Before the licensed sports games like NHL and Madden, there were games like Tecmo Bowl, Virtual Tennis, and Blades of Steel. Since major league sports hadn't quite caught onto the videogame craze just yet, simple games like these were very well received. Tonight I'll chat about Blades of Steel!
You've never played Blades of Steel? No it's not a Shogun Battle game, it's just the best titled hockey game ever! Released in 1988 for the NES, this game was an instant family favorite. I mean, come on, who doesn't love hockey?
In Blades of Steel, players can move, pass and shoot. That's it. Sounds weak right? No way! Simple controls and gameplay means faster paced, more competitive gaming. And just when you think you've gotten the puck... pow! The dude in the orange jersey just punched you! Next think you know, you're button mashing in a fight. More action you'd ever imagine. So what makes Blades of Steel so special? Aside from the fast paced gameplay, I'd have to say the simplicity of it. There are so many ways to get penalties in hockey. But theres only two ways to get penalties in Blades of Steel and both are related to fighting. Less penalties = less stopping = more player immersion. And when studying game design, I learned that immersion is what the player wants.
Blades of Steel features unique voice sampling technology. At the time, it was fairly rare to hear recorded audio in video games; everything was made with programs to tell the game what note should be played when. It seems like this game was a little ahead of it's time in audio technology. When the game is powered on a rad, 80's action voice says "Blades of STEEL!" then the crowd cheers "Ahhhhh!" and the referee chimes in. It all ties back into the desire to be "immersed" into your gameplay.
So why is this goofy little hockey game so important to remember? I can't say for sure since I've never developed a sports game, but I imagine Blades of Steel laid a foundation. I think that if I were to work on a sports title, I would look back on the "pick-up-and-go" style of this game. There's no need for a tutorial; as long as you know the sport, you can play. There's no complex menus. The rules of the game are simplified for a broader audience but not too much to push away true hockey fans. Overall, this game is just so well balanced. All I can really suggest is to dust off your NES and give it a go!
Sorry for the shorter 8-Bit Banter my 8-Bit Buddies! But next week I'll make it up to you!