Tuesday, November 07, 2006
NHL 94: A Compelling Read
Much has been made about the actual video game. We agree with everything that has been said, it is the Beatles of video game hockey. However, that is not why I am here today. Today I want to look at the most underrated part of this game. No, not the crowd meter, not the unstoppable force that is the Phil Housley, today I am here to talk about the Instruction Manual.
That may sound a bit weird, but I assure you once you look at it you will understand. To begin with, it is 88 pages long. That’s right… 88 pages. The game involves 3 buttons and a directional pad and still produced the longest instructional manual of all time. Let’s have a gander:
1) We open up this magnificent text and find a picture of Mark Lesser. This section is called “About The Man”. We learn:
-Mark and his wife are raising two boys in New England
-Mark programmed and designed the hardware chip for Mattel Football and Auto Race in 1976.
-Mark's hobby is “Programming games”. Okay Mark… we get it.
2) On the first page Sega politely offers an “Epilepsy Warning” and some useful hints to avoid an epileptic seizure:
PRIOR TO USE
- “Sit at least 2.5 meters from the television screen.”
- “If you are tired or have not had much sleep, rest and commence playing after you are fully rested.”
- “Make sure the room in which you are playing is well lit”
-“Use the game on a small a television screen as possible (preferable 14” or smaller)”
- “Rest for at least 10 minutes per hour while playing a video game”
- “Parents should supervise their children’s use of video games”
- I am not even sure they make TV’s that small anymore and I am positive that no SEGA controller was ever 8 feet long. The two I have are like 3 feet long and force you to be as close as humanly possible to the TV. As for the resting before commencing nonsense… they have got to be kidding me. Furthermore, parents buy their kids video games so the DON’T have to supervise them.
3) The next section is basic controls. I am still impressed that you could do so much with so little. With 3 buttons you could: Speed Burst, Body Check, Change Lines, Flip Pass, Clear Puck, Pass Puck, Wrist Shot, Slap Shot, One Timer, Change Player, Dive, Control Goalie, Hold, Hook, Poke Check, Trip, and take the face off.
4) The game came with an abundance of new features. If you recall, that was the best part of buying the game each year. You read the back of the game on the way home to get an inside look at what Ron Barr is bringing to the table this year. The big one here, the one that makes this the best hockey game of all time, is the One Timer. They give us a brief description of it:
“A One-Timer is a maneuver between two teammates: Player A has the puck, passes to player B, who lets the puck ricochet off his stick in an attempt to score without taking control of the puck. One-Timers are more powerful shots, so use them often for power goals.” Anyone seen Dave Lewis?
-The rest of the new features include: Goalie control, Shootout game, Penalty shots, bench and board checks, Variable player ratings for players on hot or cold streak, saving player records, Flip passes, Reverse-angle replay, Clear the zone, Auto line changes, Tougher computer control, tougher goalies, player profiles with 144 pictures, local organ music, no fighting or blood, and two expansion teams. That is quite the list; it also reinforces the fact that they are not playing '94 in Swingers, because Gretzky never would have bled.
5) Now we get to the Table of Contents… seriously, this frigging manual is monstrous. Because they went through the effort of making a contents page, I am going to utilize it here. Lets jump to:
-Page 19: Skating
“Skating skills are fundamental to good hockey. You need to skate well to check hard, to avoid checks and deke the goalies”
-I agree, but the game pretty much takes care of the skating for us. This should just explain that you need pound the ever living crap out of the C button until your thumb starts aching so you can lay out the opposition.
-Page 23: Penalties
-Just go ahead and rip this page out, you will not be needing it
-Page 29: Scoring
-“One point is awarded per goal.” This is getting a bit elementary I would say. Who is flipping through this thing saying, “I understand the concept of a delayed penalty and my defense is fine, but how many f’n points is a goal worth”
-Page 30-33: Line Changes-This was always a controversial topic. Do you play with line changes on or don’t you? Every group of friends had their way of doing it. As for me, I used to play with the line changes on, now I don’t. However, I must say it still is quite amusing to see a line made up of Gilbert Dionne, Benoit Brunet, and Todd Ewen. Also, 4 pages for line changes? Come on.
-This section could go on forever. They go into extreme detail on every single feature of the game. It is pretty amazing how much the can get out of a section titled “changing and removing goalies”.
6) Next we have the “Rosters and Ratings” section. They go through every single team and list all of the player and team ratings. This is, hands down, the best part. You could spend hours with this thing.
-Worst player in the game: Myles O’Conner of the Devils, with Tony “The Twister” Twist of the Nordiques just slightly worse than Myles at a ranking of 33. This has got to be depressing. Imagine you are Tony Twist's son. You run out to get the game, explain to your friends that your pops is actually part of this wonderful game. Then you realize he is the second worst player in the league. Not only that, out of 100 possible points, he was only given 33. Tony has devoted his life to Hockey, spent his entire childhood practicing day in and day out and Mark Lesser decides he is a 33… I would be livid. The Twister's true talent was not even allowed to be showcased in this game. I remember the Twister throwing down with Adam Oates right around the same time as this game came out. Well Tony, we will give you the respect you deserve here. Watch the Twister in action. (I appologize about the music, apparently Tony Twist fans aren't into Buffett)
-Best player in the game: Mario, he is the only 100. Bourque is a 99, Belfour is a 98, and after them it is goes Molgilny, Yzerman, Oates, LaFontaine, Selanne, Roenick, Gilmour, and then Gretzky.
-That’s right, The Great One is an 87. How can this be? Well in fairness to EA Sports, he is not the easiest player to assign quantitative value too.
-Best teams in the game: Blackhawks, Bruins, Flames, Red Wings, and Penguins.
7) After the credits section, they provide you with 4 blank pages for Notes. It actually says “Notes” on the top. Needless to say, the notes in my manual are just degrading insults about my college roommates.
8) On the back cover we get a little write up on the Emmy Award winning reporter Ron Barr. Barr also takes this time to plug his sports talk radio broadcast, Sports Byline USA. Amazingly, Ron is still the host and chairman of Sports Byline, which is in its 19th year. Good for you Ron.