NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Review
Since we don’t have any real NBA season of basketball to lean on right now (and judging by the behavioral patterns of both owners and players, we won’t be getting one soon), we have to rely on other types of entertainment to get our fix. NBA 2K12 is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a deep simulation, but what if you just want to drive down the court in a huff and dunk a ball 30 feet up in the air? NBA Jam is the perfect choice in this regard. While last year’s retail release of the game is a satisfactory package of high-flying action and multiplayer hijinks, this year’s downloadable release, On Fire Edition, is even better.
While a lot of the bigger features from last year’s game are missing (mainly the Remix Tour and boss battles), the sheer joy of Midway’s arcade classic is still here. You’ve got teams of two that go up against each other, trying to score as many points as possible through defensive tactics, three point shooting, and crazy dunks, executed with players flying high in the air and coming down with rim-rattling authority. The action moves fast throughout each match, even when you’re playing online friends.
EA Sports has managed to change up a few things to make On Fire Edition shine even brighter. First off, you can now switch between teammates with a press of a button. This is a huge deal, especially considering how sporadic your AI partner would act in last year’s release, causing you to lose points in the process. You can also call for a pass and alley-oop at any time, setting up key plays when you’re in the paint, or trying to pull a fast one on the defense. The best feature, though, is the razzle-dazzle, where you throw in a taunting move after you’ve scored to let opposing players know that their skills can’t keep up with yours. These new additions make this the best Jam to date.
However, some slight problems remain. The alley-oops get way out of control--players flying everywhere and eventually grabbing nothing but air in most situations. This can be distracting, especially when you’re trying to go for a block on a jump shot. Also, playing by yourself against AI is somewhat fun, but it’s got huge rubber-banding going on. You’ll find your team up 20-something points by the half, and barely get away with a win by three points in the end... against the Wizards. EA should’ve thrown in some difficulty sliders, especially for younger players.
Along with quick match-ups, both offline and through PlayStation Network, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition also comes with various modes. The Road Trip mode replaces Remix Tour, taking away the limitations of having to play teams in a particular order to win a championship. This time around, you can go any way you please, starting with the smaller teams and eventually getting into championship caliber matches, or going right to the top and cleaning house from there. You can unlock trophies as you do this, and, as a result, plenty of cool unlockable content, such as teams from overseas leagues. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a pair of honey badgers go up against a European team. You HAVEN’T.
While we do miss the boss battles from the first game, but you’ll still have plenty of players at your disposal, and when you don’t want to challenge folks in the living room, the Online Arena will suit you just fine. Here, you can achieve certain Jam challenges and up your skill level, essentially becoming more of a pro and getting access to other bonus goodies, like classic teams.
Oh, yeah, and you have to love Team On Fires. In the original game, a player had to score three shots consecutively to get unlimited turbo and go “on fire”. Here, your team can work collectively to light on fire at the same time for several seconds, with plenty of opportunity to increase your lead. This will help build teamwork with certain players.
Though NBA Jam: On Fire Edition hasn’t changed too much from the previous game visually, it’s still a good-looking downloadable game. The side-scrolling view of the court is exactly the same as the arcade classic, and the players are fun to watch, particularly with big head mode activated (an unlockable cheat) and player reaction faces following a play. The crowd consists of most of the same animations, but you’ll be too busy focusing on what’s happening on-court. And the fire effects? Blazin’, baby.
Tim Kitzrow returns once more to provide NBA Jam with the kind of commentary it was meant for--fast, frivolous and hilarious. His one-liners are all over the place when it comes to creativity and jabs, and he even refers to some of the classics (“Boomshakalaka!”) when the situation calls for it. The music isn’t bad either, though it’s hardly the most original basketball soundtrack we’ve heard. But who cares? It’s an arcade affair, after all.
What will probably attract more NBA Jam fans this time around is the price. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition will set users back $15--a far cry from the $50 asking price of last year’s edition. It comes with enough worthwhile features to back up that price, too. If you’re a basketball fan and don’t feel like NBA 2K12 is enough to satisfy your craving for competition, step up to the court and get On Fire, son! Kitzrow will thank you for it.