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Showing posts with label Treyarch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Treyarch. Show all posts

The Coolest Game On Dreamcast: The NHL 2K Series

My first encounter with NHL ice hockey came in the form of EA Hockey on the Mega Drive. The purity of the top-down, fast-paced gameplay just worked, and the game provided hours of entertainment. Later, EA Hockey was replaced with NHLPA Hockey '93 in the cartridge slot and my love affair with the exotic, ultra-violent sport of American hockey was born. A succession of annual updates during the 16-bit era allowed my knowledge base of popular players and teams to grow, and while the games on the Mega Drive reached their zenith with the spectacular NHL '96 my affection for the rough-and-ready sport came with me to the 32-bit Saturn and beyond.

NHL All Star Hockey and the successive NHL games from Electronic Arts kept me going on the Sega Saturn; and during my time as a Nintendo 64 owner games such as Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, NHL '99 and NHL Breakaway '98 allowed me to keep an iron in the fire, so to speak. They were instrumental in teaching me the names of the stars of the day - Jaromir Jagr, Keith Tkachuk and Dominik Hasek; along with the franchises sporting such alien-sounding names as the Red Wings, Bruins, Penguins and Flyers. Naturally, there was a hockey league in the UK at that time (and there still is), but it never got the same coverage and was never really reported on in the news (my local team was Manchester Storm, but as far as I know they folded some time ago now) so games really represented the best way to get to know the rules and the stars of the sport.
This looked like a TV broadcast in 1993
Basically, the hockey games I played in my youth were the only real glimpse I got into the world of professional ice hockey, its best players and its culture, and whenever a new title was released it always caught my attention. They taught me what 'icing' was, that fights were normal, the strange makeup of the NHL with its weird divisions and playoffs and the oddness of the trades system when compared to something like football (soccer) and the Premier League. I've mentioned a few here already, but I played pretty much every major hockey game released on consoles between EA Hockey and NHL Breakaway '99. However, it was when the Dreamcast arrived that ice hockey games really reached a new level in terms of visuals, quality of commentary and gameplay. These advancements all came in the form of NHL 2K from Black Box.

It's actually pronounced "Ull"
What's interesting about the original NHL 2K for Dreamcast is that its developer - the aforementioned Black Box - was eventually acquired by Electronic Arts and renamed EA Black Box. As most Dreamcast fans will no doubt be aware, Electronic Arts famously ignored the Dreamcast and refused to publish any of its sports titles on Sega's platform. The reasons for this are subject to much conjecture but one of the more convincing stories to come out of the whole saga was that EA wanted exclusive rights to publish sports games on the platform. Sega refused EA's request and thus FIFA, NHL, NFL et al were not ported. In some ways this lead to a gaping hole in the Dreamcast's library, but in other ways it opened the door for Sega to introduce its own 2K series and a whole new franchise (and one that arguably trumped EA's own offerings) was born.