Acclaim
Acclaim
Sports
1-4
09.23.03

NBA Jam


The last time I played NBA Jam was on the Sega Saturn, and it was NBA Jam Extreme. I also played NBA Jam on SNES, and of course the Arcade original. In the early 90s, NBA JAM really rocked the arcades. It was an instant hit. This new rendition of NBA JAM is now a 3 on 3 game. The series, previously 2 on 2, has taken a new approach in competing with the likes of NBA Street. All I got to say is: Boomshakalaka…it's back!

Gameplay

The gameplay has a whole new feel. It plays pretty much nothing like the original, and was made from scratch. I was an NBA Jam freak back when it first came out, and I'm happy to say that whole "NBA Jam" aspect is still intact. In case you didn't already know, NBA Jam's gameplay pretty much has no rules. There's no fouls, so you can push anyone on the ground and steal the ball. There is goaltending however.

While there's no real season mode, you can play in the NBA Jam Tournament. You must defeat all the NBA teams to beat the game. There is also a "Legends Tournament" mode where you play as some of basketball's all-time greats. Not only that, but you play on an old original NBA court. The old courts look significantly different than today's modern ones. The announcer sounds like an old-time announcer, and the entire game is in black and white. This means that you must follow old rules as well, such as no three-point shots. The Jam Tournament and Legends Tournament are the main modes, and are only for a single player.

One feature that's included, but somewhat hidden is "create-a-player". You can go to the Jam store, create a player, team, and/or unlock extra courts with the Jam points you get. You acquire Jam points by just having a profile and playing games. Certain slams, and shots will get you a certain amount of points. You get something every time you score. Also, at the end of each game you have a chance to get at least 1000 Jam points by answering NBA Trivia, which is interesting.

The key to winning the NBA Jam tournament is probably using your jam points to create an amazing player. You can't just create an awesome player from the start because you need JAM points. There are many attributes to beef up your character that will affect his performance. Before a game starts you can put in button combinations a la Mortal Kombat. There are so many codes to keep you occupied (shot percentage, big head mode, etc.) that you'll be spending plenty of time just putting codes in. Some combinations are available by default, but the majority needs to be unlocked.

The action is faster paced than the older NBA Jam's, but controlling your player is pretty much straightforward. On offense, B shoots the ball, Y calls for an alley-oop, and A passes. You also have turbo of course, which is R. The turbo meter display is at your player's feet. It wouldn't be NBA Jam without being able to be "on fire". When you acquire "on fire" status, you have unlimited turbo, and you can goal tend without getting penalized. Monster slam-dunks are the bulk of scoring, but three-pointers are fairly common. The alley-oops are the best part of the gameplay, but "hot spots" are an awesome new feature that you can call by clicking in the right thumbstick. By raising your jam meter to its fullest, players can perform amazing dunks that are not normally seen. Hotspot points are worth three points at first, and then they go up 1 each time you fill your jam meter. So, four point shots are not unusual to see. One drawback of the gameplay would be the limited replays. You can only watch what they give you, and cannot zoom in or do anything manually with them. You can only restart the replay and watch it from different angles.

The multiplayer feature is nice, but you and a friend can't play in the Jam tournament together. What you can do is play exhibition games co-operatively or against each other, and all the stats will be tracked that way. There are also some new teams that you can download over Xbox Live, such as the Halloween team.

Graphics

The players themselves don't look exactly their real-life counterparts, since the theme is a "cartoony" look. When a player slam-dunks the ball, there are lots of flashy effects that add to the NBA Jam excitement. When you select three players on your team, their faces show up looking very much like their real life counterparts. The overall graphics have a nice clean look to them.

The crowd looks like they are made up of separate polygons, as there is no pixilated crowd that one might expect from a sports title. Depending on the arena you're in, each one is a little different, but for the most part they have the same general look.

Sound

One of the best parts of the new NBA Jam is that the original announcer is in the game. Tim Kitzrow recorded all new voice sayings. The original "sayings" are still intact, but they do not sound the same. With that said, the announcer does not sound as exciting as he used to. The in-game menu music is funky and upbeat to get you into the game. In the Legends mode, it is very nice how they implemented old music that they used to play in the 70s (like "Go Johnny Go"), and then moving forward to today's times.

Bottom Line:

You can pick up and play this game anytime, and always have fun with it. I wish they included the original NBA Jam on here; that would have made my day. Maybe there's still a code for it, who knows. High-flying dunks that are impossible in real life will give you the good ol' NBA Jam feel, and the ultra-fast gameplay with few real NBA rules will remind you that your playing it. This arcade-style basketball game is a good buy for any videogame basketball fan. However, if you are a true basketball fan, you may want to rent this one first since it is not a sim. No matter what, it's Jam time!

-Steve Melanson




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