Summer 1994: My brothers and I go to Pinelands Video (since gone out of business) in order to find a Super Nintendo game to amuse ourselves with; NHL ’94 is the selection. It is rented several times thereafter, keeping us amused for quite some time.
Christmas 1999: One gift for the “family” (read: me) left to open. As I tear away the wrapping paper, I see the letters “N”, “H”, and “L” staring me down. This is followed by a “’94” tacked onto the end. I yelp with joy, and rush down to play it with my brothers, ignoring the countless Nintendo 64 games brought to me by Santa Claus.
Summer 2001: I spend a lengthy time at my brother’s beach house inside playing NHL ’94, until we finally win the Stanley Cup for the very first time. A large celebration ensues.
These are just some of the highlights of my fixation with this game. Ever since playing it for the first time I’ve been hooked, and it’s not hard to see why. Sure, you can have your next-gen games, with your polygon counts, and your 45 thousand bits, and your stats and drafts and your create-a-players; but with NHL ’94, you have so much more than that. When playing this game, with its ancient-by-today’s-standards graphics, you get a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling; an honest, “this is a good game” feeling, and that’s way better than playing with any freaky, considerably-more-realistic-looking-than-anything-pre-Playstation blue-haired person I could create on my own.
It seems like no more than your typical old-school hockey game: start the game with a face-off, and the team with the most points at the end wins. Pretty standard stuff. The modes themselves are standard as well; you can chose to play a normal, inconsequential game, start a playoffs series, continue a playoffs series (with a password supposedly given to you where you left off last time you played, but finding codes is a cinch on the internet), stage a shootout, etc. You have the option to have an automatic goalie, a manual goalie, or no goalie at all. The third option can produce some real exciting games, since shooting from one side of the rink can cause a goal in the other, whether intentional or not.
It’s not necessarily the game itself that’s special; rather, it’s playing the game with a group of friends on a hot summer day, when there’s nothing better to do. It’s wasting time waiting for your parents to come pick you up, even though you don’t really want them to. It’s earning the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, finally showing those bastard Hawks what you’re made of. NHL ’94 is happiness in a gray cartridge.
Control is crisp and simple to memorize. A shoots, B passes – that’s all you need to know. Within minutes of getting the game out of the box (if you find yourself lucky enough to be in possession of a boxed cartridge, that is) you’ll be scoring points left and right (and up and down, if you’re really skilled).
Exactly what is to be expected from this circa 1993 game; kind of bland, but I’m not at all sure if there’s anything that could be done to improve it. I’d look to NHL ’95 to see if they did any better with that, but I distinctly remember that game not being nearly as good as the previous year’s, mainly due to my sucking at it, throwing the controller towards the ground in a fit, and vowing never to play it again.
This is the kind of music I’d expect to hear in the unlikely event that I was drugged and forced to attend a professional hockey game. Tracks include “do do do DO do do do do DO do do do DO do do do…. dodododo, DO DO!” and “DO dodododododododo DO dododododo DO dodo DO dododododododododo”. Sound effects seem to be true to life, with the screeching of skates as one makes a sudden stop, and the thud of a stick being rammed into another player’s body (speaking of which, you can check not only members of the opposing team, but your own as well!)
The year is twenty oh two, and I’m still leading my All-Stars West team to victory. If a game can keep you hooked for nine + years, then I’d say it’s a winner.
To this day, the only electronic hockey game that I’ve enjoyed more is Wayne Gretzky’s 3-D Hockey for the Nintendo 64, and that’s only because you can set the net on fire. If goals were ablaze in NHL ’94, it would be the premiere hockey game.
I cannot praise this game enough. I feel somewhat saddened by giving it anything less than an 11/10, but no game is perfect. If you need stellar graphics in order to enjoy a game, then put this cup of tea away, because it’s not for you. The graphics by no means suck, but they’re by no means even decent by today’s standards. But, graphics don’t make the game. Entertainment does. How well you enjoy yourself does. Fun does. NHL ’94 contains an abundance of all three of these categories, and is, by my definition, a superb game. If you happen to own a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, then do yourself a favor and obtain this game.