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NHL 94 Rewind Review - Yes Kiddos, This Game Did and Still Does Rule

nhl 94 review

NHL 94 Rewind

NHL 94 Rewind Review - Yes Kiddos, This Game Did and Still Does Rule

While the video game world welcomes the next-gen consoles this week, EA Sports recently dropped a blast from the past on us, or at least on those of us who pre-ordered the newest iteration of EA’s long-running NHL series. If you pre-ordered NHL 21, you were recently granted access to one of the most beloved sports titles to ever hit the home console market: NHL 94.

If you are not old enough to have played this title when it was originally released, then trying to explain the impact that NHL 94 had on the home console market is a tough task, but I’ll try. This was a sports title that just dominated my younger years, and even though I wasn’t the biggest hockey fan in my youth, NHL 94 and ’95 were titles that all of us played in college, and even maybe missed a class or two because of late-night sessions.

It was the first game in the NHL series that delivered both the official teams and official players all in one box, which was amazing. Before NHL 94 we had to deal with city names and no logos, and the combination of the two was simply an awesome experience.

On top of having the real teams and real players, NHL 94 delivered such memorable gems as one-timers, wraparounds, body checks into the benches and hard-hit pucks breaking the glass that surrounded the ice. While most of this stuff sounds generic in today’s world of hyper-realistic sports titles, I can assure you that it was not in the early ’90s. To this day, people who experienced the game during its maiden voyage still reference many of these, which lends credence to the type of cultural phenomenon it actually was.

It was the early stages of realistic sports titles, and so many breakthroughs were happening and happening quickly. Fond memories of an ambulance driving onto the field or windowless passing in Madden, real commentary in Sega’s Sports Talk Baseball and Football, and over 54 real golfers and 8 real courses in PGA Tour Golf III.

The Memories Come Rushing Back

After years of not really giving NHL 94 a thought, I sat down and fired up my first game in many years. I had played occasionally with an emulator, but this felt different. As soon as the screen popped up, it felt like I was a kid again seeing that familiar opening sequence and being greeted by my old friend, Ron Barr.

Even for a game that is now approaching 30 years old, the use of realistic organ music, team intros and physics-based hitting still seem well done today. Body checking someone and a blown whistle still feel and sound as satisfying as they did then. And the ability to play with updated rosters, teams and logos helps deliver a retro experience with a current-day feel. (Yes, it’s current rosters rather than the NHL 94 rosters.)

NHL 94 also gives you a surprising amount of options in-game and in the settings. I could choose different period lengths, auto-goalies, penalties being on or off, and line changes being off, on or manual. The game also allows the user to change up the side-art on the screen to something current looking or the original look from its original release.

Not everything in NHL 94 is nostalgic glory though because there is no season mode. As much fun as I had on the ice with NHL 94, I’m still a bit perplexed as to why NHL 95 was not tabbed as the alternate option to coincide with NHL 21. As I mentioned before, NHL 95 was basically the same game, but it had a season mode.

nhl 94 in nhl 21

 

While that may not be a big deal for some, for myself, I would have easily found a way to play a whole season and the playoffs in the throwback series and enjoyed it just as much as the current title. On top of no season mode, fans who have been eagerly awaiting this title since it was announced will be disappointed to find out that couch co-op is offered, but no online multiplayer.

My hope at this juncture is that EA is willing to maybe update the title and give us the ability to play head-to-head online, or on the same team. Even without season mode being offered, an online mode would make this a long-lasting hit for me.

This lack of online play really does seem like a big miss. As re-releases and remasters have become such a prominent idea in the gaming world today, it feels like maybe a bit more thought should have gone into this aspect, even if this is only available to those who pre-ordered NHL 21 in the first place. Regardless, the inclusion of a season mode or online mode would have given NHL 94 the chance to be a total eye opener for an entirely different generation and helped those folks better experience one of the best titles of its era.

In the end though, NHL 94 is still a lot of fun to play, and while it may lack staying power, I’m not even sure that was ever the intention from EA here. I had no issue finding the same amount of fun and simple gameplay that I did when it initially dropped, and I’m sure that will be the same for many.

As I previously mentioned, NHL 94 is initially only available for those who pre-ordered NHL 21, but EA has said that that may offer everyone the chance to download the game at a later date. My guess is that will happen at some point after those who had originally pre-ordered the game have been given ample time to get the most of their pre-order bonus — thus EA will avoid some backlash from the pre-order folks when NHL 94 is made available to everyone else (probably at a price). No date or price has been given at this time, but I would expect NHL 94 Rewind to come out at some point in the holiday season for everyone else since it’s already a separate download from NHL 21.

Lastly, while I know that the relationship between EA and Nintendo has not always been the best — especially when it comes to sports games — the inability to find a way to get NHL 94 on to the Switch at this time feels like a crime against humanity. If ever a game was meant for the Switch, NHL 94 is the one.

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  1. Great point about this (with a season or career mode) being perfect for the Switch! The lack of hockey and football are all that keep me from buying a Switch. I love portable gaming, but the Switch sports games have just not exceeded the old games for the Vita yet (which is kind of sad).
    Only the PC version of NHL95 was "basically the same" as NHL94. On the other hand NHL94 on PC (labelled just NHL Hockey) DID have a season mode.
    DOSBox plus NHL Hockey on an Android phone combined with a bluetooth controller with attachment for phones = NHL94 with seasonmode on a handheld device.
    The strength in NHL94 always was the multiplayer mode and that is where the game still holds up. As a one player game the CPU does not give you much of a challenge when you start getting good at the game but as a pick up and play retro multiplayer game NHL94 is still fantastic. And there is so much depth to the simple controls.
    In my opinion NHLPA93 on SEGA, NHL94 on SEGA and SNES and NHL Hockey and NHL95 on PC are the five best games in the series. They all have their strength and weaknesses with small differences.
    EA Hockey (or the original NHL Hockey) NHLPA93 and NHL94 share the same base engine on SEGA.
    NHL94 on SNES is similar but has its own engine after the straight port of NHLPA93 failed miserably the year before.
    NHL Hockey on PC is a port of NHL94 based around season play of the 92/93 season. This was arguably the greatest ever NHL season I might add. How many player records was set that season? Lemieux winning the Art Ross with 160 pts but only playing 60 games. Gretzky carrying the Kings to the Stanley Cup final and Montreal winning with Patrick Roy. However this game is made to be more sim like and has four lines for both teams, more detailed graphics, larger rosters, trades, slower gameplay and better CPU AI. This is the best one player experience of NHL94. This game was the first to feature all of this and is a true forgotten ground breaker.
    But for multi player NHL94 on SEGA in my opinion still is the allround winner and also the game ported as Rewind. The SEGA version was the original EA engine and this was the last game to use that ground breaking engine. I believe that is also one of the reasons why NHL94 was the version that got most love during the years.
    briguy4747
    Why ?:nocomprende:

    Because it wasn't fun at all?
    If it was just me, I would hope they don't spend another minute on the mode. If a lot of people are playing it, then I would hope they would add some stuff.
    But I kinda expected to like this, and found the gameplay, not nostalgic but, just bad. I would be surprised if the numbers show any attachment worth investing in. Maybe I'm wrong.
    I should add that I don't care that I don't like it. It was not a factor in pre-ordering the game for me. It was just a thing that was thrown in. But it's something I really don't want more of.
    JayhawkerStL
    Because it wasn't fun at all?
    If it was just me, I would hope they don't spend another minute on the mode. If a lot of people are playing it, then I would hope they would add some stuff.
    But I kinda expected to like this, and found the gameplay, not nostalgic but, just bad. I would be surprised if the numbers show any attachment worth investing in. Maybe I'm wrong.
    I should add that I don't care that I don't like it. It was not a factor in pre-ordering the game for me. It was just a thing that was thrown in. But it's something I really don't want more of.

    I honestly find Blades of Steel and Ice Hockey for the NES more fun than NHL 94. I felt like I literally had zero control over my guy. I don't get how people are having fun playing something that feels like controlling a car hydroplaning, but to each their own lol.
    HipNotiiC_x
    I honestly find Blades of Steel and Ice Hockey for the NES more fun than NHL 94. I felt like I literally had zero control over my guy. I don't get how people are having fun playing something that feels like controlling a car hydroplaning, but to each their own lol.

    You actually think you have better control in Blades of Steel??? Wow...
    Ice Hockey does have its high points with the thin, middle and large guy but I always thought Blades of Steel was highly overrated. But that's just me. :)
    nikethebike
    You actually think you have better control in Blades of Steel??? Wow...
    Ice Hockey does have its high points with the thin, middle and large guy but I always thought Blades of Steel was highly overrated. But that's just me. :)

    This is what was so cool about the sports game industry of yesteryear lol. Games were drastically different and all had a following! I just miss competition more than anything. Wish football and hockey had great alternatives like Super Mega Baseball has provided to the baseball scene. I'm a guy that can only play the show in RTTS mode, but I'm playing every game a 14-team season in SMB3 because it's that addicting, customizable, and fun.
    Hoping that the AA or "advanced indie" market in sports game kind of comes back. I know Hitz/Blitz/Slugfest were considered AAA titles, but I really think those games would be considered AA products at this point, and not surprisingly, they were always more fun than their sim counterparts.
    HipNotiiC_x
    This is what was so cool about the sports game industry of yesteryear lol. Games were drastically different and all had a following! I just miss competition more than anything. Wish football and hockey had great alternatives like Super Mega Baseball has provided to the baseball scene. I'm a guy that can only play the show in RTTS mode, but I'm playing every game a 14-team season in SMB3 because it's that addicting, customizable, and fun.
    Hoping that the AA or "advanced indie" market in sports game kind of comes back. I know Hitz/Blitz/Slugfest were considered AAA titles, but I really think those games would be considered AA products at this point, and not surprisingly, they were always more fun than their sim counterparts.

    I was always a Bethesda Softworks Wayne Gretzky Hockey fan myself.
    I remember actually DRAWING offensive and defensive tactics and porting over player attributes from NHL94 into WGH2. :)
    There are not many alternatives today. One hockey game alternative that is under development is DJNEOs 2K Hockey Simulator (2KHS). It's actually a 2K11 mod but he has definitely made insane improvements to its gameplay. He is now also trying to work on NHL2K3 that doesn't need a 4GHz CPU to run stable.
    And there was the Old Time Hockey game that simulated bush league hockey and Super Blood Hockey that looks like NES hockey with insane amounts of blood. None are really the AA titles you ask for though.
    I guess it was much easier back in the day when a game could be finished in five weeks by one single guy...
    nikethebike
    I was always a Bethesda Softworks Wayne Gretzky Hockey fan myself.
    I remember actually DRAWING offensive and defensive tactics and porting over player attributes from NHL94 into WGH2. :)
    There are not many alternatives today. One hockey game alternative that is under development is DJNEOs 2K Hockey Simulator (2KHS). It's actually a 2K11 mod but he has definitely made insane improvements to its gameplay. He is now also trying to work on NHL2K3 that doesn't need a 4GHz CPU to run stable.
    And there was the Old Time Hockey game that simulated bush league hockey and Super Blood Hockey that looks like NES hockey with insane amounts of blood. None are really the AA titles you ask for though.
    I guess it was much easier back in the day when a game could be finished in five weeks by one single guy...

    Yeah I have a PC but I'm not terribly interested in the 2khs mod. It's cool to watch, but I'm looking for something more fresh. If someone could make a spiritual successor to NHL Hitz Pro, that would be amazing. Just want something that respects the sport a decent amount, has great customization, and doesn't take itself overly serious. Can't reiterate how good of a game Super Mega Baseball is, would love to see that company start going into other sports because their approach is awesome.
    HipNotiiC_x
    Yeah I have a PC but I'm not terribly interested in the 2khs mod. It's cool to watch, but I'm looking for something more fresh. If someone could make a spiritual successor to NHL Hitz Pro, that would be amazing. Just want something that respects the sport a decent amount, has great customization, and doesn't take itself overly serious. Can't reiterate how good of a game Super Mega Baseball is, would love to see that company start going into other sports because their approach is awesome.

    The key is, Metal Head carries off their vision of the game all the way through every aspect. And if you have seen how they methodically, but not quickly, add features over three additions, nothing gets added until its really ready for prime time, even if they have to balance something a bit as they go along.
    Someone could try and do a SMB like sports game and completely blow it by not understanding what it is that makes it work. Because it is far, far more than an aesthetic. I feel like they understand game theory on a pretty deep level, and I'm not sure it could withstand the focus testing and such from a AAA publisher like EA or 2K.
    I would trust Metal Head, for sure, to develop a new sports game from the ground up with a consistent approach to the game from a balanced game theory point of view, with precise controls that can actually take advantage of 99 difficulty levels.
    I'm sure Metal Head focus tests, too, but what are they looking for. I mean, sports gamers always want more, but sometimes they really would like lot less. Triple AAA will always error on the side of the kitchen sink, especially if it can be easily described in a slogan.
    Metal Head does a nice job of not catering to every whim, and really focuses on how to make the game feel more personal and competitive.
    And to be more on topic, SMB3 exposes how very terrible almost all the recent arcade sports games (among all sports) really are. It's probably not a fair comparison, since this is a cheap throwaway game as a free gift, and SMB3 is polished as hell. But coming from SMB3 makes it feel like EA didn't even do the bare minimum to make this fun, and just hoped nostalgia was enough.
    So it weird to see it get such a positive review and requests for more depth. As I said, though, if folks are playing it and liking it, EA will see, and, I would hope, will add to it.
    I would love a great arcade hockey game, but this feels more current RBI Baseball, where the devs don't understand that as gamers play new games, their reflexes and expectations change,, so you can't just make the game exactly the same and have the same feel. Gamers are coming from a completely different perspective today.
    JayhawkerStL
    The key is, Metal Head carries off their vision of the game all the way through every aspect. And if you have seen how they methodically, but not quickly, add features over three additions, nothing gets added until its really ready for prime time, even if they have to balance something a bit as they go along.
    Someone could try and do a SMB like sports game and completely blow it by not understanding what it is that makes it work. Because it is far, far more than an aesthetic. I feel like they understand game theory on a pretty deep level, and I'm not sure it could withstand the focus testing and such from a AAA publisher like EA or 2K.
    I would trust Metal Head, for sure, to develop a new sports game from the ground up with a consistent approach to the game from a balanced game theory point of view, with precise controls that can actually take advantage of 99 difficulty levels.
    I'm sure Metal Head focus tests, too, but what are they looking for. I mean, sports gamers always want more, but sometimes they really would like lot less. Triple AAA will always error on the side of the kitchen sink, especially if it can be easily described in a slogan.
    Metal Head does a nice job of not catering to every whim, and really focuses on how to make the game feel more personal and competitive.
    And to be more on topic, SMB3 exposes how very terrible almost all the recent arcade sports games (among all sports) really are. It's probably not a fair comparison, since this is a cheap throwaway game as a free gift, and SMB3 is polished as hell. But coming from SMB3 makes it feel like EA didn't even do the bare minimum to make this fun, and just hoped nostalgia was enough.
    So it weird to see it get such a positive review and requests for more depth. As I said, though, if folks are playing it and liking it, EA will see, and, I would hope, will add to it.
    I would love a great arcade hockey game, but this feels more current RBI Baseball, where the devs don't understand that as gamers play new games, their reflexes and expectations change,, so you can't just make the game exactly the same and have the same feel. Gamers are coming from a completely different perspective today.

    Yeah I 100% agree. They care about the little things and they aren't in a rush to release half-baked things. I think the community has really loved how transparent they are on social media and how they truly seem to care about every experience they put into the game. The game is very balanced and I really never feel cheated offline outside of the rare CPU HR on like a breaking ball pitch low and away, but even to that point, I probably was throwing that pitch too often and they anticipated it like a human would've, so idk man, game is just straight-up fun.
    The best part is, there's nothing to compare it to. it's not trying to be the Show, it's not trying to be slugfest, it's not trying to be RBI Baseball, it literally just is SMB. I think backbreaker really nailed that aspect when they released, but unfortunately they gave up before they truly polished their own product. I think if they had refined their passing and allowed for in-game team switching, that game would've really exploded in the same sense that SMB is right now.
    There's a certain charm about the game that I haven't experienced since probably NHL 09 with EASHL and APF 2k8. The games (or game mode of EASHL) are their own world. It's new, addicting, different, and fun. Lots of subtle depth without an over complex physics engine or game mechanics really make this game such a great pickup and play game that doesn't feel rushed or like it is just a throwaway indie/arcade game.
    capnlarge
    ****! Now I want Super Mega Hockey...

    I'd pay $100 for a copy of SMH lol. If there was a company like them out there who made a hockey game with a similar feel/customization/replay-ability, I'd never touch an EA game again.
    HipNotiiC_x

    There's a certain charm about the game that I haven't experienced since probably NHL 09 with EASHL and APF 2k8. The games (or game mode of EASHL) are their own world. It's new, addicting, different, and fun. Lots of subtle depth without an over complex physics engine or game mechanics really make this game such a great pickup and play game that doesn't feel rushed or like it is just a throwaway indie/arcade game.

    APF 2K8 had a big impact on me in terms of making me thinking about what it is I actually want in a sports game. Part of it was a perfect group of friends all playing with me, so we held offline drafts, so all the teams in the league had their own star players. And we made our uniforms, like SMB3.
    It's what probably led me down the Ultimate Team path for awhile, having fun playing games with the teams I created against the teams others create.
    JayhawkerStL
    APF 2K8 had a big impact on me in terms of making me thinking about what it is I actually want in a sports game. Part of it was a perfect group of friends all playing with me, so we held offline drafts, so all the teams in the league had their own star players. And we made our uniforms, like SMB3.
    It's what probably led me down the Ultimate Team path for awhile, having fun playing games with the teams I created against the teams others create.

    In APF, I found out about the "roster glitch" that let you have more than 8 teams by exploiting the way season mode was saved along with deleting the default roster in season mode. So I had two 8-team leagues that I ran and both leagues had like 8-10 different roster files for all of their different uniform combos haha.

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