NHL 96 (Super Nintendo) Retro Review
Game Name: NHL 96
Publisher: EA Sports, Black Pearl (GameBoy)
Developer: EA Sports, Pioneer Productions (DOS) and Probe Entertainment (GameBoy)
Release Date: September 1995
Playforms: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis / Megadrive, MS-DOS, GameBoy
If you follow my posts, you must know that I have many different versions of hockey games spanning almost 40 years. However this was one that was not in my collection. I had played the PC version which was very laggy for me back in the day. I had to play it with the specs way down as my PC back then was not great. But it was still fun and you saw they started to embrace the 3D hockey experience. Did this translate to the less powerful consoles, let us see.
The game starts with a mixed version of Get Ready for This by 2Unlimited. This brought a blast from the past moment. The visuals are improved a little. However, I expected that the game would look a little better than NHL 93. I am not sure if this is because of my TV or is it because the game just looks dated. The game looks a little washed out. The sounds however are crisp and they build on the previous year's outing. So this part has not changed. In fact this may be one area where the console version was better than the PC version in my eyes. The PC version had way too much echo. They were trying to simulate an Arena sound but it just came off as annoying.
The controls is where I had a lot of trouble with this game. I think they were trying to go for realism. So when you want to turn, you cannot turn right away. Real skating takes a little while to turn. Very often I ended up losing the puck to the opposition. Even on novice it is a little more difficult to score. There were games where I blew out the opposition but it felt very random. Now this may be because I am playing on an LCD HD TV and this is an old system. It is very possible that there is lag. I am not sure that is all because of lag. Let me know your experiences. Does this game lag for you on modern TV's? I would try on a CRT TV, but I do not own one anymore.
I will start off the top with one of my biggest problems with this game. I did not play NHL 94 and NHL 95, so I am not sure about the features available. However, I remember NHL 93 and one of the features I loved was the playoff only mode. This was a fun way to play a tournament for a short period of time. This is a shame that they removed this mode. Now you have a choice of Season, Exhibition and Practice. The season mode was the beginning of what we know and love today. However you see that the science was not perfected yet. You don't really choose a team to follow in the season. From what I can tell, you pick a date and you can choose what games you can play. So you are not really associated with a team. You have the option to play all the games until the current day which is what we know today.
You can bypass the season to end season now and you can get straight into the playoffs. However the experience feels clunky. Why not just have a playoff mode instead of me just ending a season to play only the playoffs. The playoffs are similar to the season where you do not choose a team outright. You can play all the games and simulate others. Something just seems to feel off with this mode.
Exhibition is what you would expect. it is one off quick games where you can choose the teams and play with them accordingly. I did not play Practice mode as I did not see the need for it. I may play that at a later time.
Sample Gameplay (from my Twitch Stream)
I think that this game has not aged well. Although it may have had new features at the time that matured, it shows its infancy. The features are ok but not the best. The gameplay is clunky and again I am not sure if this was a game issue or a TV issue, but it was difficult to control the players on the ice.
The stats feature was really cool. This is where you can track your record in the game. So we started seeing the emergence of player's stats. Nowadays you have stats up the wazoo!
I think this is when EA was trying to get to the simulation of hockey games and did not want to just create an arcade style hockey game anymore. This is ok, but you see that there were growing pains.
For the SNES and Genesis, I would stick with NHL Hockey '93. It was more fun and the controls were just perfect. I know that many people still rave about NHL '93 and still love to play to this day, NHL '96 in my mind is nothing to run home about and it is one sports game that will be forgotten through the mists of time.
So as you can see I was not a huge fan of this game. I think that they could have done something much better. However this is what happens when you release a new hockey game every year. You will have off years and this is what I think this is.
Rating: 4 offsides out of 10
Let me know what you think? Do you like NHL 96?