NHLPA HOCKEY '93 / Electronic Arts / Sega Genesis

With the first NHL Hockey game, EA had the NHL license for team and logos, but not the separate license from the NHLPA for player names and images. I guess they didn't have the money for both, so this time out they let go of the NHL license and trade it in for the NHLPA license instead. Thus the title change. So now you've got player names and digitized black&white mugs, but teams are by city only and some of the colors are just a *touch* off to avoid the ol' lawsuits.

This is fundamentally the same game engine as NHL Hockey, but at least there's no Road Rash music on the title screen - it's been replaced with something still not all that great, but definitely more tolerable. Unfortunately, music has been added to the in-rink action, in the form of overplayed pipe organ tunes through the crappy Genesis sound synth. I understand the pipe organ is still a part of the game at a lot of stadiums but there should have been an option to turn this off, it gets annoying.

Game speed is now about halfway between EA Hockey and NHL Hockey - it's not as slow as NHL Hockey but not quite as fast as I'd like either. The goalie crease area is expanded to what it was in the pre-2004 NHL. Penalties are still mostly all-on or all-off, except icing which is always on no matter what, but you can select to have all penalties except offsides or no penalties except interference.

The AI is not much better - you'll see the computer pass and shoot on odd-man rushes now sometimes, but your AI allies rarely get into a good place for passes or rebounds, and when they do it's more an accident than anything else. The computer defense is still totally useless, making penalty kills a joke, as they are so passive and bad at taking the puck from you that you can just waltz down to their end and camp out for awhile, usually grabbing a shorthand goal in the process. The top goalies of the time, such as Ron Hextall, seem to perform a bit better than in the two previous games, but the mediocre to bad ones are just as swiss cheesy. The game still basically devolves into star players rushing the net by themselves - it's the only reliable way for a human to score unless you have a human partner to pass to. it's also the only way the computer will score on you, if someone like Messier or Roenick gets a breakaway they basically are allowed to just shove the puck right past your goalie 90% of the time.

           I made Messier's head bleed for superfan #11 out there

Still no season mode - just one-off games, and a playoff of one or seven game series. You actually get something for winning the Cup this time - a poorly drawn Lord Stanley is pasted onto one of your players hands during their normal post-game celebration. As Pokey the Penguin would say, Hooray.

This one was nice in '93 when there was really nothing better and it was still a pretty big advance for hockey games, but from a retro perspective, it's almost valueless now except for nostalgia. If you happen to have a Genesis and can grab a soiled old cart for two or three bucks or something, then it's worth it I guess, but otherwise you're better served by one of the later NHL games.

                          Lemieux LOLs @ your power play

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