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SummaryFace Off !!!
The GoodDespite the fact I know next to nothing about hockey, I thoroughly enjoyed Blades of Steel. Why ? Read the review. Sheesh, how many times have you had to figure that out ?
OK, as I said before I'm no hockey expert, but I'll try not to embarrass myself too much. The basic goal of the game is to send the puck into the opposing player's net. First off, to get possession of the puck, you hit the "B" button like mad to get the puck into your possession. You can also hold down a direction button to pass initial possession to a team member in the line up.
You can be a hero and try to get the puck into the net by yourself, or pass it to another team member closer to the net. You can also intercept the other teams passes, making for some dramatic 30 second scoring opportunities. I think you get the general idea of the offense, but what makes this game different from other hockey games of the time is when the opposing players have the puck, the game automatically changes your defensive player, so you're always near the puck. When it's near your net, you automatically gain control of the goalie. If the opposing player misses, and you catch the puck, you can pass it back to one of your players. To win a game, you have to have the most points before the clock runs out.
OK, now that I covered the basics (In a very boring fashion.), lets get to some of the more unique aspects. You know how hockey players tend to beat each other senseless on the ice occasionally ? Well, that happens on a regular basis here. If the opposing player isn't exactly in the sharing mood with the puck, you can fight him for it. It goes to a side view, where you have to rapidly press the "B" button to punch, or "A" to block. The first to run out of energy loses the puck.
Now I know what you're thinking. "But Daniel ! It sounds like any hockey game I could buy !" WRONG ! All hockey games are essentially the same as far as rules go (Or so I'm told.), but Blades of Steel puts all the elements of a good hockey game together with a fast paced, aggressive arcade style. Because your defensive player automatically changes to wherever the puck is, it eliminates the frustration of changing your defensive player (Unlike Nintendo's Ice Hockey.). This means you can play fast and aggressive.
You still have to be mindful though, because the AI is pretty tough at times. Oh yeah, there are penalty shots, but that only happened twice to me. One nice surprise that comes during half time, is you can play a mini shooter on the video screen. It even has advertisements for other Konami games ! The game modes are pretty standard, with single game, career mode and two player. The two player isn't as exciting as I thought it would be, but it's still fun. Standout gameplay all around.
While the graphics are detailed, they aren't spectacular. All the players are well defined, and animated smoothly. The player you control always blinks, so you know who you're playing as. The puck slides quite easily across the ice, without any awkward movements. All the players and teams are multi colored, but use the same models. The rink is pretty plain, but has a nice semi-three dimensional aspect to it. My favorite touch is before and after every round, the teams dance around the ice in a choreographed routine. Hilarious ! Good marks for the graphics.
This is another area where Blades of Steel stands out. Although attempted before, the digitized sounds are done better here than in earlier games. "Blades of Steel.", "Face off !", "Get the puck !", "Fight !", "OOF !", "AHH !" and one other I can't remember. Even today, you can still make out what they're saying, despite it being pretty scratchy. As for the other sounds, they're the standard beeps and shuffle static sounds. The music is good, but somewhat subdued. Overall a nice package.
"A" is slap shot, "B" is pass during the normal game, and "A" is block, and "B" is punch during the fight sequences. And the directional pad moves you around. Not much to say other than all the controls are responsive and easy to learn.
There is a bit of a confusion factor to the game. Although your character blinks, when all the other players crowd together, it can be hard to tell where you're at. Or when you accidentally intercept a pass, you might not know what's going on for a few seconds because everything is moving so fast. The only other thing is the game can get a little repetitive after a while.
The announcer constantly shouting "Get the puck !" gets real old, real fast.