ICE HOCKEY / Nintendo / NES
Alright! It's Ice Hockey! Why am I excited! I have no idea! Well, Ice Hockey is cute. It's even kind of fun in a boppy, fast-paced Tecmo Bowl sort of way. Of course, I think that's Nintendo's entire marketing strategy with these ancient NES games they keep dropping on the Virtual Console - get you to say "Hey, that old game is cute and looks kind of fun, I'll drop five dollars on it!" only to have you play it like maybe two or three times then never fire it up again. So it goes, I believe, with Ice Hockey.
Anyway - like all of Nintendo's early sports games there's no overarching goal of any sort, no leagues and tournaments and cups and etc., just essentially an endless string of exhibition matches to have a quick good time with. You've got the U.S.A. coming to the rescue one more time, Sweden, Canada, the scary Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and ... oh, I forgot Poland! This game was released in 1988 however, a good three or so years after most of the other Nintendo sports titles, so it has a few advantages. You can customize your team to some degree - for each position you choose Fat, Medium or Skinny guys. It should be apparent what their relative strengths and weaknesses are. The computer-controlled teams have differing default setups of Fat and Skinny guys so they're actually somewhat unique to play and require different approaches. That generic Nintendo title screen music has been replaced by a more pleasant little ragtimey sort of tune, and there's a nice upbeat boppy theme that plays when you are out on the ice.
It's four-on-four action in a rather small rink, so there's a whole lot of offense. You can adjust for seven, ten or fifteen minute periods, but time whips by at the speed of light regardless and those aren't anywhere near the actual lengths. All the hockey conventions are here, at least as many as can be in this limited form. There's even fighting which is particularly amusing - basically if you're sticking it out with a guy too long for the puck you jump on each other, and like the whole rest of the team dogpiles in, and whichever team pounds the A button more slowly gets a man sent to the penalty box.
Ice Hockey really isn't bad, especially with two players. It's probably the only Nintendo sports title on the VC I'd consider paying for. Just don't expect realism, depth, options, etc.
* Gameplay Video