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Blades of Steel ( Konami Ice Hockey) is an ice hockey video game released by Konami for the arcade in 1987, and ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. All teams are fictional but based out of real Canadian and American cities. The game is known for its fast paced hockey action and especially for the fighting. It is a one or two player game. When playing against the computer, there are three difficulty levels to choose from: Junior, College, and Pro (with Pro being the most difficult and Junior being the easiest). Each team consists of three forwards, two defencemen, and a goaltender.
At the beginning of the game, players can select either "Exhibition" or "Tournament" matches. An exhibition match is just one game played against either the computer or another player. Tournament matches are similar to the NHL playoffs. It starts out as one team of the player's choice going against other teams in a playoff style tournament. The team that is successful in beating all of the opposing teams is awarded the Konami Cup.
Fighting in the game occurs whenever two players bump into each other three times in a row without hitting another player. The fight screen appears and the gamers take control of their players. The loser is given the penalty and sent to the penalty box (the winner is not punished), creating a power play opportunity of 5 on 4 skaters. Up to 2 players can be penalized, for a maximum of a 5 on 3 advantage. If a fight occurs close to one of the nets, the referee may break up the fight and call a "penalty shot".
During the second intermission, either a video game will appear for Player One to play or a Konami ad will appear featuring a bear shooting the puck into a net mouthing the words "Nice Shot!" The video game is actually an advertisement for Contra and other Konami games, in which (at one point) a little spaceship is trying to destroy a much larger spaceship, this being a reference to Gradius.
If the score is tied at the end of the game, a shoot out (similar to a penalty shot) is used to determine the winner. Each team gets five shots. The team with the most goals after five shots is the winner. If, after that, the game is still tied, each team keeps getting one more shot until a winner is determined.
There are a total of eight teams, four from Canada and four from the United States. The four Canadian cities are Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton. The four American teams are from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota.
Each team sports a different colored sweater, inspired mostly from National Hockey League, Canadian Football League and even National Football League counterparts. Some team jerseys look similar making it difficult to distinguish between them, particularly when playing Chicago vs. Vancouver and to a lesser extent Montreal vs. Los Angeles.
Several of the uniform palette swaps from football teams are logical, such as Minnesota from the NFL's Vikings, Edmonton from the CFL's Eskimos, and so on. New York and Toronto had the serendipitous occurrence of having great similarity between the colors of their football franchises and their hockey franchises. The New York Rangers (NHL) and the New York Giants (NFL) both wear Red and Blue. The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) both wear blue, albeit different shades, and the twin blue colors of the Toronto team's uniforms suggest the Argonauts' attire more than the Maple Leafs'. Los Angeles is the only team to wear colors solely associated with the local NHL team, although the Los Angeles Kings changed their uniforms to a black and silver motif shortly after the release of this game. Chicago's red and grey uniforms likely refer to the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Chicago Bulls also wore a similar color scheme. Montréal and Vancouver's uniforms arose out of esoteric decisions—the Montréal Canadiens, Montréal Alouettes, and Montréal Expos had all adopted Red, White, and Blue color schemes, whereas the Montréal team wears Brown and Red uniforms that might suggest the old Montréal Maroons' uniforms. Vancouver's uniform combines the green of early Canucks uniforms from the 1970s with the brown of then-current Canucks uniforms into an awkward mix of the two styles. Vancouver's BC Lions (CFL) wore gold and black.
- City - Colors - Point of Reference (NHL/NFL/CFL/NBA)
- New York — Blue & Red - New York Rangers (NHL) and New York Giants(NFL)
- Chicago — Red & Grey - Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) and Chicago Bulls (NBA)
- Los Angeles — Yellow & Indigo - Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
- Montréal — Amber & Coral Red - Montréal Maroons? (NHL)
- Toronto — Teal & Sky Blue - Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
- Edmonton — Bright Green & Yellow - Edmonton Eskimos (CFL)
- Vancouver — Burnt Orange & Forest Green - Vancouver Canucks? (NHL)
- Minnesota — White & Purple - Minnesota Vikings (NFL)
This game also features distinct voice samples, which were rare at the time in NES games. Most notably, the voice says "Blades of Steel!" on the title screen, "FACEOFF!" before each faceoff, "FIGHT!" when a fight breaks out, "With the pass..." after a successful pass is made, "Hit the Puck", "Icing", "Penalty Shot", and an "aaahhh" made by the losing player after a fight or when a player skates into a goalie.
The arcade version, having better speech software and more memory available to use, offered a much greater variety of sound bites and commentary.
Konami's programming staff seems to have had only a rudimentary understanding of the rules of hockey, or chose to streamline many of the complex rules into a few key points. Blades of Steel differs from the professional game in the NHL in the late 1980s in that it has no offsides rule, and its interpretation of penalties is somewhat unique. The game's officials only call two penalties. Players who lose a fistfight are penalized 2 minutes, an abstract reworking of the 5 minute offsetting majors normally assigned in the event of a fight. Should a fight break out in front of one team's net, then the player on offense gets a penalty shot. The penalty shot is administered in the style of a soccer penalty shot, in that the shooting player must stand on the blue line, instead of moving towards the goaltender. The game also recognizes icing infractions, with an appropriate game reset and faceoff in the liable team's zone.