Will We Ever See All-Star Weekend in EA Sports NHL?
I don't know about you, but I love the post-E3 phase leading up to the release of a future sports title. After waiting for the smallest bit of information, we're swamped with details that we analyze extensively over the following months. Interviews, pre-order bonuses and betas all contribute to the ever-rising levels of anticipation before the finished product finally arrives in our hands, and hopefully, it lives up to the hype. Yeah, it's all an elaborate marketing technique, but it's a lot of fun all the same.
The frustrating part about a situation like this is not being able to get hands-on for ourselves, and that's why many of us channel that anticipation into something creative. When it comes to the NHL series, everyone has an opinion. Our NHL 17 wishlist articles and forum entries have been swamped with comments about what you'd like to see in this year's iteration, and the same thing happens on a yearly basis. Usually, these ideas are formed based on inaccuracies in the previous title's gameplay and game modes. There's a group of people who request the same things year-on-year, though, and the All-Star Weekend often falls into that category.
It's not like we haven't seen elements of an All-Star Weekend in the series before. A few of EA Sports' NHL titles have flirted with the idea. NHL 97 is possibly the most notable example, offering recreations of Skills Competition events like hardest shot and accuracy shooting. We're a long way removed from the days of John Vanbiesbrouck being on the cover of an EA Sports title, though. Despite numerous fan requests over the past 10 years-or-so, we have yet to see a fully featured rendition of the NHL All-Star Weekend experience.
Let's put things into perspective; this isn't a feature addition that would revolutionize the series. As something that only takes place once in an 82-game season, questions are always raised as to whether there's any point putting the time and effort into developing it. On paper, you have to suggest that there are many other features that need to take priority, and this is surely the primary reason why it hasn't been implemented thus far. I don't want to dismiss the idea out-of-hand, though. There's clearly an audience for this sort of thing, as so many fans of 2K's NHL series will attest. Whether you enjoyed 2K's arcade mini-games or not, it's hard to deny they added an extra layer of depth to the overall experience. I'm not suggesting that EA Sports' NHL series should take an arcade route, but a feature implementation like the Skills Competition is something that would arguably cater to the casual audience even more so than the hardcore devotees, expanding the series' reach further.
As it stands, we haven't heard anything about this feature being implemented in NHL 17. That's all right by me, but I don't want to give up hope that it'll make an appearance at some point in the future. In fact, with the new All-Star 3-on-3 mini-tournament system, there's never been a better time to introduce it.
Here's an idea: a basic draft combined with a few cutscenes sets the tournament in motion. The Skills Competition comes next, with the ability to play around 6-8 events centered around basic mini-game mechanics. Then, you've got the tournament itself, culminating in a short victory sequence for the winners.
Many of you have been requesting this feature for years and hopefully you won't have to wait too long to see it implemented. That said, the core EA Sports' NHL experience clearly takes precedence at this point, and I'm totally fine with the All-Star Weekend's absence if we get a better game as a result.