The Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame presents: Nintendo's Ice Hockey

This afternoon, I was greeted by Yahoo's Puck Daddy's news that EA Sports' newly-released NBA Jam-styled "3-on-3 NHL Arcade" has debuted to, um, middling reviews ('I can't recommend this game to anyone, including hockey fans.' said GameFocus. 'The over-the-top gameplay is a good fit, but it is a bit unimaginative,' states IGN.).

It was sort of disappointing news, since I like any kind of sport video game, even dumb ones. And since I'm probably the last gamer on the face of the planet without a PS3 or XBox, I'm missing out anyway to do my own review. So, I figured rather than forking over $300 for a new cosnole, I'd just hop in my WayBack Machine, and do a series of articles on some of the greatest hockey video games of all time. Not only that, but I'm going to create the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame, aptly named the HVGHOF. Yeah, that's not a mouthful.

And the best place to start would have to be the beginning, at least for me. And that journey starts on the Nintendo, in a little game called called... Ice Hockey. This game debuted in 1988, at the height of Nintendo's heyday. It was part of Nintendo's Sports Series, a collection of games that included baseball, tennis, golf and volleyball.

This game introduced me and countless other gamers to the sport of hockey., especially out here in southern California. Sure, we knew about hockey, but none of us really played it, since frozen lakes and ponds were in short supply. But we were all hooked.

The thing that made it better than most other games was the ability to actually make a team, probably the first sports game to allow that level of customization. There were three kind of skaters: a skinny player, an average-sided player and... well, a fatty. Each team consisted of four skaters and a goalie, basically a center, two wingers and a blueliner. Each time you started the game, you could decide what size player to put where.

Personally, I always seemed to place a fatty on defense, and filled out the rest of the line with all medium-sized dudes. In fact, I never ever used the skinny dude ever, mostly because I viewed those players with the same disdain as fans to dislike visor-wearing Euros today. Unless I played a real human being, then we'd decide to "play fast" and pick all skinny guys, and it was sort of watching the World Championships now, scores were high and there was a premium on skill.

Now, I'm as American as the next guy, but lemme tell you: the U.S. team sucks. Seriously. No, I found out that the way to victory was greatly helped by picking the Czech team. They were the bomb. And invariably, they would never be taken if you let your opponent, "Aw man, you took Canada. Damn. Tell you what, I'll beat you with any team on here. Like.... um, I don't know... Czechoslovakia." And then I'd hang 14 goals on the poor bastard.

The game, albeit not very sexy-looking, was immensely fun. I could play for hours, switching up teams and smacking skinny guys off the puck until the street lights came on. And it really helped introduce me to the sport of hockey, and its weird rules. Like icing. Try describing icing to a West Coast teenager in the 80's, and you'd be met with a blank stare and probably a response of "Icees? They are O.K., but I like Slurpees better."

Unless you still had your old NES lying around, the only way you could play the game on your computer was if you downloaded an emulator, and tried to locate a ROM of the game. But, with the introduction of the Wii, you can now play Ice Hockey on your TV again. Just head into the Wii online store and upload it to your Wii. I guarantee it's just as good as you remember it.

I don't think I could come up with a better inaugural candidate for the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame. And it's just the first of many more to come. So stay tuned. And now, a humorous review of the game by GameTrailers.com.




 

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