Since it’s October and the hockey season has just begun I thought it fitting to highlight one of the best (if not THE best) hockey video game of all time, NHL ’94. In 1993, this game was released for all of the major 16 bit players back in the day but the Sega CD version is considered the superior version among many discerning hockey game aficionados. Thanks to the CD format’s advanced sound capabilities, NHL ’94 features team specific organ music that would typically be played between periods and during home team goals. This is a cool feature that was not lost on me. Less relevant to actual gameplay but cool for the time nonetheless, the opening credits feature video of actual hockey players and gameplay footage. EA Sports definitely wanted to take advantage of all the options of the CD-ROM format and did not fail in that regard.
Prior to purchasing the Sega CD copy of NHL ’94 not too long ago, I had been familiar with the Genesis version, which is also very good. So I had just assumed this was basically the Genesis version with more bells and whistles, which is pretty accurate. The already fluid controls from the Genesis version are still just as fluid and I didn’t find the act of controlling my goalie to be all that difficult. This new goalie control feature added to NHL ’94 was intuitive to manage and could have been a major source of frustration if it wasn’t integrated as smoothly as it was. The game features all of the NHL franchises from 1993 and is endorsed by the NHLPA which means players like Gretzky, Hull & Lemieux are available to control. At this point in the video game timeline, if you were a sports franchise and didn’t have real players & real teams, you were doomed to be a sales failure. EA Sports figured this out for this particular entry as it was their first hockey title to have both NHL team and NHL player endorsements. In order to get the NHL endorsement, EA had to remove the fighting from the previous game. If you want real players and real fighting features but none of the actual team names, get the previous entry in the franchise, NHLPA ’93. Personally, I think the sacrifice was worth it.
Admittedly, I am not great at this game and oftentimes lose to my computer opponents so I don’t know if that is a result of the game being difficult or simply me not having much practice/not being good at the game. Unless you’ve been playing hockey games all of your life, the learning curve for NHL ’94 can be considered steep. Franchise mode allows you to control a team through an entire season which has always been my favorite way to play any sports simulation game. Regardless of the learning curve, I appreciate NHL ’94 for the superior hockey experience it provides and I am truly in agreement that the Sega CD version of this game is the way to go if you had to pick one version to own.
Currently in my collection: Game, manual & case.