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NHL ’94 redux? Discussing the pros and cons of revamping that classic game

Sep 13, 2011, 4:02 PM EDT

Image (1) roenick-thumb-250x153-11466.jpg for post 6020 AP

Nostalgia can be an underrated – and sometimes borderline intoxicating – force. Luckily, it’s mostly a benevolent one, because hindsight gets far worse than 20/20 when people think about the brighter moments of their youth.

Studying those times through the cruel, cold gaze of reality can unravel some of your favorite memories. Here’s a quick list of the things that stood the test of time and a few elements I wish I never revisited.

  • As it turns out, “Thundercats” was not an Emmy-worthy piece of televised art.
  • Being a fan of professional wrestling’s golden era in the 80’s was simultaneously humiliating and kind of awesome.
  • To my utter shock, “Beavis and Butt-head” has actually aged pretty well.
  • Jeff Hostetler’s mustache remains awe-inspiring.

Hockey fans have their fair share of items that have been romanticized by nostalgia. One example can be found in sweaters. It’s easy to love the duds that Wayne Gretzky wore with the Los Angeles Kings and Pavel Bure donned with the Vancouver Canucks, but my soft spots for these Penguins uniforms and the “edgy” Buffalo Sabres look remain troubling.

NHL ’94 remains a beloved hockey video game

If there’s a near-unanimous shared experience among hockey fans, it’s the brilliance of the 16-bit era of EA Sports’ NHL series. Thanks to the cult classic Swingers (NSFW), many remember NHL ’94 as the height of that era, but it’s probably safe to say that people refer to that rough time period of Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo games under that banner. (The year-specific lack of clarity is that much more obvious considering that the Swingers clip supposedly featured NHL ’93 instead.)

Whichever edition you prefer, there’s no denying the game’s hold on the hearts of sports gaming fans; it regularly tops best-ever lists and even has a devoted Web site of fans who still play the game online.* (Seriously, when you make a game that can go toe-to-toe with the immortal boxing game Punch-Out, it’s clear that you have something special.)

With the legions of nostalgic fans in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder why EA Sports hasn’t released an updated version of NHL ’94 (or a different iteration) on Xbox Live and NHL Network. Just imagine how much fun it would be to apply that classic game play to modern players. My guess is that Alex Ovechkin would be this generation’s Jeremy Roenick. Obviously, hockey fans already have NHL 12 to whet their whistles (which was released today and actually provides the option to revert to the NHL ’94 control scheme), but something tells me there would be enough room for the two hockey titles to coexist.

Would the game translate well for modern gamers?

Of course, that idea might sound better in theory than in practice. NHL series producer Sean Ramjasingh agreed that such an idea could be a hit with fans, but also made a salient point regarding whether or not the game would hold up today. Ramjasingh pointed out that NHL ’94 was included on the disc of a Playstation 2 era game (NHL ’06) but didn’t really compare to the modern version for many.

“There might be more value with the nostalgia than in the reality of being able to play it,” Ramjasingh said. “But that’s something we talk about all the time here regarding what we can do with NHL 94, because it has such a strong presence in the mind of consumers.”

Indeed, fans’ spirits might waver a bit after allowing thousands of cheesy wrap-around goals. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising if the idea was a big money-maker for EA in a downloadable format – but maybe that’s a testament to the company’s urge to put out a quality product above all else. It’s nice to see that EA is weary of going down the road that another classic title like Tecmo did with “Tecmo Bowl Throwback,” which only generated a lukewarm response despite its authenticity.

Still, there’s a part of me that would love to test my merits against other cheap goal artists online in a revamped NHL 94. What do you think about that idea, though? Would you fork over $10-$15 to re-live those pre-polygonal memories or is that concept best left to fond memories? Let us know in the comments.

* Your guess is as good as mine as far as how legal that site really is, but credit EA for having the savvy to look the other way.

  1. lewdood - Sep 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    I don’t need ‘em to re-release it — I still have a Genesis and the original game! Where else could I play as the Whalers and celebrate to the sounds of Brass Bonanza???

  2. cup0pizza - Sep 13, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    King Roenick was such a beast in this one!

    • yanniman135 - Sep 14, 2011 at 12:31 AM

      NHL ’95 was and still is my favorite in the franchise and I also was a big Roenick fan. My line has always been “never leave Roenick open.” Those one-timers I would feed from Joe Murphy were deadly.

  3. sch00ns - Sep 14, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    EA did this… I think it was in NHL 2009? It was on there with the exact same controls, teams, etc.

  4. whatagreatfootballmind - Sep 14, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    NHL 93: Last version of the Minnesota North Stars…RIP

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