Wednesday 25 February 2015

NHL Stanley Cup (SNES review)

Developer: Sculptured Software
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1993

NHL Stanley Cup is an ice hockey game featuring all 26 teams that appeared in the league at the time.

There's a few modes on offer including Exhibition, Best of Seven and Season Play which is battery saved so you can continue your progress at any time. Things get off to a great start with the fancy Mode 7 graphics and rotating camera which spins around before settling in at center ice while you wait for the puck to drop. When you're on offense the game plays well; it's easy to pass the puck to your chosen teammate and the action feels fast and fluid. It's exhilarating passing to an open man and charging down the ice as the camera follows behind before you launch a shot on goal! Things take a turn for the worse when you play defense though as the camera spins around 180° in an extremely disorientating manner. It follows the person with the puck and it's difficult to select a defender due to the sprite scaling which occurs when people are further down the ice. The game isn't very intelligent about choosing the best player as most of the time you'll end up selecting someone behind the CPU opponent. When you do have the right guy selected the choppy framerate and ever-changing camera angles make it pot-luck as to whether you put in a shoulder barge or simply walk straight past the attacker. It's a real shame as there are some great ideas here. There's an instant replay feature which includes 20 seconds of action and a sports anchor even appears at the end of each period to give you a rundown of how the match has gone so far - this adds a nice TV broadcast feel but unfortunately the players are just numbers (no names) so stat tracking is pretty pointless.

Perhaps if there was an option for the camera to stay on one side of the ice for the entire game this could have been a really fun experience. As it stands though most of the gameplay features just aren't implemented very well and NHL Stanley Cup is only really worth a look if you're interested in Mode 7 games.

Random trivia: If you're a fan of Mode 7 check out another title by Sculptured Software called NCAA Basketball (1992, SNES) as it features similar gameplay mechanics to this one.

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