PHT remembers video games: Tecmo Super Hockey?

Every Tuesday, PHT will remember a hockey video game (or games). Since we don’t have every console or cartridge, some posts will be recollections, not reviews. This week, we look back at Tecmo trying to bring its Super Bowl magic to Hockey on the Sega Genesis.

Sometimes, this feature recalls games I played what would border on distressing hours of. On other occasions, there will be gimmicks that kinda sorta worked, including one starring Wayne Gretzky. There are even comforting moments where I learn that I did not hallucinate about a Fox Sports-centric game starring Mike Modano.

(That would have been a troublingly specific thing to imagine, even for a troubled mind.)

For this week’s entry, we’ll add to what’s becoming a remarkably large pile of games I never knew existed. I’m talking today about Tecmo Super Hockey. Sean Leahy clued me into this effort from the makers of Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl, a series that immortalized Bo Jackson as much as a broken bat over a knee.

After watching quite a bit of gameplay and checking out limited archived reviews, it’s clear why Tecmo Super Hockey did not resonate in the same way as its pigskin counterpart. That said, it doesn’t seem like it was a total failure … just not quite strong enough to be a success.

Tecmo Super Hockey carried quite a bit of that Tecmo Super Bowl vibe

It’s easy to notice some of the hallmarks of the Tecmo football titles. Everything from the arrow indicators over hockey players heads to the sporadic action “cutscenes” carry similar vibes. Both titles also feature a horizontal view of the field/ice.

Heck, the herky-jerky animations and powerful speed bursts evoke their sprite-based pigskin cousins, too. The shared roots seemed obvious, even if one was memorable and Tecmo Super Hockey was forgotten.

Tecmo Super Hockey cutscene
Tecmo Hockey screen (via Tecmo/YouTube)

Those elements simply didn’t come together in the same way for hockey.

Maybe some ideas needed more time in the oven? Each faceoff has its own little cutscene screen, and I can imagine how that would’ve annoyed players after the novelty wore off.

Tecmo Hockey screen (via Tecmo/YouTube)

The development team might have deserved more time and resources getting the sound together. While certain aspects come across like you’d expect, others feel quite off. In particular, the skating sound effect just … doesn’t work. Listen for yourself in the gameplay footage in the video above the headline. I can imagine many 1994 parents gritting their teeth hearing those noises over and over again.

Falling short against the competition

A Game Pro review (by Slapshot McGraw!) captured how Tecmo Super Hockey fell short of NHL ’95 and Brett Hull Hockey ’95, essentially stating that players should’ve only given TSH a chance if the other two titles were unavailable.

Tecmo Super Hockey fell short of the 5 out of 5 rating “happy and yet possibly electrified” image from Game Pro.

Game Pro score for Tecmo Super Hockey
Game Pro Magazine/Archive.org

Those scores aren’t a disaster (though a German outlet rated it a 39%, yikes), but one can see pretty quickly why hockey fans chose NHL ’95 or Brett Hull Hockey ’95 instead.

Brett Hull Hockey ’95 seemed to have quite a bit going for it, including Al Michaels. As far as I can tell, it was pretty unusual in providing some play-by-play of the action. (It appears that the EA series didn’t have play-by-play until NHL ’97.) That title had its issues, too, as even in watching footage, the gameplay looks sluggish.

Meanwhile, what more can you really say about the run EA was on at the time with NHL ’95? The debate of best hockey game generally came down to which 16-bit EA title you prefer (especially since they made Mutant League Hockey,too). Just watch some of this ‘NHL 95 footage and it will feel like finding the just-right porridge after observing the other games.

It’s fascinating, by the way, that all three titles featured a different view of the game:

Tecmo Super Hockey NHL 95 Brett Hull 95 angles
Top: NHL ’95 (via EA/YouTube) Bottom left: Tecmo Super Hockey (via Tecmo/YouTube) Bottom right: Brett Hull Hockey ’95 (via Accolade/YouTube)

There’s something charming about seeing a more “Wild West” time in gaming. In the area of sports, that meant licensing (Tecmo Super Hockey featured an NHLPA license, but not NHL, so generic city names it was), and even how the “camera” worked.

Much like a hapless cornerback being stiff-armed by Bo Jackson, Tecmo Super Hockey fell as an admirable, yet unsuccessful effort. That said, if you have fond memories — or maybe stories of frustration — about Tecmo Super Hockey, do tell in the comments.

PHT remembers other hockey video games:

  • NHL Championship 2000, Fox’s rare foray into hockey video games, starring Mike Modano.
  • NHL Slapshot, a Wii video game with a small plastic hockey stick peripheral that even Wayne Gretzky found delightful.
  • EA’s NHL ’98, when the company hit its polygonal stride, and also featured a great soundtrack (ironically and unironically?).
  • An ode to the NHL 2K series, which challenged and sometimes surpassed EA’s popular entries.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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