NHL 96

You're fucking right it is.

I’ve been listening to that EA Sports Guy tell me about how it’s in the game for almost two decades.  That’s insane.  I’m not even sure what it means.  I know he’s right, though… because I mean… where else would the sports be if not in the game?  The man speaks the truth.

I was too excited when I found out that I’d pulled NHL 96 in the review roster.  I still buy the yearly iteration of EA’s NHL Franchise (except for the years between 2004 or so until 2007, when I bought the 2K series because of it’s vastly superior roster handling and franchise modes… NHL 08, however, was the first NHL game to use the skill stick and the gameplay became too incredible to ignore).  I just recently won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a Power Forward in Be A Pro mode.  I took home the Calder Trophy for best rookie.

I like the NHL Franchise.

And the reason I like that Franchise is because of NHL 94 – NHL 96.  In terms of a top-down, accessible hockey experience, you basically couldn’t beat them.  There’s season play, create-a-player, quality animations (considering the era), reasonable game play, and general hockey goodness.  I was sort of blown away at the level of detail even in these older games.  At one point I took a penalty and as my player skated to the bench he whacked his stick into the boards in frustration!  I always thought that EA was surprisingly good at getting the little things right.

I actually sort of miss that top-down faceoff camera. They should totally bring that back.

Ok fine… your players skate around in sort of hilarious ways that have no basis on reality… and the boost button makes you fly around like you’re on rocket skates… and the wrap-around is basically unbeatable where in real life you just get drilled into the boards 90% of he time… but those are all besides the point because the game is super fun to play.  Plus it’s actually got your favorite players out there (Federov! Belfour! Sakic!  Yzerman!  Roy!) AND you can appreciate the nostalgia of something like this:

Hartford..? The Whale..?

Basically, if these games had the voice-over play by play of Jim Hughson I would be in NHL heaven.  Jim Hughson works for CBC but he was also the voice of the EA Sports NHL games from, like, 1997 until 2006.  He says stuff like, when scoring a goal in the upper corners “Upstairs! Where Norman keeps his mother!”  Honestly… Psycho references in a hockey game.  I miss Jim’s play by play in the more recent games.

So anyway, I can’t imagine anyone reading this review wanting to know about NHL 96.  You know what it is. You know what it is and you either love it or you hardly played it and didn’t give a shit.  Going back to NHL 96 is a nostalgia machine.  It’s awesome.

Poor Hartford....