Overall Rating: 4.5/5
When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, the burden primarily fell upon Nintendo itself to develop, market, and release new titles for an eager audience. One of the product lines that Nintendo churned out was its early sports titles with simple graphics, simple titles, but potentially well-made quality. While some of the games were clunkers, such as Baseball and Golf, other games were spectacularly addictive, such as the now-classic Ice Hockey.
Featuring the ability to choose from different countries as the team of choice, it also had the brilliance of selecting from three different types of players to form the four hockey players on each team. There was a skinny guy who was good at the face-off and very fast but had soft shots and got knocked around easily, the average guy who was standard at every skill, and the fat guy who was huge and slow and poor at the face-off, but good at body-checking everyone else and had the hardest shots. This element alone would lead to fun hours of friends debating the merits of team mixes then putting them to the test in hotly contested games.
This was not the most state-of-the-art looking game, but its appearances were intentionally simple, cartoony, and lighthearted. The skinny guys were definitely comically skinny, and the fatties were nearly perfectly circular in appearance. The rink itself was clean; the crowd was a series of heads ala Punchout! style and the lines were plain and prepped. Not fancy, but not flawed, either.
Sensational soundtrack here, with an unmistakable buzz of a surging crowd and an intro song that is still stuck in the heads of thousands of players who lost hours of their lives to their addictive game. The whistle was appropriately shrill, the buzzer to end the period was classy, and the Zamboni song would provide many with a sentimental smile.
There would be some competition (most notably from Blades of Steel), but Ice Hockey was the hockey game that kept the game simple, and most noteworthy, allowed customizable teams, along with the ability to set the power of a shot depending on how long you held the button down.
The true strength of Ice Hockey was the unmistakable presence of fun. It was also good for a match against a friend, and was among the most tightly honed of Nintendo’s early sports titles. With a well-developed formula backing a focus on fun, it earns a place in our fond gaming memories and a rating of four and a half stars out of five.
To see what other NES games were loads of fun in a modest package, NintendoLegend.com.