Just a few days ago, hockey fans were saddened to see the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr depart from the NHL. Injuries and a lack of play caused the Czech legend and the Calgary Flames to terminate his contract and soon after to return home to play for the Kladno Knights overseas. As we bid farewell to this hockey great and future Hall of Famer, we also look back at the game which featured a list of all-stars from an era that is now history with NHL ‘94.
The NHL ‘94 title by EA was a fully licensed game with all 26 NHL teams, including the now debunked Hartford Whalers (with their awesome jerseys) and Quebec Nordiques (not so much) as well as the entirety of all available players. Legends such as Lemieux, Jagr, Gretzky, Messier and more were all available for players and fans to play and idolize on the smaller screen. With the rosters intact, everybody had the chance to play as their favorite teams and players and chase to win the Stanley Cup.
The game was also featured on a variety of consoles, from the SNES, Sega Genesis and CD as well as being featured on PC’s as NHL Hockey and while the different versions do not vary all too much from one another or from past versions, NHL ‘94 did add some upgrades in visuals as well as new mechanics that helped bring in some realism to the sprite-based sports title. Additions such as being able to complete one-timers for more fluid gameplay, but with this, NHL ‘94 removed fighting from the game, which back then may have looked like an absurd idea as it was an integral part of hockey.
NHL ‘94 featured four different modes and an exhibition mode to choose from. Regular Season, two different Playoff formats as well as a shootout mode. The game did not feature international teams but added the All-Star teams with all its high-flying superstar caliber roster of hockey legends. These modes, while not all too noteworthy nowadays, were a big leap forward in trying to deliver on a realistic sports experience all while giving players the option to play the way they so choose.
Visually, NHL ‘94 still holds up well to this day. This is mostly due to its retro charm more than anything else, but its vertical view maximizes what can be shown and the colorful display still remains strong. The teams are represented by their own colors and the crowds were quite vibrant in their display as well. Going back and getting to play this all these years later is quite a marvel of in of itself.
While I may have been born a few years after its release, I still had the chance to play NHL ‘94 years later on my SNES after grabbing a used copy and playing with my friends, after spending the day outside playing hockey ourselves. I still own the copy of the game to this date with all my other retro NHL titles, but I still fondly remember NHL ‘94 for its light blue ice surface, the big stars underneath each player and personalized soundtrack for some of the NHL squads.
When writing this Retro Review, I stumbled across a forum for NHL ‘94 with a full-featured league that is still going strong to this day. It just goes to show you on how strong the bonds we made and the games we played still impact us to this day.
While we may have seen the last of the legendary Jaromir Jagr and of what the NHL had to offer since 1994, it is fun to look back as to how the league and the sports games have evolved over time. NHL ‘94 is a perfect reminder that even though we get yearly releases for sports games, it can be fun to go back and play an old school title and still find enjoyment more than two decades later. As we say goodbye to the last legend to play in 94, let us remember what the sport is all about with a classic game of NHL ‘94.