Sunday, March 31, 2013

EA Hockey: Time Sink and Memories - Version 99

Eric Lindros isn't looking at the puck but at the piece of ice he's going to curl up on after Scott Stevens (not shown) destorys him
While the hockey and gaming world celebrate the 20th anniversary of the influential NHL series of their games I'm going write a few posts highlighting some personal memories of these games. Like most mid-to-late thirties North Americans, I spent a lot of time with EA's hockey series in college and afterwards.  I also didn't date a lot, why do you ask?

So what better way to introduce the game to those who missed it 14 years ago, than to post what was probably the best intro in the long history of the NHL games.  I'm not alone in thinking this since someone else posted this video making a similar claim.  From the David Bowie song "Heroes" and using footage from a Bauer commercial to the high energy heavy metal afterwards, this intro showcased what hockey fans love about their sport.   Let's just enjoy the moment:

It also highlighted the Osgood nemesis shot, something with no chance of going in that seemed to beat him about twice a year.  But since we're talking about being hero's he gets this one, with a glowing glove.

Seriously EA - please bring back the intros.  This was, for years, one of the coolest parts of the game.  It'd be like Christmas to see what the new intro would be.  Would it have awesome music?  A favorite highlight?  Some nifty molten steel foundry of the future that made pucks and goalie masks (NHL 97 only)?  Oh what the hell, I'll probably write up a bunch the intros at some point.

Now on to the game play:  Yeah, somethings just don't hold up as well over time.  If it helps, I remember it being fun.  Below is a long (10 min) clip highlighting the menus and the gameplay (the game starts at 3:15 with pregame introductions and anthem at 2:45).

Breaking down some highlights of this clip:
  • (0:22) Over the season button is one of my favorite Brodeur saves because he goes the extra mile to not let the energy of the shot pull him down to the ice.  Dude was just showing off.  Oh yeah, and he's still playing and showing off 14 years later.
  • Remember when this looked so awesome you had to show your friends what a computer could do?  I must have interpolated in my head because I don't remember blocky McSquarehead in net.  I think third graders are making better looking stuff in Minecraft these days.
  • (3:40) However Jamie Macoun's mustache looks to have been modeled in 3D, as it should. 
  • (3:46) Have you ever seen the guy between the boxes in a referee uniform?  I hadn't either.  This benched referee might be a homage to Don Koharski.  Since he's, how to put it, husky.
  • (3:49) Uh, why is Yzerman anchoring the third line?  Shouldn't that be Draper?  I heard that grind line was pretty effective in it's day.  To paraphrase one of cinema's greatest lines, "I'd buy [him] for a dollar."
  • (4:32) Jeff Beukeboom had one of the best names for a guy that hit people for a living.  Ever.  Hopefully his son Brock, who is currently with the Guelph Storm, will make the NHL so there can be more Beukeboom in the NHL.  All of our lives are improved with a little more Beukeboom.  If you don't believe me, just say that name a few times and see where your day goes.
  • Crappy part of this, Beukeboom's last game was February 12th, 1999 and his retirement was forced by post concussion syndrome. 
  • (4:48) It probably bugged me then but it's obvious now - the sticks are ludicrously large (That's what she said!) but realistically don't bend during shots because, you know, they're 8" thick.  This also explains why no one is dekeing.  Somehow, I know Datsyuk could still dangle even with those taped up saplings.
  • No seriously, Brock Beukeboom.  Dude was flat out meant for the big stage.
  • (4:51) Goalie playing pucks in the corners (sigh) although I'm not sure why the Rangers goalie keeps kneeling down and quickly petting the puck before leaving it for his defenseman.  Coming to think of it, maybe we should just keep the trapezoid after all.
  • (4:52) Apparently, in 1999, people could no look pass between their legs hard enough to send the puck from the goal line to center (tape to tape, of course).  The kids today slack.
  • For being clutched and grabbed in the middle of the trap error, they sure did love giving out power plays in this game.
  • I feel old in that a player in 1999 has a kid in 2013 that was drafted three years ago. I need a hug.  Or more Beukeboom in my life.
  • (6:37) The benches are look about as full as your late night beer league team as opposed to showing the full bench.  I think a developer misunderstood what was meant when someone says a certain player disappeared during the game. 
  • While nit picking the fact they didn't have our modern computers 14 years ago, notice the flat crowd. 
  • (8:01) There's a fight!  The game stops and the players skate over from the opposite sides of the ice to dance (this isn't staged, why do you ask?).  And by dance, I mean they pushed and shoved for about 12 seconds before awkwardly swapping punches and ducking in rhythm while turing into a cross of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and Mike Tyson's Punch Out.  Most odd is the fact that they're not holding each other while they trade "hay-makers."  Unless they're using the Force so let's go with that.
  • (8:17) Jim Hughson channeling his inner Kermit the Frog with the pronounciation of the word "altercation".  Overall the commentary with Hughson and Daryl Reaugh felt very stilted. 
  • And, like every other game we think we remember from the late 90's, the first period ends scoreless.
Ahh, the good old days...Nope don't really miss it.  But I do miss having intros for these games.

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