EA’s taking it back to the old school, but is the new NBA Jam “on fire”? Read on to find out.
Title: NBA Jam
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports - Basketball
For gamers who hit the arcades on a consistent basis in the early 90s, those words were like music as it meant an NBA Jam machine was in the building. Fans crowded around the game across the country to battle it out in 2 vs. 2 matchups pitting their favorite teams and players. The frenzy continued with the release of the game and its sequels to home consoles, to the delight of fans everywhere.
For years now however, the franchise has remained dormant but luckily EA has pulled out the proverbial shock pads to bring it back to life. If inserting the disc into the Wii wasn’t enough of a reality check that a new game has finally arrived, then certainly arriving to the main menu was as those famous words welcome players with open arms…”BOOM-SHAKALA!”
From the main menu, gamers will have the option of jumping straight into a game with “Play Now” while other game modes are available such as Classic Campaign, Remix Tour, Remix Modes and Boss Battles. The first thing players will want to do is jump into Jam Camp which is a training mode that introduces you to the game’s controls, regardless of which controller you choose. The game supports Nunchuck/Wii-Remote, Classic Controller and Wii-Remote control types so regardless of how you choose to play, the option is there. The great part of completing Jam Camp however is that Big Head Mode becomes unlocked – a must for any fan past or present.
As for the controls, they’re pretty straight forward in reference to the Classic Controller and Wii Remote. As for the Nunchuck/Wii-Remote combo, motion controls come into play. When I first went hands-on with a preview build of the game at the Game Developers Conference back in March, I had the opportunity to play around with this control scheme. My fears that the motion controls would negatively affect the gameplay were squashed and thankfully this remained the case for the final version. Motion controls are kept to a minimum with a short upward motion being required for a player to jump; whether they’re trying to swat the ball on defense, jump for the ball or taking a shot. On offense, you’ll have to make a small downward gesture while being up in the air to take a shot which comes off as a natural motion. When running towards the hoop, you can jump and then gesture downwards to do a slam dunk – a pretty great feeling especially in a heated game. Players can also use a short speed burst that regenerates by using the Z-button on the nunchuck. That is actually the extent of the motion controls and by far the preferred method for me of control schemes. To put it frankly, it just feels right. Stealing the ball, pushing a player or putting on a few moves with the ball can all be done with the push of a button or two, in some cases.
Graphically, the game has received quite a boost from what gamers remember from the console and arcade versions of the older titles. Reflections can be seen clearly from the hardwood while the players’ faces are actually photo-realistic 2D crops that change depending on what that particular player is doing – some of them are pretty comical. Regardless of which arena you’re playing in, colors pop and the crowds are lively. What impressed me as well were the players’ movements, which appeared very life-like and smooth.
Getting into the game modes, the Classic Campaign takes gamers through a season of 36 games against teams that also include secret and unlockable teams. For the sake of spoilers, we’ll keep those specifics to ourselves and let players uncover them but there’s plenty. The game also features its own achievement system which also allows for unlocks such as special basketballs and players. For a bit more wacky play, there’s the Remix Tour which adds power-ups that temporarily enables players to move really fast, become extremely strong or even have a negative effect such as shrinking them down to size. My only problem with the power-ups is that more often than not, they show up in the middle of the court while one of the teams is checking the ball in, so by the time the ball is in play, the power-up has already been accidentally walked over and activated. The Tour includes a handful of other game types such as 21 which was by far my favorite. It’s the old 1 on 1 game of 21 and it’s a blast to play.
For as fun and engaging as NBA Jam is, there’s one obvious omission – online play. Playing the game with friends in the same room is still the best method of multiplayer but for the older crowd who doesn’t have a group of friends down the street to invite over on occasion, the single player mode can only take you so far. It’s really a shame that an online mode wasn’t included in the game and there’s just simply no excuse.
- The original announcer is back and making hilarious cracks
- Game looks great
- Control schemes for everyone
- It's just plain fun
- No online play
NBA Jam for the Wii takes everything it did right from the old games and simply perfects it. Unfortunately that also includes the lack of online play but if you're looking for some gold old fashioned, arcade-style action - you just can't beat this game!
A great visual update from what we come to expect from the original game.
Controls great, regardless of which control scheme you choose.
The announcing is comical though the soundtrack is pretty generic.
The Remix Tour and Classic Campaign are lengthy but the omission of online multiplayer hurts. If you have friends to play with, you'll come back again and again.
Just an absolute blast to play, but better against live players.