As one of the most iconic sports games of all time, NHL ’94 remains beloved in many circles. It did pretty much everything beautifully--simple gameplay, memorable sounds, colorful visuals, real NHL players and teams, and an undeniable charm that transcended the genre. For many, ’94 remains the highlight of their sports gaming memory, as today’s ultra-complex simulations cater to a hardcore crowd that simply didn’t exist twenty years ago. So the makers of NHL 14 decided to bring it back.
Not an actual NHL ’94 gameplay mode, mind you--they already did that a few years ago in NHL 06. That effort, as NHL producer Sean Ramjagsingh told me, was less than stellar. “When people played the emulated NHL ’94 on the PS2 disc,” he said, “the memories were actually better than that experience relative to what the current game delivered.” With that in mind, the development team took their current gameplay engine and built an entirely new manner of play on top of it, paying homage to NHL ’94 in a number of ways while leveraging much of what makes today’s series so strong.
“We asked ourselves what were the best parts about NHL ’94,” Ramjagsingh continued. “Simple controls, a pick up and play experience, and replicating that experience where it’s just you and your buddy on a couch playing an accessible game.” So with that in mind, I sat down in New York City on Tuesday at an EA Sports event to check it out--and came away feeling (mostly) excited for it.