3 on 3 NHL Reviews
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There are several different ways to extend the life of a gaming franchise. Take Capcom’s Street Fighter for instance. Upgrades, crossovers and official “tournament” editions all helped to give Street Fighter II serious legs throughout the 90’s. Other franchises stay fresh with the help of Hollywood—a good example, among many to choose from, would be Final Fantasy. a crappier example would be the Mortal Kombat movie, but hey, at least they made the effort and kept MK on the mind of people with bad taste in flicks.
Aggressive competition means that even sports game franchises need to stay fresh in the impressionable minds of gamers. Electronic Arts could easily offer up its old Genesis sports game ROM’s on Xbox Live Arcade and keep the torch aflame—forever—but they’ve recently taken a different route.
Not dissimilar to the path recently taken by 2K Sports and its baseball franchise, EA Canada has concocted 3 on 3 NHL Arcade: A quick hit, big hit version of its big brother, NHL 09. The move really makes sense too, as the engines powering both 3 on 3 NHL Arcade and NHL 09 can remain fundamentally the same, and the licensing rights are already in the back of the net. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade makes a lot of sense on paper for both gamers and developers. It’s obviously a slam-dunk (hat trick maybe?) for hockey nuts, but what about for the enjoyer of a broad spectrum of casual games, leery of spending 800 MS Points on pond hockey? Read on, [inter]net minders, read on.
3 on 3 NHL Arcade is the sports game equivalent of NBA Jam, sans Dan Amrich in bunny ears. You’ll play free-for-all hockey with three characters per side, plus a goalie. NHL talent exists in the form of forty of the league’s top players, including standouts such as Chara, Iginla, Crosby, Ovechkin and Dipietro; each with stats simplified to “fast,” ‘strong” or “all around.” And the goalies—well, they’re all categorized the same in a game designed for double-digit scoring, and that would be “terrible.”
You won’t be allied to any one NHL team in 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, so things really play out like an All Star game with Red and Blue affiliations. But unlike most NHL All-Star games, including this year’s, checking is the name of 3 on 3 NHL Arcade’s game. You can send players over the boards, knock goalies down in any circumstance and generally have a better chance at puck possession with body checks rather than poke checks. Checking is also the way to litter the ice with game-changing power-ups. Power-ups such as a slip-and-fall banana peel, a Sub-Zero-style player freeze or one that morphs any player into a gargantuan flip 3 on 3 NHL Arcade from a decent pick-up-and-play affair into a zany and robust XBLA title.
As mentioned, using the same tech that powers NHL 09 to run 3 on 3 NHL Arcade creates many similarities between the two. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a banana peel on the ice, or the ability to turn every goalie into Darren Pang (that power-up is called “Small Goalie”) means that 3 on 3 NHL Arcade equals all fun and games. It is mainly that, but 3 on 3 displays some sim-accuracy, and can be played with NHL 09-like precision in many areas. The controls, for instance, can be made to replicate the analog set-up in NHL 09; including saucer passing, one-on-one dekes and protecting-the-puck commands. You can even aim shots, and generally get as fancy as you can in NHL 09. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade also feels the same as NHL 09; at least in the core elements such as player glide and hit detection, and also in the shooting/passing dynamics; regardless of if Skill Stick/face button controls are utilized.Having the ability to play 3 on 3 NHL Arcade in a more technical manner and/or with a button-mashing style is a boon to EACA’s XBLA hockey romp. Varying levels of seriousness in the users that gather to play 3 on 3 NHL Arcade in ranked or unranked online matches creates a fresh, party-style atmosphere that works within the confines of XBLA. Add to that bobble head visuals and slapstick audio (one sound effect for menu tab changes is simply some guy saying “click”) and it’s easier to understand why 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is an overall blast.
There are some arguments to be made against 3 on 3 NHL Arcade by the solo offline player—that there’s no tourney mode or progression of any kind. But these thoughts are quickly whisked away the first time a “small” power-up is nabbed, and the four-by-six is occupied by a foot-tall goalie.