Ice Hockey (NES)

Game Review

Ice Hockey Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Not that cool any more

Nintendo released a number of sports titles in the NES era, a reflection of a simpler time when having a fancy home console was enough of a novelty that a game simply called Ice Hockey would seem like an awesome prospect. You like Ice Hockey? You've got Nintendo? Get Ice Hockey, which is Ice Hockey on your Nintendo!

That simplistic charm was a part of the whole 'sports' series on the system, which can't disguise the fact that some of these releases are mediocre at best. As one of the stronger entries in this series of sport games with boring names, Ice Hockey does stand as a solid experience; its sport of choice is well set up for fun 8-bit play, as it's based on end to end action that — to the untrained eye — is relatively chaotic. This came before officially licensed NHL games arrived and brought tactics and strategy to the table, and is just basic five versus five mayhem.

Mayhem is the operative word here. While going into a match does allow you to customise your team, this is a title that quickly becomes a frenzied bout of exercise for your thumbs. To get the tactics out there quickly, you can populate your outfield lineup with a mix of skinny (fast but weak), normal (all-round) or large (slow but powerful) players. It's a good idea to mix and match, ideally with a big guy at the back to get his sizeable frame in attacker's faces. If playing two-player with a friend try an all-fat match if you want to brawl, or likewise go with an all-slim line-up for a fast-paced and slightly confusing encounter.

In any case, the actual matches employ an unsurprisingly simple control scheme: A is pass while in possession and body check in defence, while B is shoot in attack and change player when without the puck. It's possible to pull off fake passes and shots if you're feeling fancy, but such is the feeling of frantic chaos — and the fact we're dealing with NES AI opponents here — that we focused on simply passing to team mates and getting shots away.

While in possession the controls work pretty nicely, though there's a stiffness to directing passes and shots that takes some getting used to; the goal tender's passing is even more limited, so adjustment to that quirk is required. It's fun dashing around in attack, with the aforementioned limited aiming options meaning that most of our goals came from lucky rebounds off the goalies — we were so grateful for a goal, due to this game being tricky, that we were often almost past the point of caring how it happened, in any case.

So far, so fun, but proceedings deteriorate in defence. When attempting to manoeuvre your man to execute a body check it's quite easy to aimlessly drift by, looking silly in the process. Somewhat dispiritingly, we found our best hope for defensive solidity was to spam the B button, which when tapped quickly makes players drop back and jitter around in the way of the attackers. Actually engaging opponents manually when defending your own goal is unwise, as you're also simultaneously controlling the Goaltender. If you move your defensive player up to challenge and the opponent shoots, your keeper will likely be hugging the corner of the goal like an idiot. Perhaps controlling your Goaltender and defenders at the same time was standard in that era, but it seems like a crazy design choice to the modern eye.

With practice and development of your own alternatives to resolve the defender / Goaltender control conundrum, this can be an undoubtedly fun and zany game. It has rad music, the visuals are composed of simple but energetic little sprites, and there are fun touches such as brawls that can be initiated when body checking. You simply tap A and watch a flurry of players dive in for a cartoon style brawl underneath comical fighting dust.

As for the longevity of the experience, its single player is down to individual matches. You can adjust the time of each period or, most importantly, the speed of the game itself in five degrees. The first two settings are the most manageable, after which the movement of the match becomes a frenetic blur of button tapping. There's also two player — once you get around the Wii U Virtual Console's annoying setup that seemed to insist we make the GamePad player two — which is certainly fun with a like-minded friend. Not a long diversion, necessarily, but harmless and silly enough to prompt some laughs.


At the standard NES Virtual Console price, Ice Hockey provides a decent option out of the 8-bit sports games to arrive on the Wii U Virtual Console so far. When in possession the gameplay is pretty serviceable and relatively fun, though defending is a fiddly, unsatisfying setup. Taken as a whole it has enough charm and energy to raise a smile, while it may be one of those humorous one-off games for a quirky battle with a friend. It has lost some grace in its age though, and isn't as slick as it perhaps once was.

From the web

Game Trailer

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User Comments (34)



Mk_II said:

One has to question this weird habit of releasing all these at best mediocre 8 bit games when there are so many gems in the Nintendo back catalog.



XCWarrior said:

All of these basic NES sports titles they keep releasing should be $2 a piece. There are so many better NES sports games options. Why can't we have those instead.

Bases Loaded II,III,IV, Baseball Stars, Blades of Steel, Tecmo Football, Tecmo Basketball, etc. Come on, let's see those.



bezerker99 said:

This game would be awesome if Nintendo decided to update it with online play. It would definitely give this old 8bit classic new life.



OorWullie said:

These old sport titles should really have been released as a set,called Nintendo Sports and released for say $10.They could even have gone further and made it where you can have a multiplayer tournament across all sports,or be even more ambitious and add online play.Its Nintendo though and sadly VC and ambition don't go together.



sinalefa said:

Looks at review picture in the main page

Whoa, that game looks so realistic!

Bad jokes aside, I will "sample" this game via NES Remix 2.



6ch6ris6 said:

WHAT ??? 5/10

i had this game on my wii and it was a BLAST! especially the multiplayer is incredible fun! music is awesome too




Captain_Gonru said:

@OorWullie While I like your idea, I would want such a compilation to be done "NES Remix" style. For VC, I prefer games as close to the originals as possible. (And no, I don't even like the Save State option)



JJtheTexan said:

Loved this game as a kid. Played it again on Wii Virtual Console a few years ago and realized this title has NOT aged well at all.

Frankly it only deserves a 5/10 if it's priced at a buck or less. For $5, you're not getting your money's worth.



Ninhau said:

I think its a great idea to release these old games for the VC, but not at 5$/€... that's just insane!!! more like 1$/€... tops. They're not worth 5€, imo.



Yoshi said:

Hmmm….a little low in my opinion. This game is pretty good. Don't forget you can enter in the button combination on the start screen to get rid of the goalies. Then you can have a really chaotic match!



marck13 said:

Would buy in a heartbeat if there was online play.
..it's (sadly) still the best true ice hockey game on the Wii U..
Sometimes (or often) I wish Nintendo would buy all the sport licenses there are, so that EA would be basically jobless.



jpcline004 said:

I agree this is overpriced (like all VC games), but I think it's one of the few early NES games that still holds up pretty well. The gameplay reminds me of NBA Jam and is really fun in two player mode. The best part is hearing the crowd roar when you start a fight!

I would give it an 8/10, at least. A 5 is a pretty off base considering baseball and golf got 4s and are damn near unplayable.



Gold said:

In the 2nd screenshot it should be 0-1 when it comes the Mario 3......

Sorry, couldn't help it.



Darthziggy said:

@brewsky Don't forget about the friction-less puck code, too. Take a slap shot wide and watch it go bouncing around the ice without slowing down. Crazy!
I loved this game as a kid, played so many "Olympic" tournaments against the computer. Granted I haven't booted it up in a while, and I agree with others that $5 is way too much nowadays, but it's still great fun.



Finntendo said:

And here I thought you were dissing hockey... I know these look poor nowadays, but when you were a kid... just great.

I have to say never own NES, but NHL95. Probably my most played game. Got blisters, learnt to score a goal without looking tv. Pens for the Cup o/ (still rooting for 'em)



Windy said:

Im still waiting for a new hockey game. Maybe they release these because they don't have an updated version on Wii-U or 3ds



Cyberbotv2 said:

I bought this on my Wii a few years ago. It was ok. They really should add online play as a dlc.



JustinH said:

This game is a ton of fun if you can get in the right mindset for it. The whole key to it is controlling the goaltender — you have to pretty much abandon all semblance of playing defence and just focus on stopping the puck with the netminder. That sucks, but that is the game in a nutshell. Well, that and customizing your team, and the awesome fighting system.

Now bring on Blades of Steel!



micronean said:

I liked ice hockey a little more than Blades of Steel. But I haven't played either of these games since 1990. I'd like to see how they hold up.

but now you know WHY EA sports was so revered back in the day. Their NHL games were truly groundbreaking, as was the first FIFA. They changed the console sports software landscape completely.



KnightRider666 said:

I think this game's worth a 7. This along with Blades of Steel are still amongst the best hockey games of all time.



AkDeath said:

They need to port NHL 94' for snes to 3ds and include online play. It is easily the greatest hockey game ever made. Ice hockey was fun as a kid but I'll agree with the review, it just didn't age well.



iphys said:

I always found it really easy to defend in this game. You just leave your goalie back on the goal line and dead centre of the net, as opposed to coming out to challenge like a real goalie would. Only a perfect shot will be able to get by on either side, so just leave your goalie in position and patiently watch the other team take their shots until you gain possession and can go on offense.



64supermario said:

The first time I played this was after the Wii had been out for a few years, and I still found it extremely fun. I don't really think its aged for me. I'd give it at least an 8.



Sidewaydriver said:

Whoever is buying these NES sports games needs to be punched in the head. Every time we reward Nintendo for giving us garbage, it encourages them to give us more garbage.




Somewhere between 8-9 for me. I'm wondering if the author enjoys the sport. Don't know how much I would of enjoyed the game if I didn't grow up playing street hockey or if I wasn't a Pens fan.

Go team Poland!!!



defrb said:

7-8 for me, but only in multiplayer.

Blades of steel was the best, i agree.

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