The Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club took a break last week because the laptop that was being used to play old Nintendo games suffered a catastrophic injury that rendered its screen completely useless.
But it turns out that delay was unnecessary, and, in fact, the computer from work is quite useful for this exercise. Even though in-game screenshots on a Mac are a little wonky to get, it turns out that recording video of the whole screen and turning those recordings into GIFs is quite easy.
That’s right, we’re back at it with the hockey classic Blades of Steel.
There are two formats in the game, Exhibition and Tournament, and three levels, Junior, College, and Pro. I go with Exhibition at the Junior level because it’s been a while since I’ve played this game and because playing with a keyboard on an emulator is a totally different feeling than playing with the Nintendo controller. Truth be told, I stink at both, but still!
I’m playing with Montreal against Toronto. I’ve never known there to be any difference between the teams in this game, let alone between the players. The only thing that changes if you select New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Vancouver, or Minnesota is the color of their uniforms. Actually, the color that they are, because when we zoom in on the action for fights, we see that the players have the same skin color as their jerseys and socks, as well as no facial features whatsoever.
I’ve grown to loathe fighting in hockey, but it’s an intricate part of Blades of Steel, and entirely different from how fighting works in real life. In the game, a fight starts when a defensive player nudges a puck carrier enough, and they have a little mini-fight before either one of them gets knocked down or they decide to drop the gloves.
The fighting is extremely simple. One button punches, the other button dodges. Whoever gets their “POWER” meter drained first loses, while the winner’s team gets a power play.
In this case, that’s me. Montreal’s power play begins immediately, without even a stoppage of play, and before the Toronto player is even fully off the ice, the puck is in the back of the net.
And when you score, you get to celebrate!
That’s pretty much the entire game. Skate, fight, shoot, score. Passing is possible, but tends to be a riskier proposition than just trying to weave around with the puck yourself, and saving passes for close range is best. Defenders do fare better at catching up with puck carriers than in other games, which is helpful because that’s how you start fights.
Goaltending is a challenge because it’s all about a little red arrow that goes back and forth across the crease, determining where the shooter is going to shoot. Since most of the time on defense is spent chasing the puck carrier, this means either paying little attention to what the goalie is doing, or just letting opponents cruise unfettered through your defensive zone.
At the other end, though, the goalie is similarly hung out to dry. Shooting at the right time to catch him out of position is a learned skill, and you also can hit the post. Plus, if you happen to skate into the goalie, you’ll be absolutely obliterated.
The goaltending and the free-flowing nature of the game create the right conditions for high scores, and that’s how this one ends up, a 9-7 win for my Montreal. It easily could have gone the other way, and rarely does it feel like there’s a ton of skill involved, but that’s also why this was such a great two-player game. As a one-player experience, it’s still quite good, and despite being unlicensed, pretty true to the 80s experience of tons of fights and even more goals.
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