NBA Jam review
Ah, NBA Jam… A classic game that I did play a few times as a kid, but I never really got too hardcore into it, and I sucked badly at it.
But when I saw it was getting a remake, I knew I had to check it out. It looked very much like the classic gameplay-wise, but with better graphics. It looked really fun. But I didn’t buy it because… well, because it’s on a disc rather than being downloadable, which it really should be.
Anyways, enough about that, let’s actually talk about the game. Read on!
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Date of Release: October 5th
Platforms: Nintendo Wii (other versions coming later)
Genre: Arcade Basketball game
Rated E for Everyone
What is good about this game
NBA Jam doesn’t replicate the classic graphics, but rather majorly updates them. You have digitized faces for the players which looks great (especially with big head mode on), and a few sets of standard bodies with 3D graphics (with different sizes and skin colors to fit the real players). If you compare to previous versions of the game (I’m comparing to the Saturn version (T.E) since it’s the one I have, though from what I’ve seen the Saturn version looks very much like the arcade version), this looks a LOT better. Â The uses of 3D definitely helps, but what really helps is the better screen resolution and textures, everything looks a whole lot smoother than before.
Sound-wise the game is fairly standard for a basket-ball game, and the music feels “stock”, but this is all saved by the awesome announcer. He has all his classics like Boom-Shaka-Laka, but he has a lot of very funny lines in there too. Some are more modern slang (“Uncool dude, you Shotblocked me!”), some are just completely random, but all of them are fun. But what I really like about the announcer, other than the awesome sentences, is that he actually sounds great. He’s not robotic like other video game sport announcers, everytime he names a player and says what he’s doing, it sounds very natural, while “normal” sport game announcers just glitch out when too much is happening at once.
The basic gameplay is a whole lot of fun. 2 VS 2 basketball, really fast paced, where you can do things you normally wouldn’t be able to do in normal basketball games. Crazy dunks, hitting other players with or without the ball, and just overall really fun gameplay. Passing to other players, doing spins and crossovers, shooting and dunking all works very well and is fairly easy to do when you learn how everything works. It takes some practice, but it’s fairly easy to learn. What I like is that it’s all based on timing, and I love that. Timing your shots, timing your blocks, timing your steals and shoves, it’s very fun in this sense. A player getting 3 goals in a row becomes on fire. That gives minor stat boost, but, most importantly, it gives you HUGE dunks that are nearly impossible to stop. It’s a fun mechanic, but the boost you get here isn’t as big as in other games in the series so I’d say it’s more balanced.
There’s a large variety of modes too. You can just quick play, which is fun and what you’ll be using if you want multiplayer. In addition to normal quickplay, you have a campaign, you have boss battles that you can unlock, there’s a “remix” mode with item pick-ups that change the size, speed and strength of the players, there’s a tour mode using the remix gameplay, and tons of other modes. If it’s variety you want, there’s quite a bit of it here. OH, and one thing that I liked was the Jam Camp. It teaches the basic controls of the game and how everything works, which is great for newcomers, or people that sucked at the game like I did.
What needs a bit of work
Well, the controls work fairly well, but they need work. The motion controls are mostly just annoying to use since dunking and shooting require timing that’s just a lot easier when using buttons than swinging a controller. The sideways wiimote control scheme is fairly good, but it’s a very busy scheme. You have the 2 main buttons for shooting/jumping and passing/stealing, the B button under the controller to turbo, multiple button combinations using B as well as 1 and 2 for things like pushing and cross-overs and spinning… it quickly becomes kinda hard to use. The classic controller isn’t something I’ve tried since I don’t have one, but there’s 2 types of controls with it… one that looks terrible (using the right analog stick for shots and such) and the other seems okay, using the face buttons.
I just feel like the wiimote+nunchuk combo would have had a “normal” control scheme rather than just the motion-control one, since the sideway wiimote scheme is a bit complicated to use since all the buttons have multiple uses each. Not a big problem, and it’s fairly simple to learn it but, if you don’t have a classic controller, you’re left with some relatively not as good control methods.
What’s bad about this game
The AI in this game is atrocious. Not because it sucks too much or because it’s too good, but because it’s the very definition of rubberband AI. Forget the rubberband in Mario Kart, no matter how annoying it gets, it still remains possible to outrun them enough for them to be unable to follow you. Here? Well, if you get a lead against computer-controlled enemies, they’ll become SO good that you’ll have tons of trouble preventing them from scoring, no matter how hard you try. They’ll avoid any shove, they’ll avoid getting the ball stolen if they have it, they’ll become very proficient on the defense making it much harder for you to score, and their offense will be crazy strong. Their 3-point and 2-point shots will get better accuracy… for some reason.Â It’s still possible to prevent the CPU from catching up, but you’ll be rushing all along if you want to be able to prevent them from scoring, or if you want to score yourself. They get worse as the game progresses too. And, to make matters worse, when the rubberband makes them better, it doesn’t really loosen up afterwards.
What really sucks about this is that, while the CPU opponents can get stupidly good, your CPU partner…. kinda sucks. On the defense, he’s useless about half the time, sometimes just staying in place doing nothing when a simple jump would block a shot. On the offense, you HAVE to tell your partner when to shoot or pass, because otherwise they make pretty stupid choices, or generally have no idea what to do, which helps your opponents more than in helps you. I really find it annoying that your partner can’t be at least as good as the “basic” CPU.
Just something I thought I’d mention. Some people might argue that playing in multiplayer teamed with someone else is more fun, but I’d say that playing against another player, each with a CPU-controlled ally works better. When playing with another player, telling them to do a pass to you is a lot slower than pressing the pass button to get the CPU to pass to you, or pressing the button to tell the CPU to shoot is also faster than talking to the person you’re playing with. I find multiplayer in a team with someone less fun than multiplayer alone, since you have at least some control over the CPU character… even if the CPU-controlled player sometimes kinda sucks and sometimes decides to do nothing when it could block shots, or shoot. Still makes it easier to coordinate your teamate if you have some control over him.Â Multiplayer is fun either way (especially with 4 players), but if you’re only playing with another person, I find that going head to head is preferable.
I really liked this game. Much more than the previous versions that I’ve played. It looks better, it plays better, and it has more features. I’d go as far as to say that this is the definitive version of NBA Jam, but then again I’m not 100% familiar with the franchise, so what do I know? It’s definitely a solid game though.
The gameplay is fun and fast-paced, the graphics are pretty in an old-school way and it’s filled with modes and features. The announcer adds a lot to the game also, he’s so much fun to listen to.
If you’re in for a fun sport game that doesn’t try to be realistic, give this one a chance.
Pros and Cons
- The announcer is awesome
- The gameplay is fun
- Multiplayer is great
- There’s unlockables and cheat codes, that’s always awesome
- Many modes of play
- Rubberband AI
- Controls need a bit of work (not everyone has classic controllers)
- Can get quite repetitive
The Save Factor
At full price… this is asking a bit much. It costs 60$ in Canada (50$ in the US). I was expecting it to be a 15$US downloadable game. Heck, a 20$ downloadable game would still be fairly good considering the amount of content… But a full priced disc game? Not too well-priced. 20$ will be my Save Factor here.
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