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Hockey Stars [NHL 94, by way of SNK style-swap]


von Ozbourme
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But first, since tis the season.

Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house,
No more creatures were stirring, not even the mouse-r.
The stockings were empty, the tree, it lay bare,
In memory of loot that used to be there;

The children were finally snug in their beds,
No more talking of whatever popped in their heads;
And mamma was snoring and I on my laptop,
Thinking "just one more thing, then I will nap... pop"

Recalling the games played throughout the day's chatter,
Defeating the bosses like it was no matter.
Now the finishing touch should be done in a flash,
I pick the controller whose buttons we'll mash.

Just a quick test of the new-finished show,
Fire up the game by the monitor's glow,
Then, what to my critical eyes should appear,
But a miniature ref, and ten tiny players,

With a flick of the thumb, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment I'd have a hat trick.
More rapid than... something else fast, goals they came,
And he whistled, that ref, and displayed their name;

"Now, center now, wingers now, defence and goalie!
Go, Shoot it! go, stupid! go, save it you... goalie!
To them hit with a check! now into the wall!
Now bash away! crash away! dash away all!"

In the overtime frame, off a shot like a missile,
The game it was over, and the ref gave a whistle,
We'll play it tomorrow, the kids and I might,
HAPPY GAMING TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

 

Pardon the indulgence. Now for another with the retro game review.

Back in 1988 SNK released arguably the best baseball game ever made for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

You may remember it as:
image.png

With the shift to licensed league based games, it has been mostly forgotten aside from retro-re-releases, but at the time it did spawn a series of games with both Baseball Stars and Baseball Stars 2, Legends of the Diamond and Little League Baseball: Championship Series all being released for the NES while being based on the same engine. Another Baseball Stars 2 was released for arcades via the NEO•GEO MVS, which wasn't a sequel to the NES game as much as it was of Baseball Stars Professsional , a launch title/pack in for the NEO•GEO MVS and AES systems. Two more ports were released for the NEO•GEO Pocket/Colour.

That's a lot of bla bla bla about baseball, but wasn't this supposed to be about hockey?

Yes.

So what about that hockey game?
Released in 1992 by Romstar [SNK's North American distribution arm in the late '80s/early '90s] on the Sega Genesis, the first Hockey Stars features many recognizable teams and player names from it's baseball contemporaries.

image.png  image.png
Including the trademark stark white splash screen and "Be a Champ" words of encouragement.

image.png
Teams are still divided up by league; You will find mention of the "Exciting", "Fighting", "Professional" and "Legends" leagues in the team intros. These are not exclusive in Versus play as in the NEO•GEO releases, but will determine what division you play in during the Playoff mode.

image.png
Although not as sharp as you will find on AES hardware, full colour cartoony depictions of player photos are still present and take their art style from the previous "Professional" game. And just as in most other SNK games, the pre-match presenter has another SNK character making a cameo in Athena from Psycho Soldier.

image.png
You will not have any trouble identifying the developer of this game.

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Team names are also on brand.

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Each player has an individual photo and stats you can look up. It can be considered lucky that this is the only screen that features this intense of a watermark treatment. In another similarity to the Baseball games, player stats seem to be directly imported as they are wildly different. Meaning that play-style can vary quite drastically even among line mates. Some may wish to play with line changes off and create a "super line" of each team's best players, but if you are looking for the added challenge of having to adapt to each player's varying abilities, you may want to keep line changes on.

image.png
The Playoff Cup from Professional makes a return, only this time it is put on a pedestal as hockey deserves. The colour coding now makes sense as each "League" is contained to a divisional playoff format. You can play a traditional Best-of-7 or Single Elimination tournament.

image.png
There's more of that branding...
Finally the gameplay, it was described to me as simultaneously "perfect" and "clunky" so make of that as you will. It seems to be both reminiscent of the vintage hockey games of the era, while also adding that layer of challenge due to the wildly different character attributes typical to the SNK titles.

image.png
At least the 3-stars icon isn't another SNK logo.

I don't like to give number reviews, but I will rate this one as "Recommended" during this World Juniors season.

 

 

Hockey Stars v1.1.bin

Edited by von Ozbourme
Updated ROM
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Ironically following up with the bit of art that started this whole project:
I recently bought myself a drawing tablet and decided that to try it out I would attempt to turn the iconic Baseball Stars NES cover into a Hockey Stars Genesis cover.
Tried to stay as true to the original as I could while also making it distinctly hockey.

image.png
Liked the goalie too much to just have that tiny little guy in net though, so figured I could do without a "Video Game Team" logo.

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2 hours ago, DeterminedApathy said:

I'm impressed with how well the color portraits turned out, and I also appreciate the attention to detail in changing the credits scroll to be SNK staff.

I agree, the color portraits are simply amazing.  This ROM is special, brings back some memories when I see the old teams and names from Baseball Stars.  Thanks @von Ozbourme!

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Sorry guys. Ringing in the New Year playing video games, as one should, it was brought to my attention that I seemed to have gaffed in not saving the few final stat fixes I had made before posting this mod. Had to fix it right away.

And with that out of the way, we finished our playoff in peace. But I figure I might as well share the fixed version here too.

Mostly the team rating numbers were way off and not representative of each team's actual abilities. Simple error of accidentally undoing my changes before I saved.
Additionally, I had Dah Bears as a team of all Lefties except for the backup goalie. I've spread a few more Correct Handed players in there.
Lastly, and apparently most important, the Canadian Dreams team, while technically just the old American Dreams team with the names changed from old baseball hall-of-famers to old hockey hall-of-famers, had a couple of number overlaps. These were resolved, but apparently I chose the wrong player to be Number 9. Originally I gave "Gordon" number 9, while "Robert" had 16 and "Maurice" had 15. I was reminded that despite the longevity, "Gordon" was not as concerned about the number on his back and would have said "Aw shucks, he should keep it". So I gave "Gordon" his rookie number of 17, while the elder "9" got keep the number that reminded him of his first child's birth weight.

[Side note if anyone is interested. The American Dreams are still present, although they were included as one of the "created" teams which uses the name "Blasters"]

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This rom certainly getting somewhere to looking like a unreleased SNK hockey game. i wonder how much of the sprite work of the on-ice gameplay can be edited. specifcally, the players and the face off screen animation.

Edited by bushhockeyfan
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This is awesome! Personally I really like fictional teams and players in sports games and this looks really well made. :) 

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On 1/1/2022 at 9:43 PM, bushhockeyfan said:

i wonder how much of the sprite work of the on-ice gameplay can be edited. specifcally, the players and the face off screen animation.

This was something I thought about, and it is why I removed the eyes, [to better match the SNK plain face style]
But the downside is that EA only made the one player model, unlike the different batting stances, or gender options, you can find in the SNK games.
And going by how much time and effort the guys that have done the helmet colour mods put in, and how the sprites are arranged already, it seems like it would be a lot of work for what quite possibly would only be a slight change in the art style.

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1 hour ago, von Ozbourme said:

This was something I thought about, and it is why I removed the eyes, [to better match the SNK plain face style]
But the downside is that EA only made the one player model, unlike the different batting stances, or gender options, you can find in the SNK games.
And going by how much time and effort the guys that have done the helmet colour mods put in, and how the sprites are arranged already, it seems like it would be a lot of work for what quite possibly would only be a slight change in the art style.

Yeah it would be cool to have different player models.  You did that box art so well, I spent some time daydreaming of a true Hockey Stars port.  I guess if I had a magic wand, the Hockey Stars would probably look like jumbo versions of NES Ice Hockey Players but with the Baseball stars art.  So many little tweaks you could do like having the goalie get the "sweating" animation like the pitchers get in baseball when tired.  The guys going over the boards, would be similar to grabbing a home run.  Probably would do fighting much more like blades of steal look.  

Edited by segathon
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9 hours ago, segathon said:

Yeah it would be cool to have different player models.  You did that box art so well, I spent some time daydreaming of a true Hockey Stars port.  I guess if I had a magic wand, the Hockey Stars would probably look like jumbo versions of NES Ice Hockey Players but with the Baseball stars art.  So many little tweaks you could do like having the goalie get the "sweating" animation like the pitchers get in baseball when tired.  The guys going over the boards, would be similar to grabbing a home run.  Probably would do fighting much more like blades of steal look.  

I like the ideas you think up, maybe we should also create a nhl 94 rom but it replaces the player models with the ones from kunio-kun hockey game or create a nes rom hack for the captain tsubasa (or tecmo cup soccer game) game that replaces soccer with hockey.

Anyways, sometimes a total conversion hack rom always deserve a creative facelift make over.

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This is f**king AWESOME !!!  ...but if you do an update, just an FYI that Europa on the Celestial Planets is actually female.  And I agree that she should be one of the "stronger" players considering that her "planet" (moon) hosts one of the biggest hockey rinks in the Galaxy:  Hence, my name (but no bias).

Really, I'm not a "defensemen", but in high school & college, I was so fast that I did play both ends of the rink :) 

Also, I took a screenshot of the title screen & flipped it horizontally:  Lemme know what you think.

NHL94 - Hockey Stars (v1.1) [!]001.bmp

NHL94 - Hockey Stars (v1.1) [!]001.bmp

Edited by Europia79
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Hey thanks man. Although I have to admit that I only had one original female player photo to work with after I captured them all from Baseball Stars Professional. And it only seemed logical that Venus would be it. Only added the second female [and filling out the Baseball Stars 2 teams] by playing up the mix-n-match nature of the various facial features.

I was going to say that the title screen was meant to play up the NES version. Yes it seems a bit odd to have the right to left orientation, but I guessed that it was to have a right-handed pitcher. And you know, It was developed in a country that reads right to left, so they may not of thought much of it.
image.png
Although given that the downloads of your picture exactly matches the downloads of my game, I wonder if the masses have spoken...

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