NHL Hockey 95 provides three main types of play. The first is an exhibition between any two of the twenty-six teams available where no statistics are saved. Choosing the second option gives you the opportunity to jump straight to NHL playoff action by selecting any two NHL teams which you then guide through a playoff series. If your teams are from the same conference, they meet in the conference's quarter-finals whereas taking two teams from different conferences puts you into the Stanley Cup finals. The third and most detailed option is setting up league play that can accommodate up to 26 human competitors, one assigned to each team, or you can play any or all games against the computer. For this option, you have the choice of using the actual NHL statistical database or one you customized using the Central Registry part of the program. The Central Registry allows manipulation of team rosters and line assignments as long as basic requirements of four forward lines, three defensive lines, two power play lines, two penalty killing lines, two extra attackers and two goalies for each team are met. Furthermore, each roster as a minimum must include three forwards, two defensemen, and two goalies. A maximum of 28 players (including three goalies) is assigned to each team with a limit of 20 players (including two goalies) required to be active for any one game. The feature that stands out in this setup is the ability to create players from scratch or to use NHL players from the database. Free agent players (non-goalies) are created by distributing 280 ratings points within pre-set ranges across fifteen possible attributes such as offensive or defensive awareness, endurance, aggressiveness and other physical traits (e.g., speed, agility, checking, accuracy, stick handling, weight, passing, etc.). Goalies are given 260 ratings points to be distributed within pre-set ranges within eleven possible attributes.
NHL Hockey 95 comes with a built-in full season schedule which is based on the actual '93-'94 actual NHL schedule or the program will generate a random schedule if you prefer. Most of the administrative screens in the game are now presented in sharp SVGA graphics that depict team and NHL logos. A full range of player and team statistics is accumulated during seasonal play and the game features a fully functional League Manager module that allows trading and merging databases if human players use different computers. The program even generates statistics for any unplayed games which ensures continuity should players drop out of the league or be habitually late getting their game results (disks) to the league manager. This is an outstanding feature that promotes league play not dependent upon player availability and physical proximity. Graphically, actual on-ice play in NHL Hockey 95 includes new features such as more distinctive player animation, fake shots, drop passes and defensive capabilities (e.g., sprawling in front of a shot to block it). Once the controls are mastered, most hockey lovers should find NHL Hockey 95 a worthwhile investment.
Graphics: Sharp SVGA screens, new player and goalie animations on ice and professional quality TV-style segments.
Sound: "Smart" crowd noises that support the action on the ice, decent music and realistic TV-style broadcasts mesh to enhance the game's appeal.
Enjoyment: To get the most out of the game, excellent manual dexterity and eye-to-hand coordination is a requirement. At times the computer controlled players actually seem to be too hard to overcome, especially during any sort of let down or lack of concentration by the player. League management, roster manipulation, trading options, player creation and intensity of play are integrated nicely to create a quality product. Joystick play is more precise and easier than mouse use but be prepared to wear out your joystick.
Replay Value: With the three modes of play (exhibition, playoffs or seasonal) and trading or player creation options available, replay value is assured. Keep in mind, however, that the NHL player database and ratings are based on one specific NHL season.
NHL '95 was EA Sports' third licensed ice hockey game, promising the fastest action in the series to date. The action is viewed top-down, and can be played with or without realistic penalties. There is a full season mode, allowing you to guide a team through all 84 matches, with the option of injuries potentially putting players out of a sequence of matches. You have full control over trading and creating players for your squad. New in-game moves include dummy shots and lie-down blocks.
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