Just when you thought it was safe to go back out on the ice, EA comes up with another average NHL title for the SNES. The fifth time isn't a charm as this game slightly lags behind the Genesis once again.
Although '96 is relatively similar to last year's version, it has a few new tricks that previously were only available on the Genesis version. It does have Exhibition, Season, Practice, Trade, and Create Player modes, but direct playoffs and shootouts were left out once again.
ProTip: Circle the opposing net and look for a teammate crossing the crease for a one-timer.
What are Mark Messier and Scott Stevens gonna do without playoffs? But at least these guys are in the game, along with all the other pros and their respective teams.
And finally, after listening to the cries of fans everywhere, fighting is back on the menu. The only problem is the fights are dull and hard to control. If you want great fighting, step back in time to the days of NHL'93.
Nothing but Net
Above-average controls make NHL '96 easy for most pros, even when set on the expert skill level. New moves like a quick stop and a 360-degree spin add to the game-play, and one-timer passing has been implemented to complement one-timer shots. But why pass when you can zip right past your opponents and put one straight through the goalie's pads?
- Be careful near the crease. Get in the goalie's way, and you'll wind up in the box with an Interference call.
- Checking a player into the penalty box or benches takes him out of the play.
The graphics measure up to this year's Genesis version, but they're not as sharp. With detailed sprites and several new animations, it's not that big a leap from last year's colorful look. However, the fights look more like wrestling matches as the players smother each other.
The sounds of NHL '95 were like listening to the game from the locker room, and in '96, it's more like the parking lot. A snappy new opening tune and voice feature try to cover for the weak Pong-like sound effects that include muffled groans and gunshot checks.
Fights go quickly and are hard to control, so know your moves ahead of time.
Back in the Freezer Followers of the NHL series will debate whether the '93 and '95 versions are better than the '94 and '96 versions. If you already own '95, keep skating past '96.
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NHL 96 DownloadsNHL 96 download
Every year EA Sports' hockey games innovate and improve, and this year is no exception. NHL '96 retains its iron grip on the Stanley Cup with meteoric game- play and stellar new features -- though it doesn't revolutionize the game the way previous editions did.
The Great One
NHL always leads the pack in dazzling new moves. With a give-and-go pass, one-timer pass, and 360-degree spin, this version continues that streak. Other standard moves -- one-timer shot, drop pass, and so on -- remain in the lineup.
- Catch passes by switching to the receiving player as soon as possible and twisting his stick toward the puck.
- Use the new spin move to roil around checks.
The usual Season, Playoff, Regular, and Shootout modes provide more than enough action, and you can make trades and create players for all 26 NHL teams, which are equipped with the real '95 players. In a disappointing but realistic touch, no All-Star teams were included because of the strike.
Don't despair, though -- fighting's back! This NHL wisely corrects the biggest shortcoming of the previous versions: If the competition overheats, you can pound your opponent into the ice! Unfortunately, the view doesn't zoom in on the fisticuffs, and the subsequently muddled action won't entirely quench your bloodlust.
When things get hot in front of your net, have one man lay down in front of the goalie, then switch to a defenseman and gun for the puck.
The action rockets along at a much faster pace, and the tough computer players now cut off one-timer shots and play tighter defense, which makes for rich, strategic hockey. If you conquered earlier versions of NHL, the '96 edition will pose new challenges, especially with three new difficulty levels.
Use the new one-timer pass to quickly move the puck up the ice and create breakaways.
Realistic refinements to the gameplay also deepen the action. You won't automatically snare every pass that touches your sprite, but the familiar, acutely responsive controls let you easily pull off every move that your player is capable of in real life.
The graphics return to the style of NHL '94 with smaller, less detailed sprites that move with greater fluidity and grace. Fun animations (players grab different body parts for different injuries) strengthen the visual appeal. Solid new sound effects, such as the dungeonlike creak of the penalty-box door and the crushing thumps of checks, enhance the audio appeal.
To deck another player, repeatedly grab his shirt and pummel him in the head.
NHL '96 stands tall as the top hockey game, and it beats the pads off its SNES counterpart. If you own the '95 version, though, rent before you buy to make sure the improvements in NHL '96 are worth the green.
- When a weak-shooting defensive player has the puck on a breakaway, crank a slap shot from the blue line and try for the rebound.
- Pass from one side of the net to a player on the other (which should cause the goalie to move after the puck), to crank in a one-timer.
- EA for Genesis Sports
With sharper graphics, new moves, more scoring and FIGHTS, this game is gonna rock yer socks off! Grab a stick and kick some serious ass!
- System: Genesis
- Publisher: EA
- Developer: High Score
The Genesis version of NHL '95 was arguably the best sports simulation product ever. I was just hoping and praying that EA wouldn't change too much. Well, my dreams came true. EA added many new features and changed the look a bit, but the superb gameplay of the '95 version has only gotten better with time.
The players have a new sharper look and are starting to resemble humans as opposed to blocks of pixels. The sound has been enhanced with more effects like the slamming door of the penalty box. The computer opponent is a bit tougher, so that winning every game isn't as easy as last year. There are now three difficulty levels to choose from, although only the toughest is any challenge to veterans of the series. The goalies are tougher to score on. New moves and more ways to score, including one-time touch passes and a Spin-O-Rama add to the strategy. Completely updated rosters, season stats, trades, creating players, and four-player play are all here as well, making NHL '96 the new benchmark for hockey games.
And the fights are back! Missing from the EA hockey series since '93, the brawling goons have now returned. The fights have never been an integral part of gameplay, but they're a nice break in the action and good fun. However, EA has even managed to work the fights into the gameplay. When two players square off, the fight doesn't start until the gloves drop. If your top scorer is locked up with a big goon, you can hold onto your gloves and let the other guy pummel you. He'll receive an extra penalty for instigating. They've also added pulling the jersey over the other fighters head as an option. That's one humiliating way to lose a fight. Another great thing about the fights is that they don't happen often enough to get in the way of the game and only happen when two aggressive players confront each other.
The only thing wrong with this game is that every sport isn't captured this great. Buy this game now or I'll be forced to send a squid to your door.
- System: Super NES
- Publisher: EA
- Developer: High Score/Tiburon
As everyone knows by now, the Super NES version of the NHL series has been appreciably weaker than the Genesis every time. As a matter of fact, the Super NES version hasn't even been close once. That is, until this year. NHL '96 for the Super NES has all the features of the Genesis, plus a slightly sharper look and gameplay that almost matches up.
One plus on the Super NES side is the use of the L and R buttons, making it much easier to slam on the brakes and pull off a Spin-O-Rama. However, the computer Al just isn't solid enough to give the kind of challenge the Genesis does.
- Manufacturer: EA
- Machine: Genesis, Super NES
The greatest hockey game ever made, NHL '95, is back for another year on the 16-bit platforms. And at first glance, the '96 version appears to be even better. What's new? The fights are back! After a couple years absence, the fights have returned to the NHL series. What's more, is that the fighting is the best yet. You can even pull the opposing players jersey over his head, then pummel him.
The players' license, the stats, the one-timers, and the fast-paced action have all returned. Plus, the players have a sharper look, there's one-time touch passes, and the players can now stop on a dime. The computer goalies and defense are tougher, which is sure to make the season mode even better.
With all the new 32-bit games coming up, it's been hard to get excited about 16-bit games, but EA's NHL '96 is definitely an exception to the rule.