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Gaming with lwgrs

NHL 99 (N64) Is An Ugly Game, But It's A Lot of Fun

When I was in high school, we played NHL 99 for the PC all the time. For its time, it was a great game, and on the PC it was completely customizable. There was an online community that would provide graphic modifications - such as replacing the score bug with CBC Hockey Night in Canada graphics, and updating uniforms - as well as the fantastic roster editing software, NHLView. Unfortunately I don't have the capability to play this version of NHL 99 anymore1, but I've been on the hunt for either a PS1 or N64 copy of the game.

Recently, I found an N64 copy, and I fired it up.

Visuals #

The Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils get set for a faceoff I won't lie; this game is UGLY. Video game hockey has come a long way but I remember playing on PC the player models weren't this bad. Looking at some image search results kind of confirms that for me; the N64 version is just not as great - maybe a limitation of the cartridge, or the system itself?

Radek Bonk celebrates his first goal of the game.

At any rate, it's not fair to judge this game's visuals because it's from an era that was just on the cusp of good looking 3D elements. We enjoy Goldeneye for its gameplay, not its graphics. Player models aside, the game does look good; arenas are as accurate as they can be (hello, Corel Centre!) and the game itself plays at a smooth pace / frame rate. I would say it's just as smooth as NHL Legacy.

Gameplay #

Speaking of the gameplay; it's good enough. The difficulty range (Rookie > Pro > All Star) is quite good; I had to play a few games at the different levels to find my "sweet spot", which is apparently Pro. I found All Star impossible to score a goal, though that might change the more I play the game. Skaters move pretty fluidly, but the game plays in a more "arcade" style than what I'm used to. Bodies fly everywhere and even with penalties set to max, the only Interference calls are when players bump into the goalie.

I did find it hard to get used to the older rules - this game was before Delayed Offsides were introduced, which means when you get the "Offside" warning in the score bug, the whistle is blown as soon as you cross the line. Thank goodness you can turn off the 2 Line Pass rule - I would go crazy if that were permanently turned on. I do appreciate Touch Icing though, with the unrealistic speed burst you can beat out icing calls.

Disallowed goals are a thing, too. It happened once; though I'm not 100% sure why it was disallowed. But I thought that was cool.

Audio #

Pretty good audio in the game. You get hockey noise, crowd noise, and a play-by-play announcer. Unfortunately the play-by-play announcer, Bill Clement, is only able to provide generic commentary and doesn't use player names. The in-rink PA announcer also only announces goals or penalties by player number - no names. I am pretty sure this is a limitation of the N64 system.

There are nice easter eggs that I remember, for instance there are funny PA announcements throughout the game ("Remember, the floor is not a garbage receptacle. Please use designated trash cans."). The crowds chant "Go [insert team name] Go!" and in the playoffs loudly proclaim "We want the cup!" (which I find sounds like "We want blood", but we won't go there).

Overall #

The game definitely does not match up to modern games; those are almost infinitely customizable and look so much better. But for a console hockey game it is still fun to play and makes it easy to look past the ugly graphics and bland play-by-play commentary.

  1. I tried downloading an ISO and playing it on my Surface computer, but it kept crashing whenever I started up a game. Oh well.