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Friday, August 19, 2011

A Challenge to Roenick's Video Game Throne

jeremy roenick video games best
The geniuses at EA Sports, makers of the outstanding NHL series of video games, have made a major announcement about their upcoming version of the popular game. NHL 12 will feature nine hockey legends: Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Jeremy Roenick, Borje Salming, Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, and Chris Chelios.

It would certainly be nice if EA included legends such as Bobby Orr in the game, but there was probably some sort of licensing issue that EA couldn’t get around in order to have him in the game. Still, it’s a pretty cool set of players.

Some people may complain about Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, two players who only recently retired and sort of feel out-of-place among the other legends. I can't really explain Chelios, but Roenick’s addition to the game might be due more to his status as a video game legend, rather than an actual NHL legend.

Roenick’s prowess as a video game avatar was immortalized in the 1996 movie Swingers, starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau before they were actually famous.

 

Roenick was unstoppable in both NHLPA 93 and NHL 94. He was stronger than a member of the 1989 Oakland A's. He was almost impossible to knock off the puck and routinely bowled over opponents with ease. Down-low he could score with no difficulty, racking up an obscene amount of goals. He can pretty much shoot from anywhere and it’s going to go in. Sort of like all goals in the 80s.

There are tons of compilations on YouTube of Roenick going insane. Here’s one.


There’s five dislikes to that video, which I’m sure are just people burned by Roenick’s amazing ability.

Roenick told NHL.com that college kids would recount stories of dorm room bets they won simply by choosing the Blackhawks and running up to the score thanks to his video game likeness. People should have started invoking a no Hawks rule, sort of like in Goldeneye when everyone would frantically blurt out ‘No Odd Job’ before someone could pick the diminutive and thus hard to shoot character.

IGN ranks Roenick fourth among all video game athletes and Swingers has solidified in everyone’s mind that Roenick was the greatest hockey video game character of all-time, but there may actually be someone worthy of challenging him for the throne.

Sergei Samsonov.

In NHL 2006, Samsonov was electric. He was small, which may sound like it’s a disadvantage, but it’s not. At the time, NHL still had the speed burst button, but not the type that’s used in the current version that makes it difficult to control the puck. Back then the speed burst button could be used when you had the puck with no detriment to your puck control. It was like hitting the afterburners, yet retaining Kovalev-like stick-handling abilities. Samsonov was a fast player to begin with and when you added the speed burst he was like a cheetah driving a Ferrari with Usain Bolt in the passenger seat drinking a red bull. Fast!

If you had speed in this NHL you could do anything. If your player was fast enough, you could routinely blow past the defence and gallop towards the netminder with a clear breakaway. Sometimes you could have a breakaway starting at the red-line.

Samsonov owned a pretty good rating in NHL 2006 because programmers were under the impression he was still the dynamo that won the Calder Trophy, even though that was almost ten years prior. Even with an overinflated rating, Samsonov didn’t have the innate scoring abilities that Roenick had in NHL 93/94 (remember, in Swingers Vince Vaughn says “it’s not as much me as it is Roenick; he’s good”). However, once you were in alone in NHL 2006 it was almost a given you were going to score as long as you knew the money deke, which everyone did.

The NHL games have always featured a money-move that was a guaranteed goal. In some of the earliest games it was a cheesy wrap-around; in NHL 99 you could take a long shot on the goalie, who would then freeze outside his crease, giving you an open net for the juicy rebound; and for the longest time it was a one-timer in the slot. But in NHL 2006, the money-move was essentially the triple deke, taken right out of the Gordon Bombay playbook. It worked 99% of the time. The only issue was getting in on the breakaway to utilize it most effectively. With Samsonov there was no issue. You were in. Always.

Now what separates Samsonov from some of the other small, fast players in the game was that he wasn’t that easy to knock off the puck. If you created a player and made him the smallest and lightest he could be, plus maxing out his speed, you would create the fastest player on the ice. In theory: unstoppable. But you’d also create a player prone to the body check. A slight breeze would knock this player over. For Samsonov, it took an actual straight on body check, not the easiest thing to throw when Samsonov was dashing all over the ice.

Samsonov lived off his reputation as a video game God long after his actual hockey skills eroded. He almost seemed content being the best video game character and didn’t really feel the need to work on being an actual real-life hockey player. He was still getting contracts, anyways. Probably because a bunch of GMs had kids winning countless Stanley Cups with him on their Xbox and let their Dads in on their secret. I think JFJ used the NHL series to evaluate a couple of his trades, so those GMs are out there.

I’m not sure if this is enough to put Samsonov past Roenick for best video game character of all-time, I mean, come on, Roenick made Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed, but it at least puts him in the discussion.

4 comments:

Bo Jackson said...

If I recall correctly, Steve Sullivan was pretty good in those speed burst days, too.

how to hockey said...

apparently Cliff Ronning was the best player in NHL 93, he knew one of the programmers and as a joke his friend made him the best player in the game.

Theodore said...

I was a huge Gary Roberts fan based solely on his NHLPA 93 likeness. Not sure what his stats were, but he was fast and scored a shitload for me.

Anonymous said...

A local video game store held an NHL '94 tournament, and I won it all with the Blackhawks.

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