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Score: 6.8 / 10
BOOMSHAKALAKA! It wasn’t long ago that NBA
Jam was the best selling sports game. It wasn’t long ago that the unique
blend of bizarre gravitational dunks and being “on fire” was the
equation to making money. Much has changed since those days when NBA Jam
dominated the cartridge realm. Now, entering the world of CDs/DVDs and
next-generation technology, the team behind NBA Jam have kept true to
that same equation, however the circumstances have changed and, quite
frankly, fans of old are impressed but others will have a hard time
jumping into the legendary series.
Acclaim made sure that the newest installment of the series would keep
true to its many predecessors. With that in mind you’ll notice that the
game plays almost the same way as it did all those years ago. The
three-on-three action is back with the
same hotspots, even more ridiculous dunks,
and special features that really do “turn back the clock”. Acclaim has
added a boatload of new dunks that will have you awestruck every time.
Never before has a half-court dunk looked so pretty. In addition to the
dunking, the same rules that applied before are again implemented. For
example: if you miss a three pointer and put the basket back in without
letting it drop to the floor, the basket still
counts as three points. On the defensive end, NBA Jam is as aggressive
as ever. The same “pushing” and “shoving” is still there along with
block sequences that look a lot like Spike TVs Slamball.
The action on the court remains fast paced and quick. The three-minute
quarters are more than enough time to execute the craziest of moves.
Although the moves and aerials are flashy, certain animations fall short
of the same standard. For one, the basic movement of the players looks
quirky. The way players run up and down court doesn’t feel realistic
with certain anatomical problems. On top of that player faces look
awkward. Yes I know that his is an arcade game and there are certain
areas that have been pulled out of proportion, but the faces need to
replicate the players, especially in a three-on-three game. Other than
that, the animations work seamlessly with the gameplay reminding me of
the same pace and fun from the original.
The NBA Jam series has never been revered for its sound, other than the
deep announcer voice, and the same remains with the newest version. It’s
as if Acclaim has recorded the same music and sound effects from a
cartridge to a CD. They truly sound identical. The music is one area
that steps beyond others. Famous artists, such as Chaka Kahn, have their
songs in NBA Jam, though they aren’t heard most of the time because of
the fast-pace. The play-by-play commentary is done by the same
individual who recorded the first NBA Jam. All in all the sound fits the
mood and style of NBA Jam surprisingly well.
In terms of graphics, NBA Jam does deliver some decent visuals, though
nothing really stands out. Stadiums and crowds are generic throughout
all teams which means no Staple Center or Madison Square Gardens for
those who are picky about arenas. As for the crowd themselves, the
animation looks great. Individual fans can be seen walking through the
aisles during a game as well as reacting to time-specific action. The
players are also nicely modeled and detailed. Though have no nit-picks
with the graphics, I certainly would’ve enjoyed some unique twists to
rare situations. Being “on fire” is nice, but I would’ve enjoyed
something extra and new. Even though nothing groundbreaking is
introduced, NBA Jam remains true to its roots and is still loads of fun.
Much like the original a Franchise mode is lacking strictly make NBA Jam
fun, most of the time, with friends. Courtesy of the “JAM Store” you can
purchase new stadiums, upgrades, and attributes for your players. Also
available is a 1970s mode which is played in black and white. These
extras add value to the game, but are not everlasting.
When compared to EA’s NBA Street, the NBA Jam series feels outdated.
Even though it still plays and feels the same as it did years ago, there
are better street games out there other than Jam. If you still want to
feel that retro-love pick up NBA Jam, but don’t expect to be blown away
by its features or anything new, for there is truly a lack of both
(except in terms of dunks… there will always be lots of dunks).
- Eric Lahiji
(April 8, 2004)