2003 is the first year that Midway ported its fabulous Hitz series to this handheld console. In order to be successful, the GBA version must fill its big brother’s shoes, and it does so moderately well. Hitz 2003 supports the same fast paced action as the next generation consoles with its hard hits, fast game play, and the quirky comments generated by the commentator. Despite some flaws, Midway doesn’t do that bad of a job, considering this was the first GBA experience for the series.
The Blitz and Hitz franchises are known for their unrealistic arcade style of play. Huge checks, knocking players through the boards, turbo power, and the ability to be on fire are the key elements that separate these games from all the others. Hitz 2003 continues in this fashion with its “everything exaggerated” 3-on-3 brand of hockey. The player’s shooting and passing power can be increased when used in combination with the turbo button. You can knock over an opponent with the check button and turbo, but be careful; too many checks will result in a fight between the two players. The fight department could use a little work because it can be glitchy and unresponsive at times. However, when the battle is over, both players enter the penalty box but the loser gets ejected from the rest of the game. In the console versions of Hitz, each team is only allowed to lose three players in one game. After these players get ejected, no more fighting will occur because the team doesn’t have any more players for substitution. This is not the case in the GBA version. While playing, I experienced seven fights in a single game. This made me wonder who was playing on my team when all my players were gone.
On the same page of the glitchy fighting system, the passing proves inaccurate. There have been instances where a player will be wide open down ice, but the player passing the puck will hit it slow and away from the target. Not being able to pass quickly and accurately can be very frustrating. If by chance you are able to complete a pass, the character you are controlling will switch to the player with the puck. Unlike the in the bigger consoles versions, the GBA version doesn’t allow you to lock on to a single player. Not being able to stay as one character, especially in multiplayer mode, can be very confusing. This game does support multiplayer, but everyone will need his or her own copy of the game. The modes of play are limited in multiplayer mode as gamers can only play an exhibition match on the same team or against each other when they link up. Unfortunately, season mode is only available in the single player mode in the GBA version. This game could stand to benefit from a few mini-games as well.
The quick-witted announcer adds to the fast paced action of the game. He speaks shockingly clear and never appears be over annoying. However, if you grow tired of the commentary, you can shut it off via the option menu. The GBA version doesn’t get real music by real bands (sorry, no Limp Bizkit) but contains its usual techno beat. On a related note, the graphics are nothing more than average. Before the game begins, you have the option of changing your team’s color. You will find yourself switching to a bright color like red just to see the contrast of the players from the ice. The character sprites look very muddy, especially when on fire and during fights. Despite unclear character models, a few nice particle effects are noteworthy. Players will slide and kick up ice realistically and lights will flicker when a goal is scored. After a goal has been made, a replay option is available and the player can rewind, fast forward, and even view the goal in slow motion. This is a very nice and unique touch for a GBA game. Even the sound effects that were in the bigger versions of this game made it into the GBA version. You’ll hear the same sound quality when you check a player, hit the puck against the boards, and punch your opponent during a fight.
Hitz 2003 is a still a fun game to play even though there are still some bugs and design issues that need to be worked out. This game is the best arcade hockey game since Blades of Steel and can offer you and your friends a fun multiplayer experience if everyone owns a copy of the game. So is this game worthy of a purchase? I say yes if you are a fan of the series, like fast paced hockey, or see this game in the bargain bin for under ten bucks. Hopefully, Midway recognizes its shortcomings in Hitz 2003 and will attempt to improve on them next time. However, Midway recently revealed that they are taking a more realistic style of game play for its sports games in the coming years. The Hitz series is rumored to be changing to 5-on-5 hockey and the Blitz series will feature more players on the field and realistic rules. Everyone will be watching Midway’s change in its game play next year.