Monday, April 21, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #88 : Blades of Steel

Title : Blades of Steel

Publisher : Konami

Genre : Hockey

Players : 1 / 2 Player

Release Date : 1988

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $5-$7

In light of the 2014 NHL Playoffs (go, Rangers), and the fact that hockey is by far the greatest sport on the face of the Earth, I figured it would be a great idea to review BLADES OF STEEL. Since the first day a hockey stick was placed in my hands at an early age, I was hooked. If I remember correctly, I started playing at around age 9 or 10. It was mainly street hockey, but I played in a roller hockey league for a few years as well. 

No Ice Hockey for this guy. That was too rich for my blood. Seriously, the cost of the insurance you had to pay for was EXORBITANT.
But I was watching hockey way before I started playing hockey. And when I wasn't watching hockey, or playing hockey outside, I was playing hockey INSIDE. Now there were two methods of playing hockey inside. Floor hockey was one way. Now this game was crazy. We played this in school, or in some wide open room in your house. What you did was crawl around on the floor and use your hands as your hockey stick. It was the same idea as you had two teams, and goalies. Goalies would just protect one area of the wall where you had to fling the object into. Objects ranged from little handballs to those pink erasers (we used those at school lol).

Okay, I'm getting side tracked. The other method, of course, was playing hockey video games. Anyway, BLADES OF STEEL for the NES was one of those hockey games that stuck with me through the years. To this day, I still think it's one of the greatest hockey games ever created. So let's take a look as to why that is.

As with most sport games in the early gaming era, you didn't have much variety in terms of what type of game modes there were. In Blades of Steel, you could only choose from an exhibition one-game match, or tournament mode which was pretty much the playoffs. In terms of difficulty, you had Junior, College, or Pro level. Pro of course being the "hardest" difficulty, but it really isn't that hard. Junior is a joke and you just end up beating the computer by a score of 20 - 0.

What's the fun in that?
There's 8 teams to choose from, but as usual no legit teams. At least the colors are somewhat similar to their respective teams. Of course, I always went with New York. (GO RANGERS!)

The game is primarily played as a side scrolling view, very similar to how you view hockey on the TV. I always thought it was odd how hockey games went from this view originally, to the top down perspective. Whenever I get the chance in newer hockey games, I always switch it back to this view. I mean, come on. It's like watching the game on TV. Why would you want it any other way?

Rules are, well, close to the NHL rules. They don't enforce offsides (ah well), but they do enforce icing. Penalties are few and far between, and there are only really two or three called in Blades of Steel, burt really Blades of Steel is all about SPEED so I don't think they wanted to focus on the hockey realism that much back in the 80's on the NES.

One of the greatest things about Blades of Steel though was the FIGHTS. Yes, that's right. YOU CAN FIGHT. And what hockey game is complete without a brawl?

Fighting was great, but it was also pretty difficult. I found it impossible to consistently win in a brawl, and there was actually a bigger penalty against you for LOSING a fight rather than winning. Come on, penalty for the loser, just for sucking!? In order to trigger a brawl, you just had to check a player 3 times without hitting any other player in the process. Sounds easy enough, and it is. The game can be overcome with fights if you want it to.

I do love it how it looked like everyone in the stands were fighting as well, ha!

Besides fighting, Blades of Steel also introduced penalty shots. While, they didn't have the traditional ruling behind NHL penalty shots, they were still entertaining as hell. One on one with the goalie in a whole new perspective just gave the game a bit of variety. And I guess that's what really made the game stand out. It was a unique take on hockey, and an effective one at that.

There's a slew of reasons as to why Blades of Steel still remains one of the best hockey games to this day. Sure, it hasn't aged well (as seen by the visibly disturbing graphics. Seriously, the players look like rainbow-colored robots), but at the time it was remarkable. The controls were insanely fluid, and it felt like the players were skating on the ice. The game moved fast, but not too fast where it was unplayable. 

The sound effects were spot on in this game, and I loved the audio voice-overs from the announcer. "FACE OFF!" and "BLADES OF STEEL!" being yelled in to your ear, along with the whistling and cheers from the crowd really brought this 1988 game to life.

And I can't fail to mention how awesome it was during the breaks in-between periods where they show some "gradius" style game being played on the jumbo-tron. I still find myself coming back to this game, just to play a quick exhibition match and get in a few fights. Seriously though, it remains one of my favorites.

And once again, LET'S GO RANGERS.

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!



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