NHL '97

a game by Electronic Arts, High Score Productions, and Black Pearl Software

Platforms: PCSega GenesisGenesisSNESSNES

Genre: Sports

See also: Hockey Games, NHL Games, NHL Games

The early offering of an NHL title for the fading 16-bit SNES is upon us. However, instead of supplying sharp new features as the Genesis version did, this NHL '97 is almost identical to last year's fine offering. It has the same gameplay engine and options; the only real change is in the updated rosters.

Using an overhead view, NHL'97 has exciting gameplay marred only by slightly loose controls. The graphics are clean, but the players' movements are choppy and it's hard to gauge exactly where the puck is going at times. Organ chimes along with faint on-ice sounds and an intelligible announcer comprise the audio track.

NHL '97 isn't a bad game, it just isn't a new one. Fans expecting a dramatic upgrade will be sorely disappointed.


  • To fool opponents, make a break with the puck and head for the goal—opposing players will swarm you. Then, at the last instant, pass the puck to a teammate, who will have a better chance to score.
  • When you're in possession of the puck, get past opposing players with the Spin-o-Rama (tap the top Right button).

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NHL '97 Downloads

NHL '97 download

Once again, EA's NHL series skates to a Stanley Cup finish with topnotch new features, improved graphics, and the usual addictive action.

Power Play

Along with the real-life '96 rosters and teams, NHL '97 delivers awesome extras like two All-Star teams and the U.S., Canadian, and European National teams. Even better, NHL'97 loads up star players with cool special moves that enable them to pull fancy feats and dekes on their way to the net.

Beyond the usual shootout, exhibition, season, and playoff action, NHL '97 faces off with two sweet new modes. In the Skills Challenge, gamers take on four drills that test their skating prowess, shot power and accuracy, and goaltending skill. In the Practice mode you hit the ice alone or with a teammate to take on two, one, or no opponents. Both modes really help you improve your game, but more importantly, they inject the game with another layer of raucous, competitive, Open Ice-style fun.

NHL All-Star

In other respects, NHL '97 has changed little from last year's game. The sounds are virtually the same, which means bone-jarring effects and organ music straight from the rink. The controls also remain unchanged, so you'll find responsive handling and sweet moves like fake shots, drop passes, and more. Graphically, some hot new player animations liven up the game— the new goalie saves are particularly cool. But the smooth player movements and respectable rinks stay true to NHL '96.

As always in this series, the latest NHL attains a new pinnacle of hockey action. On the surface, the game seems very familiar, but NHL '97's killer new features build added depth into the game. Diehard hockey fans will snap it up, but the less fanatical should rent first and scope it out themselves.


  • In the puck-handling relay, pound on the speed-burst button whenever you come to a straight stretch.
  • Circle behind the goalie and pass to the center for a deadly one-timer shot.
  • Using the new special moves on star players is one of the best ways to deke the goalie.
  • Triumph every lime in lights by jamming Button C—eventually, you'll pull your opponent's shirt all the way over his head.
reggie posted a review

NHL 97 hits the ice with an all new Skills Challenge to see how well you perform in the Puck Blast, Rapid Fire, Shooting Accuracy and Puck Handling Relay.

1997 edition of EA's NHL sport simulation series. Improvements in this edition come mostly in the graphical arena, with a refined version of the "virtual stadium" system that adds new camera angles (including the classical top-down one strangely missing from NHL 96), and polygonal players instead of the bitmap-based ones with motion-captured animations.

Fifteen new signature moves have also been added to better reflect the skills of actual pro hockey players. You can play as or against the United States, Canada or European National teams. Returning to the game are: all 26 NHL teams (rosters reflect the 1996 season) and players (with ratings based on the 1995 season); two All-Star squads; configurable penalties; three difficulty levels; line changes; and the ability to create, trade, sign and release players.

NHL 97 features:

  • 26 NHL teams plus 18 international and 2 All-star teams,
  • Over 650 players, create and manage players,
  • 15 signature moves,
  • 9 camera angles,
  • Complete statistical tracking
reggie posted a review


Over the last five or so years, I've gotten excited about playing three games: Doom, Doom II, and Command & Conquer. Excited to the point where homework didn't get done and student papers didn't get graded, where I didn't worry about drinking coffee after 9 pm because I knew I'd be up 'til 3 anyway chasing someone and trying to kill them. What's significant about those games that have gotten me excited? Right, no sports games. For me, EA's NHL '94 on Sega was the benchmark, and until I found a computer game that could rival that cartridge -- looking and behaving enough like the real thing but still being playable on screen -- I'd be a skeptic. Hardball 5 came close, but this game, EA Sports' NHL '97, cured my skepticism.


The first thing you notice about NHL '97 is the amazing amount of work that went into the overall design and user interface. 3-D graphics and cool animations are all over the place. If you've played any of the recent EA games, you know they've got an outstanding game engine (Virtual Stadium), but beginning with the solid metallic thwap when you click the 3-D spinning checkmark to go forward, you know this is a solid game in every other way, too. Killer details abound. The ice gets more scraped up as the period goes on and is then (presumably) Zambonied at the intermission. The players move and tire. The replay feature allows you to review a shot, check, or anything else from any angle you want at any amount of zoom as long as you stay in the arena. And it's not even that easy to win.

I read in the manual that there's a lot of management, trading, and other stats-type stuff you can do, and I know there are a lot of fanatical stat-geeks -- like Haldi, our hoops game critic -- who just love to do all that stuff. But because I only like the action and I don't really care that Gretzky is now with the Rangers and no longer with the Blues, I didn't do any trading. Rest assured, though, if you want to mimic every trade, or you want to create, manage, and play a team of left-handed mutants, you can do it.

There are flaws, of course. I didn't subtract seven points from the review score because I'm the Bulgarian judge and EA is an American gymnast. No, alas, there are a couple of bugs. If you score and then view the replay you can't change your line; you're stuck with whichever line you had before you started the replay. More importantly, there are times when your goalie has the puck in his glove and the stupid ref won't blow the whistle. So eventually you have to throw the puck even if there's someone standing right there waiting for you to bounce it off them and back into your net. Though it's nice to have Brodeur or Fuhr doing their thing without your having to ask, I missed the option I had in my good ol'_ NHL '94_ that let me move my goalie over a larger part of the ice -- especially behind the net. In this version, you have no control over your goalie whatsoever until he has the puck in his glove.

Computer AI

It's hard to say what's smart (for a hockey player), what's stupid (for a hockey player), and what's just a limitation of the AI. Overall, I've found that the computer opponent at the Pro level is okay -- maybe like playing your younger brother who's almost as good as you, but keeps making stupid mistakes and refuses to learn from them (dang computers can't teach themselves!). The most annoying AI play is when it has a potential breakaway at center ice but decides to "dump and chase" or just dump it in for a line change instead of going one-on-one with the goalie.


So I've already mentioned how cool the Virtual Stadium engine is, but it's not just the overall stadium movement that kicks butt. The more subtle graphics, like player movement, are amazing too. If that wimpy-ass Gretzky falls down in front of you, you hop over him very naturally. You don't fly 50 feet in the air and bonk your head on the scoreboard. You don't do a triple back flip. You just gingerly step over him and skate on your way. The crowd, the cameras, the replays ... all the graphics are top-notch. I think the only thing I could ask for is some sort of interpolation during the frame by frame replays (hitting the pause button moves the replay on one frame at a time). While everything flows just great in real time or in slow-motion, when you go frame-by-frame you see what you're really missing.


A lot of time was spent editing the sound bites in this game. There are good and accurate crowd noises: the sound of the puck hitting the post is just as gut-wrenching as in real life; if you've got good speakers, the bass thud you feel when Lindros crunches a little guy actually hurts; the arenas have cool soundtracks (not just Hava-Nagila on the organ); and if your name is Dean you'll really feel in the game, because there's a sound bite that's something like "Hey, Dean!" as in Hey, Dean, pass me the puck! EA made a valiant attempt at coding the play-by-play, and I'd have to say it's the best I've heard of the sports games, but there are still the inevitable: "Brindamour passes to ... Brindamour!" or certain other little words and names just shouted out at random. There's also the occasional missed call: "What a shot! Great shot, Lemieux!" when what really happened was Lemieux shot the puck, my goalie blocked it, and a defender accidentally kicked it in.

System Requirements

Required: Pentium™ 75 w/ 8 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, MS-DOS® 5.0 or higher, 1 MB SVGA graphics card, SoundBlaster™ or compatible sound card, mouse

Recommended: Pentium 100, 12 MB RAM, 2 MB SVGA graphics card, joystick (gamepad)

Supported: Windows 95 native, SoundBlaster™, Gravis Ultrasound™, Windows Sound

System™, joystick, Gravis GrIP™ 4-player adapter

Bottom Line

NHL '97 is a game not just for hockey fans but for sports fans. It's for people who prefer the intensity of a playoff game to the star-studded flash of an all-star game. It's a game for people who would rather see an overtime than a slam-dunk contest. If you want to jump over the heads of your opponents, do two flips and then jam the stupid ball while holding your hand over your eyes, get NBA Live or its "high flying" automotive equivalent, Destruction Derby 2. If you want to play and feel like you're really playing the game, pick up NHL '97. I just completed my first 25-game season and finished Philadelphia in first place in the Eastern conference at 18-7-0, and the playoffs start in about five minutes.

reggie posted a review
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