Accolade’s sports video games– especially during the 16-bit era– often had strong presentation values, but average (or worse) gameplay. Brett Hull Hockey ’95 for the SEGA Genesis is a textbook example of this trend.
The game excels in the presentation department. Al Michaels provides commentary (as he did for some of Accolade’s Hardball! games for the Genesis, Super NES, and PlayStation), and… it’s not too bad. It’s a little bit stilted and it repeats quite a bit, but given the limitations of the cartridge format, I found it to be more than adequate. There’s also a nice scoreboard animation that pops up from time to time to show scoring details, penalty information, and power play time remaining. At the end of each game, Brett Hull provides some feedback about each team’s performance.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t hold up. For starters, the isometric view is a real pain to adjust to. A delay between pressing (or holding down) the shot button and the actual shooting process on the screen is annoying– especially if your player is being hounded by the other team. Passing is rather inaccurate, and I struggled to complete any one-timers. Switching between skaters is, thankfully, a bit easier… but this is a minor relief.
When shooting does work, goaltenders tend to be a bit shaky. Playing as the Boston Bruins in my very first game, I scored six times on Felix Potvin– including an Al Iafrate hat trick. (No, really. Al Iafrate. The guy who had the hardest shot in the NHL before some Zdeno Chara guy came along.) The funny thing about Iafrate’s hat trick is that only one goal was scored on a slap shot. Meanwhile, Bill Ranford was a stone wall in my net until he gave up a pair of fluky “The CPU is losing, so let’s make it more interesting” goals in the third period. Granted, goalie AI back then wasn’t stellar or anything… but this seemed a bit too haphazard for goalie performance, especially when measured against EA’s NHL series, or even SEGA’s own NHL All-Star Hockey ’95.
Visually, Brett Hull Hockey ’95 is okay. Isometric shenanigans aside, the players all wear the correct colors (there isn’t an NHL license here, only an NHLPA license) and the animation moves along at a decent clip. It’s not quite as smooth as EA’s NHL games tend to be, but it’s certainly a very playable game. In terms of sound, once you get past the commentary from Al Michaels and some pretty good organ music, the on-ice sound effects fall kind of flat. The puck makes a “tink”ing noise on the ice, as if it’s made of glass. Players grunt and groan, but that’s to be expected.
Brett Hull Hockey ’95 isn’t going to unseat NHL ’94 or NHL ’96 as the best hockey games on the SEGA Genesis. That said, I do appreciate Accolade’s general attention to presentation value in trying to create a broadcast-style event. It reminds me of what Konami would do in the early 2000s with its line of ESPN sports games; the games were average (or worse), but the TV-style presentation was really impressive for the time.
PriceCharting lists a loose cartridge of Brett Hull Hockey ’95 at $5.25, as of this writing. That’s probably a bit steep for this game, especially since NHL 95 and NHL All-Star Hockey ’95 are both cheaper. That said, if you can find it loose for a couple of dollars (like I did) and you like hockey video games, you could do a lot worse.