Hockey at its very best, with a little more.
aryoshi wrote this review on .
That all changed. Konami put together Blades of Steel, one of the most recognized and loved hockey games on the NES, and of all time period. Not only could intense and blood-pumping rounds keep players on the edge of their seat, but several other features were introduced. Some of these features include the ability to take goal shots when the game ends with both teams at a tie, leaving the team with the most net shots as the winner of the game, switching turns between goalie and hitting the puck.
Another thing brought to Blades of Steel was a sort of brawling sequence. To get this, players of opposing teams must end up in a tangle when one of the two has a puck. Often, they will drop their hockey sticks and begin to hit eachother which, most of the time, opens up another screen with a close-up of the two, putting their fists up and changing the game into a fighter. Players are to participate in the fight and beat the ever-living crap out of their opponent for control of the puck, or lose and leave their opponent with the puck.
No actual offical teams are used or referenced in this game, but instead teams are shown by city and color (New York, Chicago, and so on). This doesn't take away anything from the game though, it's still as awesome as it possibly could be. Whether you're playing against a friend or the computer, it's an experience which cannot be missed, whether you like hockey or not. I, personally, was never a fan of it, but I set that aside while playing this, it's very involving and exhilirating, true competition at its best.
Good: Great multiplayer * Blood-pumping action * One of the best hockey games available * Very accurate and comfortable control * Offers both "exhibition" and "tournament" options * Junior, College and Pro difficulties for varied skill * Brawls really add to the action * Fairly intelligent AI * Good soundtrack
Bad: AI can be repetitive * Passing sometimes doesn't go to who you intend to pass to * In-game speech sounds muffled
Graphics: This is not a game to be put down just because it's over 20 years old and is 8-bit. The graphics are actually very good for what it's on. Practically, everything is doing something, including the audience. There is next to no flickering when a lot is going on at once and everything is so smoothly animated. During fights and the like, things still look really good. The field of play is nice and big, there is no crowding or feeling that there's not much room to move around, there's plenty. The angle during the main game was pulled off very well, as this game isn't directly top-down or from the side. It looks like you're sitting at the top row looking down. There is no disappointment for visuals at all.
Sound/Music: The main complaint with the sound shall be taken care of first. That is the in-game speech. Sure, it was very big for the time and exciting, but it's not much fun when you can't even understand what's being said. For example: everytime a pass is made, you hear "It's a pass!" but it sounds more like "Hit the puck" or even can be mistaken for "What the #%!%@?" It sounds like a bad recording of someone speaking with duct tape over his mouth. As far as the rest of the sounds go, they're great, everything you'd want from a hockey game: whistles, cheers, the puck getting hit, guys getting the crap beaten out of them, groans of falling onto the ice and everything else. The music, while not heard much, is also done very well and tends to be catchy at times.
Difficulty: The difficulty settings are defined by three different leagues: Junior, College and Pro. Of course, Junior is the easiest, Pro is the hardest. Overall difficulty can be quite a challenge, the AI tends to be rather good and proves its worth. You just might break a sweat trying to defend your score.
Gameplay: Blades of Steel's concept is very simple. It doesn't matter if you've had experience with hockey or not, this is a brand new experience. Of course, the goal is to get the puck and take it to the opposing team's net, making it past the goalie and making the puck go in to score points. There are three rounds per game, round two switching teams on different sides (first player's team will switch to the right side, second player's team will switch to the left). During the game, there may be encounters with the one with the puck and a fight may break out, in which case Blades of Steel turns into a mini-fighting game, leaving the two head to head and throwing punches to eachother. At the top of the screen during the fight is the "power" meter. Once someone's runs out, the man standing gets the puck. Fighting is done by dealing head and body blows while also blocking punches. Players pretty much have full control of their team, being able to pass as much as they want and taking control of the character whom of which the puck has reached. When the time comes for it, even the goalie can be used. If both teams end a game with an ending result of a tie, they will enter another mode in which the camera goes behind one player as he tries to get the puck into the opposing team's net. The other player controls the goalie, trying to keep the puck from successfully getting past him. At the end of this, the team with the most net-ins wins the game.
Control: A very easy aspect of Blades of Steel. D-pad moves the player around, B passes to others, A shoots the puck across the rink. There are times when you may try to pass to a specific member of your team, but it might pass to another instead. This is uncommon, but is an annoyance when it happens.
Overall: As I said before, I never got into hockey, never could. I actually don't like sports in general, there are rare occasions I may enjoy a video game for sports, but that doesn't happen very often nor does it hold my attention. Blades of Steel is something different, it kept and still keeps me for hours at a time, every single time keeping me exhilirated and giving my best. Of course, it may not appeal to everybody, but as a non-hockey fan who loves the hell out of this game, it's a nice little treat which doesn't grow old, let alone has great multiplayer competition. It's cheap, it's great and it's easy to find, so do yourself a favor.