‘NHL 14’ celebrates 20 years of hockey excellence with the ‘NHL 94’ Anniversary Mode

NHL14-NHL94-Anniversary-Mode-Blue-Ice

EA Sports’ won’t be making its next-gen debut on the new consoles in 2013, so the EA Canada team is instead looking into the past and bringing back an overhauled take on a beloved classic, with the new NHL ’94 Anniversary Mode. The original NHL ’94, released in early 1993 for Sega Genesis (and later for SNES), represents a landmark moment in video game hockey. For the first time, licensing deals were struck with both the NHL and the NHL Player’s Association, meaning that team names and logos plus player names could appear in the same game for the first time. In addition to that, a number of rule tweaks and a focus on fast, precise action elevated the game to “best in the series” status; its popularity endures even today, with an online community at NHL94.com devoted to keeping the classic alive.

NHL ’94 Anniversary Mode isn’t the same as the carbon-copied NHL ’94 mode that appeared as a bonus in EA Sports’ NHL ’06, as producer Sean Ramjagsingh told Digital Trends. “What we’ve done is our own take on reinventing the NHL ’94 experience with modern-day players, modern-day looks and then some retro elements,” he said. Players will spot the difference as soon as they fire up the mode, but they’ll also see immediate nods toward the classic game.

“Right from the load screen going in you’re going to hear some of that organ music that you remember from ’94. We have organ music throughout the gameplay itself. We’ve got the blue ice in there. We’ve also got the star indicator under the players. When you go in, during the intro sequence, you’ll see some NHL ’94 footage playing on the jumbotron. You’ll see some retro artwork on the power rings,” Ramjagsingh revealed. He also confirmed that the classic NHL ’94 goal celebration will be returning… sort of.

“We’ve got a pretty unique celebration after you score a goal. Not exact to NHL ’94, but kind of our take on the NHL ’94 celebration,” he said. “It’s actually something the [CHL’s] Kamloops Blazers did, I think it was last season or the season before, to celebrate goals in recognition of NHL ’94. Lots of cool little things like that, lots of presentation elements.”

NHL14-NHL94-Anniversary-Mode-Goal-Celebration

Ramjagsingh went on to confirm that there’s more to the mode than just a minor re-skin. The play in this Anniversary Mode moves very differently than it does in standard NHL 14 games. It essentially boils down to heavily tweaked performance sliders, but the play is meant to more closely mirror the pace and the feel of the 20 year old game. “We just amped everything up,” Ramjagsingh said. “So [you’ve got] huge hits, you’ve got the turbo button in there so you can fly around the ice, lots of goal scoring.”

“We’ve really focused on the accessibility. There’s a lot of people out there who are hockey fans and they just haven’t played our game because they fear the controls and things like that. They remember those nostalgic memories of playing with the button controls and being able to high-five their buddies and all that great stuff. We want to give people that experience once again. Literally turbo button, pass, shoot, and hit are the buttons that you have at your disposal.”

Players that prefer the analog thumbstick controls introduced in more recent iterations of the NHL series will have that option as well, but button controls will be the default in Anniversary Mode.

Another tweak: fighting. NHL ’94 is well-known for doing away with fisticuffs. The fighting system from NHL 14 – powered by Fight Night’s Enforcer Engine – appears in Anniversary Mode as well, only it uses button commands. It also features “a few twists just for the NHL ’94 mode,” Ramjagsingh confirmed, though making Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed – or anyone else’s, for that matter – isn’t it. Sorry, Swingers fans

Speaking of Gretzky, the NHL superstar appears in NHL 14 along with Mario Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick, the dreaded beast player of the original NHL ’94. Ramjagsingh explained that the dev team knows Roenick is a must-have player for the Anniversary Mode, but bringing in others would have been a challenge. “For us to bring in those classic players from back in the day, we need to approach each one of those guys individually and sign a deal with them, which is pretty time-consuming and can get pretty costly,” he said.

NHL14-NHL94-Anniversary-Mode-Star-Player-Indicators

“It is something we hear our fans asking about all the time and we’re investigating different ways bring that into the experience,” Ramjagsingh continued, adding that “we’re working with different people throughout the NHL and throughout the NHLPA to see how we can make that effort to bring classic players in a little less cumbersome.” Those who want the full-on retro flavor won’t be completely out of luck, however. NHL 14 features an assortment of classic jerseys, including a selection from now-defunct teams like the Whalers, Jets, and Nordiques, all of which appeared in NHL ’94.

There’s clearly a lot of excitement at EA Canada about bringing NHL ’94 back for a modern audience. Its appearance in NHL ’06 was welcomed by fans, but the old-school presentation and play mechanics ultimately didn’t measure up, as Ramjagsingh  learned. “The feedback we got was the nostalgic memories they had around playing NHL ’94… those were almost better than actually getting their hands on the game and playing it again,” he said. “We did research throughout the year on where we wanted to go with this [Anniversary] mode, and people didn’t actually want to play NHL ’94. They wanted a different take on it that brought back great elements from NHL ’94, but wasn’t actually NHL ’94.”

“I think the passion that people have around that product and the fact that it’s still going is really, really fantastic. I just love to see that people are still passionate about the game, and it proves just how iconic that game was. That’s the reason why we’re… honoring that game this year with NHL 14.”

Home Theater

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ season 2 gets a new, Spock-heavy trailer

CBS has released a new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, which premieres January 17 on CBS All Access. The new trailer features series newcomers Spock and Christopher Pike prominently.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Gaming

Trash at 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Use this guide to train up and get good

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the biggest game in the entire series, and it can be overwhelming for newcomers not used to the universe-colliding fighting game. Here's what you need to know when you're starting.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Nintendo pulls the plug on making more SNES Classic, NES Classic systems

Nintendo extended production of the NES Classic and SNES Classic into 2018, but once the current supply of consoles is gone, the company won't be making more. Instead, you'll have to use Nintendo Switch Online.
Gaming

Fancy ‘Kingdom Hearts III’ PlayStation 4 Pro launches alongside game in January

A limited edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle for Kingdom Hearts III will launch alongside the game in January. The system included has a special design on the side, as does the controller.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ removes the Infinity Blade weapon after player backlash

Following player backlash over the Infinity Blade weapon's inclusion in Fortnite's battle royale mode, Epic Games decided to remove the weapon from the game completely. It was not limited to a special mode.
Gaming

Want to share your Xbox One games? Here's how to do it

Sharing games on modern consoles is possible, but it takes a few steps. Here's how to start sharing games on your Xbox One console, so friends and family can easily access your library.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.
Gaming

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.