1994. For me, this year was synonymous with two things: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and NHL ’94. While the Power Rangers eventually fizzled out of my childhood in the late 90s only to experience a nostalgic renaissance years later, NHL ’94 remained a close companion—a teammate who was always willing to drop the gloves in my defense.
I was blessed to grow up on McKee Ave, a dead end street in a small New Jersey town. For nearly 10 years, my friend Mark and I shared a passion for street hockey that was truly special. While our school didn’t have a hockey team, that never mattered to us. Each night, he and I always found a way to meet under McKee’s street lights and fire pucks off of buckets, milk jugs, or leather-strapped goalie pads. We even invited kids from neighboring streets to take us on in weekly tournaments, hosted “skills” competitions, and even staged a hockey fight or two for our imaginary fans!
However, when Mark and I didn’t have a hockey stick in our hands, we often had a Sega Genesis controller in its place. For hours on end we played NHL ’94—even after ’95, ’96, ’97, and some 32-bit hockey games were released. Back then, I often wondered why NHL ’94 stood head and shoulders above the other hockey games of the 90s. Now, 19 years since NHL ‘94’s release, I believe the difference is in the details.
The Retro Run-Down:
Publisher: Electronic Arts, Inc.
Developer: High Score Productions
Platform: Sega Genesis, Sega CD, DOS, SNES
Genre: Sports, Hockey
The Retro Review
"While NHL Hockey and NHLPA Hockey 93 were released for the Sega Genesis first, NHL ’94 takes the series to a whole new level with enough features to make it one of the most memorable games in the NHL franchise. At first glance, NHL ’94 might seem like a slightly polished version of NHL Hockey, but upon closer inspection, one can see that there are a lot of subtle differences that make NHL ’94 exceptional.
NHL ’94 introduces dozens of new features like the traditional hat-toss on the ice after a hat-trick, goalies slamming their sticks in frustration, children pounding the glass, urging the players to fight…(Well, that’s what I always thought they were doing!)
The NHL players will also have cold and hot streaks that will affect their ability on the ice and their ratings when it comes to playing and trading them. Another new feature that makes NHL ‘94 a blast is the fact that players can be checked over the boards! This rare, albeit, glorious event can be captured through player-tracking instant replay, so gamers can replay their hits over and over again…much to their competitors’ chagrin! Another welcomed addition to NHL ’94 is the automatic line change. Finally, NHL ’94 introduces one of the more dramatic features of professional hockey: the notorious penalty shot...Shoot it top shelf, blocker side!
Another notable improvement in NHL ’94 is the music itself. While composer Rob Hubbard and the Sega Genesis sound hardware are once again a dynamic duo, there’s even more going on in NHL ’94 that evokes our inner hockey fan! In addition to the traditional organ tunes played during each face-off, now each team has a customized song that plays once a goal is scored. It’s a lot fun to hear the variety of songs. I particularly like the Hartford Whalers’ theme!
There has also been a huge upgrade in the controls. Now players can perform one-timers—which are genuinely effective!—but be careful; the computer can fire off one-timers, too! The computer defense has been improved from previous titles, as well. The goalies will now dive or lunge for the puck, so don’t bank on using the same deke to fool the goalie. It won’t work; I’ve tried!
Rob’s Retro Recap
NHL ’94 for the Sega Genesis. Can anyone give the single, greatest reason why many consider this one of the best hockey games of all time? I can’t. Perhaps it’s just the classic case having the right amount of features complemented by a timeless simplicity. NHL ’94 is for all generations of gamers. After all, you know you’re doing something right when games like NHL 13 still include the NHL ’94 controls.
Although the NHL season is in jeopardy this year, I think I’ll settle for those hockey memories on McKee Ave while playing a couple rounds of NHL ’94. How else am I going to see Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux hit the ice?
Overall, I give NHL ’94 for the Sega Genesis
5 goals out of 5!
Happy New Year!
Title Screen screen and player images courtesy of http://buffalosabresnation.com/2012/08/16/who-took-the-fun-out-of-my-nhl-videogames/
Hat Trick screen shot courtesy of http://article.wn.com/view/2012/06/23/Blackhawks_draft_Jeremy_Roenick_s_nephew_Chris_Calnan/