I’m not sure what happened to #10, but that is quite the expression.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 1985
Champion Ice Hockey does indeed bring the sport of ice hockey to the SG-1000, just as Champion Baseball, Boxing, Wrestling, Soccer, Golf and so forth brought their respective sports. As anyone who’s read my reviews of these other sports games can attest, the Champion series bears no signature of quality. Outside of Boxing, none of the games are playable for more than a few minutes, and for a number of reasons including, but not limited to: poor physics, unresponsive controls, broken mechanics, and… well, that’s enough. I’d like to think that these games’ weaknesses are as much due to hardware limitations, rather than Sega’s poor development skills. Champion Ice Hockey doesn’t break Sega’s streak of mediocre sports titles, but it is one of the better games in the series. Unfortunately, this says more about the Champion Sports line than it does about Ice Hockey‘s own quality.
Forget about team names, stats, any of that simulation stuff. You choose your difficulty level (Amateur, Semi-Pro, and Pro), then head to the ice for 3-on-3 puck-slappin’ action. A cursor – easily maneuvered with the joystick – highlights whichever player you’re in control of, while Button I shoots and Button II passes. Drive the puck past the goalie and score points, while avoiding the violent outbursts of the opposing team. It’s ice hockey, alright.
Go, hockey players, go!
The controls are awkward until you get the hang of them. Making your players move in any direction is like forcing a semi-truck to make a narrow U-turn: doable with practice and time, but you’ll hate doing it, even if you get used to it. Even when the players have momentum, they can slide all over the ice, as if the skates on their feet have zero grip. Of course, I attribute their slippery movements to the ice, but said slipperiness could just as easily be poor controls masked as “realistic” controls.
Other than learning Champion Ice Hockey‘s quirks, there is no strategy you could employ to help you win – other than understanding that the game likes to take things slow. Getting touched by the opposing side will result in you being ‘knocked out’ for a couple seconds, unable to move. There’s also a brief pause in the game every single time before you shoot your puck, as if the game doesn’t immediately understand which button you pressed. The slow-moving players, the pause before hitting the puck, being stunned on the ice: it’s like Sega was determined to add value to Champion Ice Hockey by making the game last as long as possible.
Ghost players are always the most aggressive.
And speaking of long-lasting, the hockey games themselves. Each game has three periods of twenty minutes each, which might not sound like a lot, until you try to skate your way through a full sixty-minute game. Most of that time will be spent maneuvering your slow, slippery players in the direction you want them to move. All the while you’ll be thinking about Blades of Steel or Ice Hockey or some other better hockey game you could be playing because it’s not 1985 anymore and you have options.