NHL 97

a game by Electronic Arts, High Score Productions, Black Pearl Software, EA Games, and EA Sports
Genre: Sports
Platforms: Sega GenesisGenesis, SNESSNES, PC, Playstation
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 7 reviews, 10 reviews are shown
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See also: Hockey Games, NHL Games, NHL Games
NHL 97
NHL 97
NHL 97
NHL 97

Ice Hockey Is Cool. It's The Only sport where it helps to have a flat nose. In every other sport, people run about with expensive Band-Aids stretched across their schnozzes to hold their nostrils open really wide. In ice hockey, if they used them at all, it'd be to get their noses completely flush with their cheekbones: ice hockey players laugh in the face of anyone with a nose that isn't counter-sunk, or who has more than two teeth.

The game's getting more and more popular in this country. England even has a team in the inaugural European Champions League-type thing (admittedly they're getting stuffed by all the Scandos, but at least they're there). And the reason it's so popular is because it's so action-packed. Players get pucks in the mouth, hawk great gobbets of blood and shattered incisors without a thought, rake each other's spleens with sticks, smash each other into the boards and leave enormous tooth-gouges up the ice. A commentator on Dexedrine points out the finer points of all this to fans in baseball caps sporting the names of tractorparts suppliers, who burp, howl, stomp, scream, break wind and eat hotdogs with their mouths open. None of this happens quietly.

The art of noise

EA's series of games have always managed to capture a very good approximation of all this. There's everything from the sounds of stick on puck and bone, to authentically tinny organ music (with the crowd joining in) that's like something from The Carnival of Souls. There are grunts of pain when you floor an opponent and satisfying smacking noises when the puck hits them in the tads. A digitised announcer, complete with slight echo, calls the penalties out and recounts the goals and assists, and there's also a play-by-play commentary. The graphics, from the presentation screens to the ingame stuff, are presented to the high standards we've come to expect from ea Sports stuff, and the quality of in-game animation is as good as ever. Players lean into a heavy challenge, poke out their sticks to trip, or raise them across their bodies to crosscheck opponents, who sprawl on the ice, arms and legs akimbo. They even sit up before rejoining the fray. It's all played at a fast and smooth pace, too - if you have a decent machine. But then, all this was true of last year's offering. And the one before.

As usual, you can play one-off

exhibition games or a full season with every nhl team, or two all-star divisional teams. And the players and their telephone directory's-worth of statistics are all as up-to-date as possible. If you think a blue line is something to do with Jack Warner and a face-off has something to do with cosmetic- surgery, you won't give a toss about all this, you'll just want to know what you get from this version that you didn't from last year's.

This year's model

In keeping with ea's policy of always giving you a little something extra each time to keep you buying, this year there are national teams. Well, a few, anyway. Tucked among the club sides you'll find Team Canada, Team Russia, Team usa, Team Europe and... Team Scandinavia. This seems to imply that no Scandinavian country has a team worth mentioning in its own right, whereas in fact both Sweden and Finland have been World Champions in recent years (beating the usa in the process). You might think this patronising, and an indication of cultural imperialism. Or you might not.

The other Big New Tiling, and the thing we're all supposed to be getting excited about, is... the referee close-ups. When play stops, the camera angle changes to a zoomed-in view of one of the officials, who picks up the puck, skates stylishly through the players and places it where the next face-off will be. To be fair, it is extremely well done, well-animated, and the first couple of times you see it you'll think, Cool. But that's all. After that you'll want to switch it off and get on with the game.

Which leaves you with the fact that the game is basically the same all over again. Yes, it's a great game. It plays beautifully. It's easy to get into, and you'll soon be stringing passes together and raining shots down on the goal (if not actually scoring). Players react with intelligence when you're not controlling them (which makes it something of a shame when you get your hands on them, really). And once again, it's probably the best-realised sports game on the pc. But do we have to have one every year, regardless? Basically, despite the ref animations, a few graphical tweaks and a smattering of national squads, it's a data disk for those who simply must have this year's stats. If you have an earlier version and aren't an ice hockey nut, it's not an essential purchase. If you don't, and want a great game for your (top-level) pc, this is it.

Control yourself

Again, the controls utilise all those multiple button presses, without which EA seem to think we'd pine away to nothing and die, and which they like to force onto what you'd think would be the simplest of sports. If you have the necessary hand/joypad dexterity, there are fake shots to make the computer-controlled goalie fall over in amazement; drop passes, one-twos and first-time shots; and the extremely useful option to make your defenders Chit the ice' - in other words, throw themselves lengthwise to try to cover as much area as possible to block a shot. This isn't as insane as it sounds, given the amount of padding these people wear - it's just a question of finding the puck afterwards. (Usually it's in their mouth, where their teeth used to be.)

Download NHL 97

Genesis

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • Game modes: Single game mode

Player controls:

  • Up, Down, Left, Right - Arrow keys
  • Start - Enter (Pause, Menu select, Skip intro, Inventory)
  • "A" Gamepad button - Ctrl (usually Jump or Change weapon)
  • "B" button - Space (Jump, Fire, Menu select)
  • "C" button - Left Shift (Item select)

Use the F12 key to toggle mouse capture / release when using the mouse as a controller.

SNES

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • Pentium II (or equivalent) 266MHz (500MHz recommended), RAM: 64MB (128MB recommended), DirectX v8.0a or later must be installed

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Playstation

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

EA Sports also crushed hockey fans by booting NHL '96 into the 32-bit penalty box, but like Madden '97, NHL '97 sparkles with undeniable potential. For its 32-bit debut, NHL hits the ice with top-notch features like all the NHL teams, all-star teams, and all-EA teams; real-life masks on every goalie; coaching strategies that let you tune your defensive and offensive approach from the ice; several new checks; sweet motion-captured polygonal graphics; and signature moves for star players. In this early, unfinished PlayStation version, the A.I. hadn't been tuned at all, but it's clear that EA's augmenting NHL's traditionally ferocious arcade pace with solid sim elements. The realistic stick handling, for instance, so far poses a tough but enjoyable challenge.

Want some realistic hockey action? The upcoming NHL '97 for the PlayStation should give gamers just that. The game features all of the NHL teams with over 600 players. Each player has his or her own updated slats and numbers. The game also has trade updates along with the actual team logos. The polygon characters and their movements have been captured to ensure animation that is truly lifelike. This way hip checks, rushes and snapshots will be like playing real hockey. NHL '97 will have multiple camera angles as well.

Specific player movements will be seen in the game like fancy stick-work or maneuverings. Gamers can also create teams and trade players in the Coach Mode, and then play a quick exhibition game against a friend, be sure to check out John Davidson hosting the game. It's just like like watching real hockey. Chances are neither the graphics nor the gameplay will be slowing this game down.

The EA Sports crew is getting ready to lace up the skates and head out onto the 32-Bit gaming ice. They are readying the zamboni and are hoping to sweep the competition.

They were showcasing their game behind closed doors at E3. The game is in its early stages. They are hoping to build on the recent success of NBA Live '96 for the PlayStation.

The PlayStation version will have three skill levels and a season, playoff and they are contemplating a shootout feature. Transaction options include trade and create player features as well as an elaborate Stanley Cup presentation complete with actual NHL post season awards being bestowed on the season's best players as well as the top scorer, goal leader, top defensive player and most sportsmanlike player awards.

  • MANUFACTURER - EA Sports
  • THEME - Sport
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4

Overview

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.

Gameplay

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.

Graphics

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.

Audio

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.

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.

ProTips:

  • 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).

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.

ProTips:

  • 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.

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

EA's classic NHL series has held the 16-bit Stanley Cup for years, and now It's finally ready for its first 32-bit appearance. With cool graphics and its trademark addictive game-play, NHL '97 looks like a solid player.

Features and Controls

For hockey fans, the big battle this fall will be NHL '97 versus Faceoff '97, and although it's still too early to pick a winner. NHL looks like it'll rank near the top. 16-bit pros will find all the familiar features, including the real-life players and teams; two All-Star teams; Exhibition. Season. Shootout, and Playoff modes; trades and player creation; and fighting. Although the signature moves for star players make for cool arcade fun, coaching strategies were axed late in the development cycle, which leaves NHL '97 trailing its competitors as far as feature depth goes. Hopefully, its gameplay will be tight enough to close the gap.

NHL pros will find the controls comfortable and familiar. On the stick, you'll find all the top moves, including fake shots, drop passes, one-timers, spins, quick stops, and hitting the ice to block shots. Skating and stick-handling are improved from the 16-bit games with a more lifelike feel that augments the realism.

Graphics

Even before the season kicks off, NHL '97's graphics already outshine those of Powerplay '96 and Faceoff '97. Highly detailed, fully 3D polygonal players skate with eye-catching realism and fluidity, and nice details like the names on the backs of the jerseys and real-life goalie masks add to the authenticity. Nine fresh camera angles, video clips starring John Davidson and James Brown, and TV-like commentary between periods top off the package.

EA's hallmark hockey series goes 32-bit with a PlayStation debut that delivers more of that familiar, flashy action. Despite the excellent graphics, NHL '97's addictive gameplay still finishes second to the top-ranked NHL Faceoff '97 (see "Sports Pages," December '96).

Dekes Like Fedorov

NHL '97's puck drops in Exhibition, Season, Playoff, and Shootout modes, and all the pro teams and players fill the benches. The game delivers all the right moves, including three checks, quick stops, 360-degree spins, fake shots, players hitting the ice, drop passes, hooking, and one-timers. You can also trade and create players, get in fights, and fire off fancy signature moves with star players.

However, NHL '97 falls behind on the strategy side by failing to provide the icon-based passing and coaching strategies (which enable you to call different offensive and defensive plays) that added unprecedented depth to Faceoff '97. Still, NHL '97 certainly isn't a shallow game, and many players may prefer its high-octane gameplay.

Genesis pros will readily adapt to the comfortable controls. Skating and stick handling respond very smoothly with a much more lifelike feel that's mildly tricky at first. On the down side, the finicky player switching sometimes interferes with taking over the key player, and occasionally it's hard to set up precision passing with just the directional pad to aim the puck.

Polygon Power

NHL '97 rules the rink in graphics. Spectacular animations bring the game to life as goalies scramble for the puck and players splatter into the boards after blistering checks. The polygonal look, though chunky, adds a strong 3D feel, and you'll find names and numbers on the jerseys, as well as real-life masks on all the goalies. A faster pace would have helped because the action slows significantly at times.

Good organ music and a decent but uninspired announcer round out the sounds. The on-ice effects score with cool touches, like the scratch of skates digging in, but the grunts begin to grow repetitive.

Faceoff Finesse

Hardcore hockey buffs will turn to Faceoff '97, favoring its deeper, more strategic features and gameplay. But if you want to juke goalies and rack up the score. NHL '97's setting off sirens with gorgeous graphics and its own brand of fun, furious action.

ProTips:

  • If you're controlling an agile player like Mario Lemieux, lure the goalie into reacting early, then use some snappy stick handling to maneuver around his save attempt.
  • If you're in a faceoff at your opponent's net, you'll score regularly a one-timer to the wing in front of the goal.
  • When taking control of your goalie, anticipate your opponent's shot early and begin your save before he actually shoots.
  • The hip check (Button R2) is the most effective wav to take down opponents, especially when controlling powerful players like Chelios.
  • If you don't have time to nail the puck carrier with a check, help out your goalie by laying down in front of the shot, which reduces the scoring opportunities.

Snapshots and Media

Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Screenshots

SNES/Super Nintendo/Super Famicom Screenshots

Playstation Screenshots

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