yourself. Since you control the actions of the goalie as soon as the puck comes near your net, you will have to make sure it does not go into the net. Since play does not stop when the goalie holds the puck, you are forced to pass within a certain amount of time, or the computer will automatically pass for you.

During the second intermission, you are treated to a little video that is played on the screen. The video that is played is random, and is one of two that are available. The first is a scene with an animal shooting the puck into the net. The second one is very unique, as Konami, the creators of this game have placed an advertisement for the game Contra, which they also produce. Both videos are short, and last for maybe a minute, and they are nice diversions from the game the first time you see them. Thankfully, if you do not want to watch them, you can press a button to skip over them.

The graphics in this game are pretty good. The arena is well done, and shows tiny fans in the stands. Each team wears uniforms of different colors, and color is the main way to distinguish between movements of the characters. Each uniform is made up of a two color pattern. These patterns are used for both the upper body, and the lower body, and this makes it very easy see the animations. Players are found leaning down a little as they skate. The skating animation is fairly well done, and runs smoothly. In fights, the larger character models are well done, and the fighting action is also fairly smooth.

Sound is a very good point in this game. The music is fairly well done, and consists mainly of upbeat, hockey type tunes. There are different songs that are played depending on which team scores a goal, and there are also different songs for the intermission, and the end of the game. The sound effects in this game are very nice. There is a little voice work done for the referee who announces face-offs, and fights. When players are moving across the ice, the sound of their skates slicing the ice is very well done. In fights, the sound of fists hitting an opponent sounds very good. When passes are made, it sounds like the passes are clean, and sharp.

Control is a very easy point to pick up on. The A button is used to shoot, while the B button is used to pass. Characters are moved using the directional pads. If you are on defense, the B button can be used to switch characters. If you switch characters, control will be moved to the character closest to the puck. This is not really necessary though, as the computer normally switches for you automatically. Anytime you have the puck, you automatically gain control, rather than letting the computer do anything for you. If the puck is shot at your net, you automatically gain control of the goalie, so you have to be ready to defend the net at a moments notice. When you are fighting, you can choose to attack or defend, and the region you attack is based on the direction button you press.

One issue I had with this game was the difficulty setting. For each game, you are given the option of playing Junior, which is like beginner, College, which is like intermediate, and Pro, which is for advanced players. I did not notice very much of a difference between these settings. Junior, and College felt very similar, and Pro seemed like it was just a little bit harder, but not that much. Fights are mostly a matter of button mashing, and they do not really feel different between the difficulty levels. Face-offs also feel about the same on any difficulty, and they are usually not too hard to win. With the help of the arrow in the net, showing you where your shot will go, it is very easy to just go up to the net and shoot. Your opponents are not much of a stopping factor on Junior, or College, but on Pro, I found them to try to at least knock me around a bit when I went to shoot. There are no speed bursts in this game, so to get around the opponents, all you really need to do is weave up and down a little. If you have the puck, and just want to kill time, it is very easy to do. As long as you are not within the other teams zone, there will only be one character defending you, while every other character waits in the opponents zone. It is very easy to score one goal, and then skate around in your zone with the puck until the clock runs out. Overall it is fairly easy to get a blow-out defeat over the other team on any difficulty.

The replay value really depends on how you feel about the challenge of the game. It can be a lot of fun to defeat a team by a large margin, but some people may get tired of being able to win so easily. Whether you are this type of person, or the type that enjoys these huge upsets, you will find the gameplay quite entertaining for at least a few games.

If you like hockey, and do not mind a game that has none of the regular rules, or rosters to choose from, you will enjoy this game. It is an entertaining hockey experience, and well worth a purchase.

Gameplay - 9/10 - A lot of fun, but it can be a little easy most of the time
Graphics - 8/10 - Fairly well done for a Nintendo game
Sound - 10/10 - Great music, and excellent sound effects
Control - 8/10 - Pretty easy to pick up, easy to use
Difficulty - 5/10 - Very little difference between difficulty levels. Fairly easy to blow-out the other team on any level.
Replay Value - Medium
Overall - A good game for a couple of hours. A good buy.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/24/01, Updated 11/24/01

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