While some of remember pumping quarters into an arcade machine, others have only heard about the myth, the legend, the iconic basketball experience called NBA Jam. I fall into the first category, so you can imagine my excitement heading into this recreation of this timeless classic. Many have come before it, but if anyone can do this jammer justice, it's EA Canada.
EA Sport's NBA Jam sticks close to the original format, paying tribute to the legend that is 'NBA Jam.' And unlike most old games that try to make a comeback, 'NBA Jam' really works, almost like it never missed a step in the 17 years it has been missing. Of course EA Canada introduces new game modes, depth and characters to the mix, but the exciting arcade style is all there, pumping out goodness for all Wii owners.
As you can tell I am a fan of the original. 7-11 and I skipped plenty of classes pumping quarters into the machine only to make a friendly rivalry that would carry over daily. Memories are a great thing and 'NBA Jam' is one of those games that most of us “old school” gamers have fond memories of. For most of us hearing about a new version of 'Jam' coming out was exciting, and the time has finally arrived, so let's hit the court to find out what the new 'NBA Jam' has in store for gamers of all ages.
Remixing of a Classic
'NBA Jam' is split between two modes, a classic take that plays like the original and a Remix edition that spices up the game complete with new power-ups and boss battles. Yes, boss battles in a basketball game, well more like Legend battles. Say hello to Larry Bird and “Magic” Johnson. Aside from the boss challenges you can enjoy hitting the road in the classic campaign tournament, playing with different court options, a good ol' game of 21, a mode called 'Smash' and more. Jam will keep you busy for a while, but like we'd get into, 'NBA Jam' is best played with friends. Although it's too bad that 'Jam' doesn't support online play. So you will have to hook up the old school way, at each others houses! Yuk, I know, it's a downer and hopefully something that is added to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions when they roll out.
Fundamentals of the Jam
Jam's core action is based around a few guys with over-exaggerated skills playing a game of basketball. This abandonment of reality and juiced up player abilities make the game more intense then it already is, and more pivotal, making it a lot of fun.
Keeping with the arcade flavour you only have to worry about two penalties, goaltending and 24 second violations, the rest of the rules are done away with, so feel free to go nuts and play like your a kid on the court. Need more of an advantage then that? Then score three baskets in a row to become “on fire,” which basically means you turn into superman on the court. Sounds like fun, no? Supernatural feats are a regular occurrence in 'Jam' with dunks happening from all over the court. 30 ft blackboard shattering bombs, no problem! Deifying the laws of physics, damn right, that's how 'Jam' does it.
The computer isn't a total pushover like you would expect, well, after you turn the difficulty up. A good balance of offensive and defensive skills work well in 'Jam,' which is typical of any sports game. Don't let all the trickery fool you, 'Jam' has some game. The best part of playing 'Jam' is the uninhibited lack of order, so let the chaos begin and push and shove your way to victory. You might not learn any real court etiquette, but man, it's fun. Although, the true hardcore of gamers looking for an in-depth challenge will be let down because the arcade action takes away the real core strategies of playing good b-ball. 'Jam' isn't meant to be a replacement for 'NBA 11.'
No Gamecube Controller for you!
Another sad mark besides the lack of online support is lack of support for the original Gamecube controller. However, the Wii-mote and Nunchuck, or Classic Controller options are open, but it's not going to please everyone. More importantly then the controller you use to play the game, is how the game plays, and in 'NBA Jam' the controls are responsive and easy to learn. So even though a little more customization like button mapping would have been a nice addition, we can live with the layout EA Canada whipped up.
Pippen, Webb, Erving and more
'NBA Jam' is packed full of players representing all 30 association teams with star players from all over the NBA map. Expect to a good assortment of players from Spud Webb to Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen and the freak machine himself Dennis Rodman. Although you might have a favourite team that would have an advantage over a lesser team, that's thrown all out the window here. Teams are even steven, which is good for the lighthearted competition 'Jam' is looking to inspire.
Boom Goes the Dynamite!
Graphically 'NBA Jam' really pops with a solid frame-rate delivering some Wii-impressive graphics. The visual style is the very birth of the "big-head mode" that others games invite to spice up their world. The quality is pretty impressive, even if it is a little outrageous. Over-the-top is a good phrase to describe the fire-ball craziness of the action in 'NBA Jam.' It also describes the audio, which brings me right back to the original. The music might not be the best, but Tim Kitzrow's one liner's rock and are immortally humourous. I'm glad reboot of sorts worked out so well, Wii owners will be pleased with this one.
Lastly, we have the joy of unlocking. 'NBA Jam' has a good deal of unlockables and special features to unlock by the way of old school activating. I'm talking about button combos and name activating --- remember those? Its a lot of fun try to guess the codes, or head online to cheat yourself into some extra fun. Not to spoil all the fun, but you can unlock political teams, the Democrats and the Republicans, play as the NBA mascots (a favourite of mine) along with a slew of others. Yip, it's all about having fun.
If you're a basketball fan who loves to game on the Wii, 'NBA Jam' is must have purchase. Actually, if you just love to game on the Wii and want a fun, fast-paced game to kill a few hours with then 'NBA' Jam is also must have purchase. 'NBA Jam' might lack the depth of other sports titles, but it servers up exactly what us old school gamers wanted, an update of the original with some new bells and whistles. You can't really go wrong here, excellent work EA Canada.
Gameplay:8.0, Graphics:8.0, Sound:8.0, Innovation:7.0, Mojo:8.0 Final: 7.8 / 10
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 10.19.10