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NHL 2002 Advance Package Art
††EA Sports
††Electronic Arts

NHL 2002 Advance

Is it 1995 again? Is that Nirvana Iím hearing in the background? Is the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ruling the air waves? Nope! Although, donít tell the folks at EA sports that. Theyíve time warped us back to a time when video game hockey was simple, pure and electric fun. Big hits, spin-o-ramas and cheesey audio; NHL 2002 for the GBA title is a throwback to the golden age of hockey video gaming. An age, I might add, that is being revisited with this yearís outstanding PS2 effort from EA sports.

So how does the NHL seriesí little handheld brother stand up to the scrutiny of this crass canuck? Rather well, I must admit, although there is still some room for improvement. Hopefully EA will continue to develop a full line of sports titles for the little system that could-- that way we can see the series develop through its installments.


EA has done a great job preserving the majority of the look from the original SNES titles. When they have the puck, players are easily identified via an indicator star beneath them. Whatís obscured is the numbers beneath the player. This is attributed to the low resolution screen of the GBA. It would be easier to pick up who youíre using if that were a bit clearer. But generally, the screen is fairly clear and the action is easy enough to follow. For you American hockey fans out there, you wonít even have to turn on the ďglowĒ puck.

The action seems like a SNES version jacked up on perks and ginseng. It's fast with a blazing framerate, and this pace affects the defensive end of the play. Itís hard to do anything to stop the opposing team when the action is flying around the ice at top speeds. Also, like Eric Lindros getting cracked crossing the trolley tracks, you tend not to see some of your opponentsí players coming in from of the outskirts of the small GBA screen. And when you donít... whap! Youíre concussed.

The menus are intuitive and clear to navigate. Also, in game action information, including penalties, are easy enough to make out.


This is the real soft spot of NHL 2002 for GBA. There just isnít enough density here to fill the audioscape. Thereís actually one sound effect that sounds like a hollow pipe being hit that just gets bloody annoying after a while. The worst part of all this is that there isnít a sound effect for a flattening check. Man, thereís nothing more gratifying then the sound of a thud of bodies. The checks just lose their gusto when thatís missing.

Yet kudos though on the interactive crowd. Theyíll chant out "D-Fens" and holler at certain times. I also thought it was pretty to hear Gobís "I hear you calling" at the beginning of the game. Still, the audioscape needs way more work. There just isnít enough here.


Just like the days of ole, NHL 2002 hearkens back to the 16 bit era of Nintendo. Its gameplay is similar, if a little too fast, tending to remove some of the strategy from the game. The AI is a bit obtuse too. Youíll find players going offside a little too often, or, even worse, completely blowing defensive assignments. The goalies are competent, but I tried it and the good old wrap around goal does work fairly consistently.

The nice thing about this game is that it allows you to play a full season with stat tracking, manage rosters via trades, create a player, and even edit lines. Granted, you canít dial in an umbrella strategy on your power play or a defensive zone coverage. But you know what? For a handheld game, Iím pretty impressed with the level of options.


Linked hockey action? Great! Enjoy linking up at the local pub and have some fun Canadian drinking games, such as first to miss a breakaway has to hammer a Heineken!


Hey, I love hockey. While this game is a bit too fast, thereby affecting strategy, and the title could use some more character, itís still a solid hockey game for the fan on the move. Iíd suggest buying it. Now when is the 'Cube going to be graced by the masterful NHL series?

final score Sports/10

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Staff Avatar Eric Mattei
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"Lost like tears in rain"

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