There have been quite a few ice hockey games on the N64 and some have looked surprisingly samey. No, we're not looking at you, Wayne Gretzky. Oh all right then, we are... and we're pointing. Hang on though, sliding across the ice in slow motion comes something else. The crowd is cheering, the tannoy is bursting with over excited commentators and someone's dropped their hot dog. EA's NHL '99, the long distant cousin of the Sega Mega Drive's NHL game (which we so fondly remember) has just entered the rink. Torvill and Dean, get off and let us watch some serious action.
Unfortunately, ice hockey isn't that hot over here in Blighty but is apparently the fastest growing indoor sport, which means those eager to get beaten up on a solidified pond should well take a look at this. Featuring all the NHL teams and top international sides, all superbly animated in hi-res, you can then play any match (is that what they're called?) that the NHL recognises. Selecting any team you want, it's basically business as usual, undertaking friendlies, tournaments and championships. Only more so.
The controls are devastatingly simple and the analogue stick literally pirouettes about in its socket when used. The players seem to take pleasure in being controlled, sliding about and thumping each other with the most graceful right hooks you've ever seen. Yes, something we are all glad to see are the one-to-one fisticuffs that take place on the ice. They're no Mortal Kombat contenders, but hockey wouldn't be hockey without a good punch up.
Every aspect of ice hockey has been included, ranging from penalty time off rink, shootouts and the annoying organ music to the commentators urging people to buy their souvenir programmes. If it were any more realistic you'd need mittens!
The attention to detail was a major thing that got us rubbing our sweaty palms -well, Roy rubbed his sweaty palms, we rubbed our dry palms. The ice rink looks, sounds and would probably smell like real ice if we could get close enough and with numerous camera angles it is possible to get any decent view imaginable. The atmosphere generated by the crowd comes across so well too, that they boo if the away team starts scoring. Juicy! The players react to goals and other characters just as you would expect, and even the ref can be skated through so he doesn't interfere with play. Even juicier!
One rather spooky thing was that the texture-mapped faces of the players. They all looked the same. This is either down to cloning, or they are all from a large interbreeding family. No worry though, simply customise your own team complete with their own faces, numbers, weight and height. A word of advice though, a team of four foot players weighing over 300lbs aren't going to win.
If you already own an ice hockey game the chances are you not going to be skipping off down the shops with a fat wad of money for this one. If, however, you don't own one yet, and are interested in learning the delicate art of arguing over a flat carbon disk with other fully grown men... on ice, give NHL '99 a once over. It's the best ice hockey game on the N64, it's just a pity hardly anyone cares about the sport in England.
NHL 99 DownloadsNHL 99 download
Currently the best ice hockey game around, with a hi-res mode, very smooth controls and lots of fighting! If you like pucking, this is for you.
Good ice hockey but not great ice hockey. Wayne Gretzky offers a faster, more playable rink-based experience. Buy that instead.
Ducking in and out and tapping the jab button will keep your opponent busy. If you move in closer, you can try to really connect with a hook or a haymaker. On the top of the screen you'll see the strength meters for you and your opponent. If you can connect on your opponent more than he can on you, you'll knock him down first. Unfortunately, you'll both end up in the penalty box for fighting. This is the best fight game going on the N64 (and in between fights, you can even play a little hockey).
Actually, it's not the easiest thing to get in a fight. I've only gotten into two so far. According to the Instruction Manual, you have to slam into an aggressive opponent with one of your aggressive players. You'll want to check the statistics and trade for an all-out aggressive team to get in plenty of fights. Otherwise, you'll eventually see a few, especially when you really get into the game.
NHL 99 includes all the official teams (including the new Nashville Predators) and most of the current players updated from last year's rosters. It is licensed by the NHL and the NHLPA. Other features that are new to this year's version include Quickstart and beginner modes, coaching strategies by Stanley Cup winning coach Marc Crawford, and some international play.
You can choose the quick start option to jump right into a game. This is a good option for beginners, allowing you to get into the action without being confused by the multitude of choices that can be made. The main things that are dropped from this mode are penalties and the ability to switch strategies on the fly.
When you are ready for the full game, you can choose from beginner, exhibition, season, playoffs, tournament, and shoot-out. Season mode lets you play the exact season as it was really scheduled by the NHL.
Shoot-out mode is not only good to practice for eventual ties, but also to practice your approach on the goalie when you break out in the open. You need to get the goalie leaning one way and bring the puck back the other way to get it past him. Controlling your own goalie can be tricky, but it is worth the effort if you enjoy better control over every aspect of the game.
When controlling the player with the puck, you have plenty of moves at your fingertips. By tapping the Z or L buttons, you perform a Spin-o-Rama. The A button passes, and the DOWN, C combination will give you a burst of speed. The control stick allows you to move around or aim your shots.
When you control the player without the puck, you have a few different moves to make. The A button allows you to switch to the player nearest the puck. It is important to switch frequently, get in position to push down C, and slam into players from the other team.
On offense or defense, you can press LEFT, C to access a quick change menu to switch between four different approaches. This is useful, as you cannot control every player all the time. Your strategy will help you know what the computer-controlled teammates will do.
When you play against the computer you have three different difficulty levels to choose from (Rookie, Pro, and All Star). Once you get the feel for the game, you'll find that Rookie mode makes it far too easy to score. By switching to Pro, your opponents will be playing about the same speed you are. This, too, will become beatable with time, and you'll want to move to All Star level. In All Star mode, opponents move faster than you do and it is much more difficult to get the puck in the net.
All modes and levels allow you to trade players from one roster to another. While it compares the strength levels of the (up to three) players involved in trades, it will not prevent you from doing the most unbalanced trades imaginable. If you want all the best players from the various NHL teams playing on your favorite team's roster, it will take a few simple trades. After I made some trades, I found it a little difficult to change the lines in the game. Neither the manual nor the help in the game explains what the acronyms for each line stand for.
If you are a big hockey fan you will probably appreciate the number of penalties that could be called in the game. Of course icing, 2 line passes, high sticking and fighting are included, but the game also includes boarding, charging, cross checking, elbowing, holding, hooking, interference, roughing, slashing, spearing, and tripping. If your opponents get stuck in the penalty box, make sure you take advantage of the power play and score some goals. Even though they will get more defensive, make sure you keep the puck near your opponent's net.
As with all season-based games, you can choose to save or not to save. So if you are willing to put in the effort, you can have the impossible perfect season for the new Nashville Predators. This game supports the Rumble Pak, the Memory Pak, and four-player modes. It's got great music and the crowd effects really help you feel like you're at a real NHL hockey match.
This game is a blast. I would recommend this game to anyone that loves to play great sports games. It offers continuous action in an addictive flavor. The added effect of full scale fistfights is fun. I also enjoyed blazing around the ice with the speed burst button. Like most sports games, this is more fun against other humans than against the AI. This game is definitely worth playing, especially against your friends in 2 on 2 mode. You'll also find the announcer highly entertaining, it's the voice of NHL analyst Bill Clement, and he says some funny things.