We%26rsquo;ve all had it happen to us %26ndash; you fall in love with a band who rips out a searing first album chock full of timeless classics, then follows that up with a more mature yet still-solid set of tunes you also love. As time goes on, though, the band starts to %26ldquo;experiment%26rdquo; and along the way loses some of its identity and mojo. There are still flashes of brilliance, and you remain a fan, but after each new release you find yourself heading back to the classics for another listen.
That%26rsquo;s the story of NHL 2K9. For years this franchise was the clear-cut winner in hockey circles, and more than a few of its past titles remain all-time classics. However, starting with last season%26rsquo;s effort, the franchise has seemed to be trying to find itself, holding its own as a good enough puckfest yet feeling a little bit lost (especially when compared with the suddenly awesome NHL series from EA).
The best decision the development team made was scrapping last year%26rsquo;s (too?) complicated control scheme for a streamlined series of options, including one that apes EA%26rsquo;s superb right stick/hockey stick mechanic. Sometimes imitation is the right thing to do, and there%26rsquo;s no shame in adopting features that clearly work well. There are plenty of little things that impress hockey aficionados, too, such as an undeniably fun Zamboni-driving minigame between periods, players sporting playoff beards in the postseason, and an impressive amount of online options that continue the series%26rsquo; proud tradition.