Optional Skate: NHL Hitz is Awesome and Needs to Make a Comeback

Welcome to my new feature, Optional Skate. You know, the one that I’ve promised for a month now and still haven’t delivered. This will be a reoccurring feature (I wanted it weekly, but A #1, I couldn’t stick to a day, and B #2, I don’t want to feel forced doing these) where I write about a topic that’s not the Minnesota Wild or NHL. And when I say “a topic”, I mean “Tim Tebow and/or Brett Favre”. Just kidding, but it will be about interests that lie outside of the world of hockey. I don’t expect everyone to be interested or care, and that’s fine, that’s why it’s optional. If you want to go and read some real hockey analysis, I won’t be offended in the slightest.

Do you already have NHL Hitz 20-03? Did you get it for Christmas? Did you get it for someone you love for Christmas?

If the answer to all three of these questions is “No.”, then congratulations! You’ve failed at life!

Why’s that? Because if you don’t own NHL Hitz 20-03, you don’t possess the greatest hockey video game ever made. No big deal.

Yes, NHL 94 fans, I said it, though your favorite game is second on this list. And how does it feel, NHL 12 fans? Yeah, it’s fancy graphics and labyrinthine controls can’t hold a candle to NHL Hitz. NHL Hitz’ easy to learn controls, combined with a challenging, fast, visceral game is what makes NHL Hitz the most fun hockey game, bar none.

What’s the Big Deal?

For people who aren’t familiar with awesome video games, NHL Hitz (which circulated on Xbox, Gamecube, and PS2) is an awesome, acrade-style hockey game where the games are played 3-on-3, with the ideal teams having a Center, a Winger, and a Defensemen. The players only have 5 categories, Speed, Shooting, Passing, Checking, and Toughness (fighting ability). This is an awesome simplification. Sure, maybe “Shot Power”, “Shot Accuracy”, and “Acceleration” might be good categories to give a player some depth, but what good does “Offensive Awareness”, “Aggressiveness”, “Discipline”, and “Hand-Eye” do? It’s way too much, they’re ratings for ratings sake. Could the five category system be improved? Probably, but I’ll take simplicity over complication any day.

Same thing with the controls. Bare bones. You pass, shoot, deke, block passes and shots, check, stick check, guard the puck, dump the puck, and use turbo. Bam. That’s it. Six buttons. No wasting time learning how to shoot with a joystick. You can master the controls in 15 minutes. How cool is that?

And the gameplay is, of course, fun. 3-on-3 in a small rink makes for high scoring (You can score in about 4 seconds off the faceoff) and mammoth hits. Add the fact that the games are short (three periods of three minutes), and you’ve got a fun, fast-paced, and overall excellent tournament game.

So find this game, ladies and gentlemen, and start some tournaments.

Tips For Tournament Play

First, before you play any game against your friends, I need to offer two pieces of advice. Master the one-timer. It’s the most efficient way to score. Also, practice defense. Practice stick checking, practice blocking passes. You’re welcome.

Here are the Official Jacques Lemaire’s Trap NHL Hitz 20-03 Tourney Rules:

New players are to play as Team Canada until they win a game.

Off-Limits Teams: Colorado, Detroit, International teams, with the exception of New Players. (Come on guys. You really need Forsberg, Sakic, Blake and Roy to win? Pathetic.)

Skill Level: Pro

Penalties (There’s only one- hitting the goalie): On

Fighting: Off (Fighting can ruin the game, lose a fight, and your player is knocked out the whole game)

Tiebreaker: Sudden Death

Mercy Rule: 5 Goal Lead

And here are my Top 5 favorite teams to play. Feel free to use those recommendations.

1. Philadelphia Flyers- (Roenick-Gagne-Primeau) My favorite team to play, and not just because Jeremy Roenick is awesome. OK, mostly because Jeremy Roenick is awesome. He’s a cult figure in my circle of friends. But his superior shooting and checking makes for a dominant player, while Simon Gagne brings the speed, and Keith Primeau is JR-lite. Add Roman Chechmanek’s very good goaltending, and you’ve got a great Hitz team. This goes double if you have fighting in the game, as the loss of any player is mitigated with Mark Recchi and John LeClair as backups.

2. San Jose Sharks (Damphousse-Selanne-Nolan)- Damphousse is serviceable as a center, but the real draw is the Speedy Sniper Selanne and Owen Nolan, who is perfect in the defenseman role, with a big shot, good speed, and good checking. No worries selecting the Sharks for all of your NHL Hitz needs.

3. St. Louis Blues (Tkachuk-Demitra-Pronger)- What’s awesome about this team is that they’re great defensively, and all bring offensive chops to the table. The only thing that sucks is that the goaltending isn’t spectacular. But hey, Tkachuck, Demitra, and Pronger should be able to offset that.

4. Boston Bruins (Thornton-Samsonov-Rolston)- Jumbo Joe with two Snipers. Me likey. Goaltending the only issue, but I like Thornton too much not to play the Bruins. It’s my weakness.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (Francis-Kapanen-O’Neill)- This should probably be mostly for more experienced players, but I love playing the Hurricanes. Kapanen is a speedy guy who can shoot, and O’Neill is everything you want in a Hitz defenseman, but my favorite player is Francis. He’s very, very slow (73 rating), but his shot and passing ability make him a threat. Also, Ron Francis makes my roommate very angry.

Teams that look great, but that I’d recommend avoiding:

1. New York Rangers (Lindros-Bure-Leetch)- On paper, this team’s great, but Richter’s shaky goaltending, and the fact that no one I know has really used them to achieve any kind of success makes me wary of using them.

But Enough of My Guide To NHL Hitz 20-03, The Important Part Is…

The fact that it’s lost. There hasn’t been a new edition of Hitz since 2003. Think about the awesome teams that are being wasted because of this. Think about how cool it would be to play Crosby-Malkin-Letang, Backstrom-Ovechkin-Green, Seguin-Lucic-Chara, or Toews-Kane-Keith? There are some awesome teams that have been lost, never to be played in Hitz. Spezza-Alfredsson-Chara. Thornton-Heatley-Boyle. Hell, it looks like we may have lost Ovechkin’s prime (32 goals in a healthy season isn’t worthy of a 99 Shot rating). It’s a shame that these awesome Hitz teams are existing with no new NHL Hitz games to accompany them.

And there’s no reason they can’t start up the franchise again. NBA Jam, a fellow Midway game, was re-released in 2010 by EA. And guess what? NBA Jam is still really, really fun. In addition, NFL Blitz will also be remade by EA. There is definitely precedent for the old (and great) Midway games to be remade. There just needs to be a market for them.

And you know where that market comes from? Us. You and me. So, current and future Hitz fans, get on it! Write your congressman EA and let them know you’d be interested in a NHL Hitz remake. God, Jesus, The World, Gregory Peck, Tim Tebow, and I will all thank you for your contributions to the cause.

And also, if you like hockey video games, and have never played Hitz before, go to a used game store, and drop the 10 bucks. You’ll thank me later.

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4 responses to “Optional Skate: NHL Hitz is Awesome and Needs to Make a Comeback

  1. me and my bestfriend still play this game every weekend and agree 100% there needs to be a new release made it will be a crime if EA doesn’t remake this game.

  2. Yes. It must happen soon. Everyone I talk to agrees it is one of the most addicting games ever! Changing the players into rats, dinosaurs, snowmen…was also mighty genius.

  3. I have had this game since 2005. Got it for 3 bucks in a used game bin, and I swear to god that this game is amazing in every single way..l right down to the soundtrack. (Hey… I get picky)
    But it’s true… A remake would be appreciated!

  4. Me and my college friends are obsessed with NHL Hitz 2003. NHL Hitz Pro, the follow up is atrocious by comparison. We have “mastered” the game and so we find new ways to challenge ourselves for co-op purposes. For example, we start a franchise and won’t allow any equipment/stat upgrades as we progress through the rounds. We have recently self-imposed a mandatory shutout rule as well for the franchise mode. Hitz is the best hockey game of all time, NHL 94/95 are a distant second. We want to organize a Hitz tournament, like those brothers in Wisconsin have done for Tecmo Super Bowl, to see how good we really are. It would be nice if they made more Hitz games, but I am doubtful.

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