TECMO SUPER HOCKEY / Tecmo / Sega Genesis

Tecmo Super Hockey is licensed by the NHLPA, but apparently not the actual NHL. So you get a full roster of players, complete with digitized pictures even, but the teams are referred to by their city only, and the colors are just *slightly* off of what the uniforms actually were at the time (though close enough to not really matter.) And of course, since they couldn't have two New Yorks, the Islanders get to be Long Island instead. No team logos, either.

The game has basically the same setup as the Tecmo Super Bowl series - you can play quick exhibition matches against the computer or another player, or play a full season controlling any combination of teams that you want. The season mode was nice for the time, since NHL '93/'94 didn't have it, and like Tecmo Super Bowl it keeps tracks of all the player stats and has leaderboards for scoring, goaltending percentage and whatnot. The player roster is from the 1993-1994 season, and while you can edit any teams lines to your hearts content you cannot trade players around or create new ones.

The game is seen from a side view, but in spite of the Super legacy it really isn't all that fast-paced or arcade-like, resembling more of a side-view version of EA's NHL series instead. Tecmo really seemed to phone it in on the cinematics that the Super games were known for, however, with just a token handful of unimpressive cutscenes (you'll very quickly get sick of the two ugly mugs who look like they are about to kiss each other shown at every face-off.) The music is also pretty horrid - instead of the catchy tunes from the football games, you have generic dance techno that sounds like Space Jam music (and which is not at all flattered by the Genesis sound chip) in the menus, and in-game is limited to sound effects and the occasional overused pipe organ riff. Animation is decent but the sprite work is pretty basic.

The game is basically solid in all aspects, but it doesn't compare favorably in gameplay to even NHL '93. A number of aspects of the control are kludgy, and the CPU AI is basically brain-dead. You'll easily weave through the defense for breakaways and odd-man rushes on the opponent all the time, but this is leveled out by the fact that your AI offense does nothing to help set you up or take passes, your defense is laconic and refuses to go after the puck if you aren't controlling them, and your goalie refuses to ever step outside the crease to collect a loose puck even if its one inch in front of him (and you can't control him unless he's holding the puck). Basically, the game seems to be designed to be a scoring contest between superstar players of the time like Lemieux and Messier, which is what it usually devolves into.

Shooting is probably the biggest problematic aspect. There really is no way to do a quick wrist shot, making passes on an odd-man rush and tip-ins from rebounds near the net virtually impossible. The game forces you to hold down the "shoot" button for at least half a second and wind up (you can't just tap it to flip a quick shot), so most goals turn into getting your best shooter parked in front of the net (not hard due to lethargic and stupid defense) and having them wind up and deliver a full blast right in the goalie's face. While lulzy to watch, you can also basically throw any real hockey strategy right out the window with this one. Also, the skating physics still feels more like running at this point, and the rink seems shorter than it should be.

Fighting is random, and totally crappy. Both participants get a five-minute major, which the game seems to ignore if you've set periods to less than five minutes. There doesn't seem to be any bonus for knocking the other guy out but the controls are such crap you probably never will anyway.

Oh, and one last thing - apparently the programmers couldn't figure out how to do line changes on the fly, so whether you choose to automate them or not, you still end up having to wait for the next face-off to get your tired players off the ice. And there also seems to be some weird invisible force field behind each goal, which nine times out of ten won't let you through, so don't count on any cool wrap-arounds.

All-in-all the game feels at least a bit half-assed, like Tecmo just wanted to sell it based on the "Super" name rather than delivering a quality product. I guess it plays well enough to be functional if you are jonesing for an old-school console hockey game with a full season mode, but there are much better options out there than this one.

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