NBA Jam (2003)

June 29, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]I must admit that when I heard that NBA Jam was going to be re-released a part of me got a little tingly. I can’t even recall the amount of time I spent playing the original game on my old Sega Genesis which I incidentally still have. NBA Jam was groundbreaking with its fast paced style of gameplay and it really seemed to give way to the NFL Blitz style of sports games that followed shortly. Now that the standard sports games have had time to mature we revisit NBA Jam to see if it still has what it did back in the day. Unfortunately for Acclaim the answer is a resounding no.

I picked this game up from one day when they were doing a $20 off sale. I essentially got it for just the $5 in shipping and I am glad that it didn’t cost me anymore. I am not going to compare this to any other basketball games out right now because this game barely qualifies as basketball.

The original game was very over the top and everyone remembers the unfair handicap that seemed to thrust the CPU back into any game regardless of the deficit. I am sad to report that the latter did in fact make an appearance.

[floatright][/floatright]The original game pits 2 – 2 player teams against each other in an over the top arcade style hoops game. This time we see a major change in that you now have 3 players on a team. As you form your team, you are given the choice of 6 or so players and you pick your favorite 3. At halftime you are given a choice to change up your roster. Living in San Antonio, I was very happy with the selection of players chosen for the Spurs roster.

Given its wacky nature, NBA Jam doesn’t play like an ordinary basketball game. The more outlandish the move or dunk the greater the reward. As you play, a standard score is kept. In addition to that, you have a small orange meter that measures “Jam Points” assigned with each score. Jam points range from 100 for a jump shot to well over 1000 for a triple alley-oop dunk. Once your meter is full you can activate the Hotspot. The Hotspot is a space behind the 3 point line that allows you to do an insane dunk from 3 point land. The Hotspot has a tiered level of scoring. The 1st dunk is worth 3 points, the 2nd worth 4, and so on until you reach 7 points. As you get better, it becomes easier to gain style points and activate your Hotspot. Beware of the CPU when you activate it though. 9 times out of 10 I had the ball stripped and stolen from me upon activating it only to have it run out. The CPU also can activate Hotspots and they rarely get the ball stolen during that time.

The controls are pretty straight forward. Shoot, Pass, Steal, and Juke are your basic controls. The turbo button also makes an appearance and adds alternate moves to each basic move. Turbo + shoot will result in a very impressive dunk instead of a standard dunk. Turbo + steal will push players instead of just swiping the ball from them. Your Turbo has a very short timer though. Pushing in the right joystick (R3) activates the Hotspot when it is time.

[floatleft][/floatleft]Also making appearances are the phrases “He is heating up” and “He is on fire” which many NBA Jam fans are familiar with. After making several successive scores a player will become “on fire” at which point he can goaltend, dunk and not be blocked, and be virtually unstoppable. An opponent scoring will end this player’s hot streak.

While NBA Jam makes a nice refined release of the original arcade hit, it doesn’t really improve that much over its predecessor. Playing 1 player mode often gets very cumbersome and boring very quickly. I mentioned a handicap and that handicap can swing a game 20 points in a matter of a minute or so. The original game also had a severe handicap that allowed the CPU to come back from very large deficits to win by a buzzer beater or a 2 point bucket and this one is no exception. I played no less than 8 games in a row one day to go from dominating the opposition to looking like a bunch of kids on the court. I managed to squeak out a single win in those 8 games against LA. After that, the game just wasn’t fun anymore. Difficult games are fine, but making it darn near impossible to win gets old very very fast.

The graphics were nicely updated and it was very obvious they ignored the recent trend of almost photo realistic models and went with very cartoonish graphics. The sound effects and music were nicely done although I think I spent hardly any time noticing them over my constant yelling.

One nice addition to the game is the Jam Store. Upon completing a game you are awarded a set number of points. These points can be used to unlock and purchase different things in the shop ranging from new arenas to cheats to attributes for the create-a-player mode. Playing in the old school arenas against a classic team was actually really cool. Instead of smooth full color graphics you are presented with a 1950s/1960s looking black and white game as if you were watching it on tv back in the day.

There is no doubt that playing NBA Jam with some friends over might result in some fantastic outlandish basketball, but it may not compare to the likes NBA street or NBA Ballers. If you are looking for a fast paced arcade style game and can cope with the advantage the CPU has then by all means pick up NBA Jam (keep your eye peeled for a bargain). For everyone else, you would be better off looking at some of the newer basketball games to hit store shelves. I will personally be trading this one in just as fast as I can.

Score: 1/5

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