We Hardly Knew Ye, NHL ’94 Rosters

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Many years ago in another blogging lifestyle, I was bored and started to wonder about the classics. Not music, but a video game that took up much of my youth– NHL ’94. Therefore, I went to NHL94.com and luckily, they had a lot of resources I needed– though they didn’t have a list of still active players. So, I decided to do what any sane person would do and that was print out the roster sheets and go one-by-one about who was still around and where they were.

For a time, I kept up with it, making sure to denote when guys were retiring and update where they were going to when they did move around. Then I stopped for a bit and here I am again. Hell, I was able to interview Ron Barr, the face of EA Sports’ newsdesk and write about the top ten things I loved about NHL ’94 thanks to Greg Wyshynski when he was at Puck Daddy.

Why am I bringing this up?? Well, with Jaromir Jagr seemingly leaving the NHL forever– he’s the last one to keep playing in the NHL from NHL ’94 and it’s the end of an era for a lot of people. Though, earlier this year I said Jagr probably should have hung them up before the season rather than have a go at it, but that’s neither here nor there.

Luckily, while all the players of NHL94 are retired, the game lives on with the NHL94.com guys and the tournaments they put on around North American (and I think the world, but don’t know).

On the Topic Of NHL18

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NHL18 looks terrible. Not visually– but conceptually…or lack of concept.

I’ll be first to admit that I’m not much of a gamer, but the NHL franchise for EA Sports has really become bland when you pit it against other sports games and what those game bring to the table.

In the latest trailer for the game, EA highlighted their NHL Threes mode– which is NHL Hitz, but with EA Sports powered behind it. They had all the fancy moves they wanted out of an All-Star Skills competition and, wait for it– MASCOTS….yup….Mascots. Their selling point has been reduced to mascots. Oh, and something they stole from MTV’s Rock N’ Jock– the multiplier puck….Dan Cortese should sue.

NHL-Roster-Update18 is just going through with the motions. With no competition for them, why would they want to up the ante outside of the hokey NHL Hitz clone they’re pushing right now. Sure, to have a be-a-player mode where your cliches are judged by the media depending on the inflection in which you say it doesn’t seem all that creative; but it’s much better than what you have going for it right now which– at least check– defensive skill stick and more dekes. Lovely.

When you put the EA’s NHL franchise against something like MLB: The Show or NBA 2K and their amazing franchise mode, it’s hard to say that this is anything more than NHL17, but with new logos and updated rosters. No impressive be-a-player modes where you play it like a roleplaying game, no creative GM or ownership modes. Nothing really worth the MSRP of $59.99 on the pre-order. Hell, at least with NHL17 you could get the AHL and ECHL (which NHL18 doesn’t not have as of time of this post; though, if you find confirmation– lemme know).

The thing is that EA Sports is becoming Upper Deck in that there’s no competition for them, so why bother upping their game. With Upper Deck, they’ve become very bland with their cards, not making them at all unique to what they used to be. Simple border, picture, done. Sure, the sports card market isn’t what it used to be– but it doesn’t mean you stop trying. EA is doing that with their NHL because….well, there’s nothing out there that can compare. Sure, 2K tried their hand– but failed and once EA got the exclusive rights– it was game over for creativity or going that extra mile to give some unique gameplay to a sports game.

The hype surrounding the NHL Threes, as EA would have you believe, makes me wonder if NHL18 shouldn’t just be the NHL Threes platform with a much lower price-point, say $10-15 dollars. That way, you can get the casual player to have some goofy fun time and if they wanted the full NHL game– they could pay the $45-50 on the full game with all the modes.

As it stands right now, they’re not selling me by going the NHL Hitz/Hit the Ice route. Sure, I’m not their target demo, but as a casual fan I wanted some time-killing fun– let me get just the NHL Threes game and the rest can be for the more hardcore fan. Yet, my hope is that some independent designer can make a hockey game that’s somewhat visually appealing and fun to play.

Maybe someone can pick up the pieces of Old Time Hockey and run with it or develop a new Eastside Hockey Manager– but with the juggernaut of EA– I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.