|Blades of Steel|
While the NES plays host to several ice hockey games, many NESers debate about which 8-bit hockey game is the best. Some may say Nintendo's Ice Hockey, but others (including myself) feel that honor goes to Konami's Blades of Steel. Konami put together an excellent basketball cart with Double Dribble, so they decided to take to the ice and crafted an hockey cartridge that just excells in everything.
One or two players can lace up the skates this game. In the one player mode you can choose from either playing an Exhibition match or the Tournament mode, and each one has three skill levels, Junior, College, and Pro. In either mode you and another playcer chan choose from eight teams (not NHL teams, just the cities), each having their own strengths and weaknesses. After you choose the teams, the players then take to the ice for some serious hockey action. Games last three 20-minute periods, and you view the action from a slightly overhead side-scrolling perspective. Once the puck is dropped, you control the flashing player on your team as you fight for the puck to get it into the goal. You have to follow the standard rules of hockey, and that includes passing, icing, face-offs, and so on. Be careful if you repeately bump and check against another player; the two might start throwing punches, and if the gloves comes off, you enter a special fight screen where you and the other guy duke it out. The one who gets punched out gets sent to the penalty box, leaving his team short handed for a brief time. However too much roughness may result in a penalty, giving the other team a free shot at the net. At the end of three periods the team with the most goals wins, but if the game is tied, a shoot-out will occur to decide the match. This game also features a Tournament mode, which puts your team in a single-eliminiation tournament against the other seven squads. You have to beat each team to advance, of else your championship dreams are finished. Once you win three consecutive games, including the Championship game, you win the Championship Cup.
Konami did a great job in the audio and visuals. The graphics are very good; the players look realistic and have fluid animation. There is a bit of flicker, but no slowdown. The crowd in the stands may look like nothing but dots but they do react when goals are scored. The close-up scenes of the fights are especially well done, with large characters and the crowd cheering the background, and the shoot out screens are good too. The music tunes are few, with the only ones being the menu music, the intro before each period, and the organ music when a shot is made, but they're all done pretty well. There's plenty of great sound effects with bumps, grunts and groans, and the crowd noise is decent, except for the whistling sound that accompanies it. This game also features a few voice clips, which sound nice and clear.
The gameplay in this cart is just incredible, really matching the fast-and-furious action of real ice hockey. This game is easy to pick up and play, and it really gets fun when two players go at it. They players do move around on the ice as if on a real hockey rink, but there's no real problem moving them around with the control pad. The passing in this game is pretty smooth and not complicated. like in other games. On defense the computer automatically switches to the closest player to the puck, but you can easily switch defenders with the B Button. The controls also work well in the fight scenes; you can punch high and low and block high and low as well as duck and dodge. Blades of Steel also features a fair skill level. Scoring may be tough at times, but the game never really gets frustrating. The three skill levels are great for different skilled players, and even on the Junior level, the CPU team does put up a good game most of the time. The tournament mode is exciting to play through, and if you make it to the end, you're treated to a special celebration by the team. One more nice touch is sometimes during the intermission between the second and third periods, the jumbotron screen will say "ARE YOU READY?" and a Gradius mini-game will pop-up. If you destroy the ship you see plugs for other Konami games. It may be an obvious advertising ploy, but it's still cool of them to have done it.
In a rink of NES hockey titles this one is the true champion. Great graphics, sound, and everything else make this a top-notch cart. Blades of Steel may not have the complexity of other hockey titles, but isn't about that. It's simply about fun, arcade-style hockey that two players can enjoy, and this cart delivers in spades. Plus who can't get enough of the fighting scenes? This game is an excellent hockey game, and despite its age it even ranks up there with other great hockey titles like NHL '94 on the Genesis. Blades of Steel definetly wins the NES Stanley Cup.
|Site design and content © 1998-2009 Adam King
Nintendo and Nintendo Entertainment System are trademarks of Nintendo of America, Inc.