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Hockey Stars 2 ['95 by way of SNK Prototype]


von Ozbourne

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With one big project out of the way, it was time to finish another one. So we're going to frame this one as a retro review.

With the "wild" success of Hockey Stars, [the hockey version of the critically acclaimed Baseball Stars on the NES] SNK decided to release a follow up two years later.
This one however drew more influence from Baseball Stars 2 and Professional for the NEO-GEO AES and MVS systems respectively, as opposed to the Baseball Stars 2 port for the NES. [which was actually just a re-skin based on the original Baseball Stars engine with some features stripped out]

But enough of the history lesson, this review is about...
image.png

Based in a different engine from the original, this game has all of the favourite teams from the past games, plus four additional custom teams for 34 in total.
image.png

The pregame amble features this old guy. For context, he was also the commissioner in Baseball Stars 2. I guess he got fired or decided that he wanted to be involved in a more exciting sport. While the entire roster no longer has individual player photos, the starting lineup still has wonderful images. [with character art adapted from the same game, and with cameos from other SNK titles]
image.png

Starting a game you have a menu screen that looks like an old familiar jumbotron with a lot of statistics and options in addition to accessing line and goalie changes.
image.png

Full roster stats and ratings are available for picking your best line[s] as line changes can be turned on or off in the pre-game options.
image.png

The branding should be noticeable by now, and it carries over to all the stats screens as well.
image.png

The Playoff mode supports single game and best-of-7 play. The Championship trophy seems to have been removed from its tall base since the previous incarnation. Wonder if there was a scaling issue in the new engine.
image.png

While the pregame announcer gives individual names to the home team's arena, like the baseball games, the art assets are not individualized for each team. Judging by the amount of detail in each teams' logo, I doubt it would translate well to the smaller scale anyway. SNK did take the opportunity to add more branding in case you weren't sure who developed the game you were playing.
image.png

image.png

Winning playoff mode treats you to your victory on the front page of the national sports page with a close up of the large gold "loving cup" style trophy.
image.png

While the reduction in player profiles is a bit of a let down in this new entry, SNK figured they would make up for it with added features like Signing, Trading, Releasing players and even a Create-a-Player options. And to top it off, a full season mode.
image.png

Much like a college style season, games are played almost exclusively on weekends, with some back-to-back home-and-home series to add to the drama.
image.png

Seasons are a 32-game affair, which is nice and quick especially since you can play every single game if you want, allowing you and your friends to pick their favourite team and face off in the same season for the Championship. If 32 is still too long a season for you, the season can be ended after any day, and with each team playing on the same days, games played in the standings will be equal for all teams on any day.
image.png

At the end of the season, regardless of how your team fairs, you will be treated to an awards ceremony where the best players are awarded a gold medal of excellence. Nice touches like that make the game feel like a real season and not something completely player-centric.
image.png

To cap it off, the game offers Practice and Shoot-out modes to test your skill.
There also seems to be some Easter eggs in there for fans of SNK games as well as some general pop-culture of the '80s and early '90s.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are some instability issues with this game, likely due to the added teams and players and it being considered to be rushed out in prototype state in order to meet publisher obligations. This, as well as the Genesis losing ground on the new SNES at the time, would appear to have affected sales at the time, leaving the game a bit of a rare gem for collectors.

A solid 7/10


Hockey Stars 2 [v1.2].bin

 

Leaving the old version here. Pre some minor graphical fixes and puck collision set for slightly more difficult scoring.

Hockey Stars 2.bin

 

And now I have to do this version too.

image.png  image.png

Hockey Stars 2 [v1.3] Wide Screen.bin

 

Edited by von Ozbourne
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13 minutes ago, seamor said:

I really like the idea that a newspaper would put out a personalized headline for all of the players on the team. 
 

As usual, amazing work!

Hey thanks man.
Just a heads up since you were the only one to download it so far. I forgot I was going to adjust the puck collision data before uploading. I've changed it from a 05 to my customary 02, so the puck will bounce closer to the wall graphic and make the nets just a bit smaller. I've fixed that and re-uploaded.

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2 hours ago, DeterminedApathy said:

Wow, that looks fantastic! Love the title screen.

Thanks eh.
At risk of sounding un-modest, I was kind of proud of myself for figuring out the pseudo-animation on that in lieu of a proper parallax from the more powerful NEO-GEO system.

Ah screw it. I like it too much to not highlight the trick on a screen that, hell, even I only pay attention to enough to wait for the cue to hit Start,
image.pngimage.png

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Having had the time to actually look at this a little more closely, I just want to say that the portraits turned out really nicely. I particularly like some of the choices on the celebrity cameo teams.

Also, I couldn't help noticing that the Canada Bisons and Creative Brains seem to break format and have first names that aren't quite the team initials. Was that because otherwise they'd both be CB?

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15 minutes ago, DeterminedApathy said:

Also, I couldn't help noticing that the Canada Bisons and Creative Brains seem to break format and have first names that aren't quite the team initials. Was that because otherwise they'd both be CB?

This one had been so long in the works that I forgot that I changed both. But yes, the main reason for the initials was because during the end-of-season-mode awards ceremony, the ambiguity of single names became a problem. Didn't want to break tradition and invent last names, and rather than worry about which combination of C&B was attributed to which C.B., I figured might as well find an alternative for both.

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On 2/5/2023 at 12:00 AM, von Ozbourme said:

Thanks eh.
At risk of sounding un-modest, I was kind of proud of myself for figuring out the pseudo-animation on that in lieu of a proper parallax from the more powerful NEO-GEO system.

Ah screw it. I like it too much to not highlight the trick on a screen that, hell, even I only pay attention to enough to wait for the cue to hit Start,
image.pngimage.png

Very noticeable and a great touch. Your a pure genius!!!

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Thanks for making this rom. The detail is amazing! I love the arrow and dot showing who the pass is going to when they are off screen. the menu screens are awesome. It's so well done.

I will say that in comparison to nhl95 this game is insanely hard to score. The first game i played as the bisons finished as a 0-0 tie after 5 minute periods and 10 mintue over time. Almost every one timer I tried, hit the post. The second game I used taipei and I managed to win 1-0 with 10 seconds left.

Keep being awesome bud!

 

 

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3 hours ago, halifax said:

I will say that in comparison to nhl95 this game is insanely hard to score. The first game i played as the bisons finished as a 0-0 tie after 5 minute periods and 10 mintue over time. Almost every one timer I tried, hit the post. The second game I used taipei and I managed to win 1-0 with 10 seconds left.

Thanks for the heads up. Admittedly I didn't really play test the last minute change in puck collision that that much, but instead was going on my assumptions of NHL'94. I did tone it down a bit and won with the Bisons 5-2, using 10 minute periods, with their pair coming late in the third. [Although I had to rely on a couple breakaways to get the score that high as I too had a problem with my one-timers, in that they were being blocked half the time]

You have given me another reason to put out another update though, as I just now realized that I made an error in the player select screen.
image.png

Only recently figured out how to use 4-player mode in Gens and only now configured it to be on.
Long story short, all four player numbers should have looked like number 3 does here.

Posted 1.2 in the OP.

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So now that there is an updated widescreen patch that works on the expanded '95 game,
I guess this needs to be a thing now.
image.png   image.png

Only drawback now is that score kind of floating at the 1/3 mark, but maybe there will be a 1.3 patch eventually.

image.pngHockey Stars 2 [v1.3] Wide Screen.bin

Updated the original post too.

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On 2/4/2023 at 3:37 PM, von Ozbourne said:

With one big project out of the way, it was time to finish another one. So we're going to frame this one as a retro review.

With the "wild" success of Hockey Stars, [the hockey version of the critically acclaimed Baseball Stars on the NES] SNK decided to release a follow up two years later.
This one however drew more influence from Baseball Stars 2 and Professional for the NEO-GEO AES and MVS systems respectively, as opposed to the Baseball Stars 2 port for the NES. [which was actually just a re-skin based on the original Baseball Stars engine with some features stripped out]

But enough of the history lesson, this review is about...
image.png

Based in a different engine from the original, this game has all of the favourite teams from the past games, plus four additional custom teams for 34 in total.
image.png

The pregame amble features this old guy. For context, he was also the commissioner in Baseball Stars 2. I guess he got fired or decided that he wanted to be involved in a more exciting sport. While the entire roster no longer has individual player photos, the starting lineup still has wonderful images. [with character art adapted from the same game, and with cameos from other SNK titles]
image.png

Starting a game you have a menu screen that looks like an old familiar jumbotron with a lot of statistics and options in addition to accessing line and goalie changes.
image.png

Full roster stats and ratings are available for picking your best line[s] as line changes can be turned on or off in the pre-game options.
image.png

The branding should be noticeable by now, and it carries over to all the stats screens as well.
image.png

The Playoff mode supports single game and best-of-7 play. The Championship trophy seems to have been removed from its tall base since the previous incarnation. Wonder if there was a scaling issue in the new engine.
image.png

While the pregame announcer gives individual names to the home team's arena, like the baseball games, the art assets are not individualized for each team. Judging by the amount of detail in each teams' logo, I doubt it would translate well to the smaller scale anyway. SNK did take the opportunity to add more branding in case you weren't sure who developed the game you were playing.
image.png

image.png

Winning playoff mode treats you to your victory on the front page of the national sports page with a close up of the large gold "loving cup" style trophy.
image.png

While the reduction in player profiles is a bit of a let down in this new entry, SNK figured they would make up for it with added features like Signing, Trading, Releasing players and even a Create-a-Player options. And to top it off, a full season mode.
image.png

Much like a college style season, games are played almost exclusively on weekends, with some back-to-back home-and-home series to add to the drama.
image.png

Seasons are a 32-game affair, which is nice and quick especially since you can play every single game if you want, allowing you and your friends to pick their favourite team and face off in the same season for the Championship. If 32 is still too long a season for you, the season can be ended after any day, and with each team playing on the same days, games played in the standings will be equal for all teams on any day.
image.png

At the end of the season, regardless of how your team fairs, you will be treated to an awards ceremony where the best players are awarded a gold medal of excellence. Nice touches like that make the game feel like a real season and not something completely player-centric.
image.png

To cap it off, the game offers Practice and Shoot-out modes to test your skill.
There also seems to be some Easter eggs in there for fans of SNK games as well as some general pop-culture of the '80s and early '90s.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are some instability issues with this game, likely due to the added teams and players and it being considered to be rushed out in prototype state in order to meet publisher obligations. This, as well as the Genesis losing ground on the new SNES at the time, would appear to have affected sales at the time, leaving the game a bit of a rare gem for collectors.

A solid 7/10


Hockey Stars 2 [v1.2].bin 2 MB · 68 downloads

 

Leaving the old version here. Pre some minor graphical fixes and puck collision set for slightly more difficult scoring.

Hockey Stars 2.bin 2 MB · 78 downloads

 

And now I have to do this version too.

image.png  image.png

Hockey Stars 2 [v1.3] Wide Screen.bin 2 MB · 16 downloads

 

You fooled me for a second, ngl

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  • 3 weeks later...

i can imagine a hockey stars game using the NHLPA 93 game, i think would be either called Hockey Stars: Professional or Hockey stars: Minor league. Ironically as one of the baseball stars games is called: Baseball Stars Professional that came out in 1990s as a follow-up to the original Baseball Stars which lead to the baseball star sequel two years later. it would be the rare Hockey stars game to allow fighting.

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3 hours ago, bushhockeyfan said:

i can imagine a hockey stars game using the NHLPA 93 game

I was actually thinking about something like this or possibly a Hockey Stars 3 using the '96 engine, but the main drawback is that the player photos were not a thing in any of the other games [unless I start looking into PC modding] and that was such a big part of the games. I did take a look at Little League Base Ball for the NES though and noted that while it was built using the same engine as both NES Baseball Stars games, [as well as Legends of the Diamond] it seems they took out the player stats function. I guess to get the Little League licence, they didn't want to encourage firing kids.

It might sound like I'm alluding to making a Hockey Stars: Junior League out of '93, but then you get that unfortunate situation of having that player that just got knocked out like mama said with the concussion and the gushing head wound... being a kid. And you thought parents were complaining about Mortal Kombat.

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The way you worded that reminded me of something I read in a magazine from back when NHLPA 93 was new. A parent had written a letter complaining about how violent it was when players got injured and mentioned that he exchanged it for that year's Madden. Problem was, this was the year they had the ambulance that would run over players. Suffice to say, he didn't like that either.

I don't have that magazine anymore, though. Also I'm getting off the subject.

But yeah, I do feel like some version of Hockey Stars would fit 93's gameplay well, even if it doesn't have player portraits.

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22 hours ago, Sedge said:

A parent had written a letter complaining...

You know, I always wonder about this. Basically that I played some "violent" games, like the SNES version of Mortal Kombat 1-3 [pretty tame by today's standard] and watched Wile E. Coyote get his face smashed in with anvils and boulders and saw the A-Team beat the crap out of bad guys every weekthe only time I've ever spent in jail was playing Monopoly. I always figured that my parents realized that they did a good enough job instilling the difference between fantasy and reality [granted I also grew up playing with realistic looking guns, because none of us were dumb enough to try to point them at people who weren't in the game] and didn't feel they needed to helicopter.

The second part to this is that I can actually remember being a kid. And figure if I turned out alright, I just need to teach my kids that this is a fictional and in real life, getting your head exploded is not as fun as it looks. And if I don't do a crap job at being a parent, hopefully they will turn out alright too. Obviously, other parents and their little brats are another matter, but I just learned that by not associating with them, I didn't get into as much trouble as they did.

Back on topic though, you just gave me an idea. Between recently got a game in the mail, having a conversation about a localization oddity relating to a second vintage game, and explaining what the title of a third game means to my kids, I feel that the universe is telling me that there is an answer for this. Just going to have to examine a few things to see if it can be done the right way.

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1 hour ago, bushhockeyfan said:

could you imagine creating a hockey stars box cover and title screen like this :lol:

The title stills probably wouldn't be too hard to convert, but that ten-headed hydra of a ball player on the cover art looks like it would be quite the job to recreate in that style.

It's just a shame that they got rid of the build-a-team mode in the NEO-GEO games. That's what made the original game stand out from typical games of the day. What it even weirder, is that Professional has a timer in it like an arcade port, despite being an original pack-in for the home console. [which yes, was functionally identical to the arcade hardware]

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