reviews\ Nov 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

NBA Jam (Wii) review


Resurrection is often looked upon as one of the go-to moves in the video game industry. Digging up beloved titles of the past and adding next-generation flavor or keeping in tune with the nostalgic roots has been a popular decision with many publishers this generation of consoles. So after much demand, Electronic Arts finally delivered the reboot to the NBA Jam franchise and the end result is rather exciting at times.

Attempting to bring the band back together, EA brought back Tim Kitzrow, the original play-by-play announcer and Mark Turmell, the original creator of NBA Jam, to help bring authenticity to the project. While Turmell’s aid isn’t visible upfront, Kitzrow’s contributions are beyond the best portions of NBA Jam. His humorous one-liners almost redeem NBA Jam from being a shallow package and push it beyond the world of a “good” game and into the realm of fantastic. Whether it’s spouting out lines that will have longtime NBA Jams reminiscing about their childhood or helping newcomers crack a smile, Kitzrow’s commentary is not to be missed.

Allowing up to four players to duke it out on the court with exaggerated physics and little to no rules outside of the occasional goaltending call, NBA Jam is still arcade sports heaven. Want to shove an opponent who is about to dunk? By all means, go for it. Want to throw a constant stream of elbows into an opposing player’s face who is attempting to steal the ball? Feel free as it’s allowed too. As much as many may think NBA Jam is about offense, the truth is that without defense, no team is safe from the opponent’s wrath that comes in the from consecutive three-pointers after getting a hot hand.

Moving away from free-throw line dunks that have little to no gravity, NBA Jam still employs one of the best pick-up-and-play experiences for arcade and sports fans. Players can play with any of the following control schemes: Wii Remote, Wii Remote and Nunchuck, Classic Controller, and Classic Controller Pro. Of the options provided, only the Wii Remote and Nunchuck caused any problems. Assigning jump to the up-and-down motion of the Wii Remote, too many times my players would jump out of the blue for a block when all I was attempting to do was readjust my hands. This allowed the opposing team to score on easy dunks, thus ruining my defensive efforts. I recommend playing solely with the Wii Remote or Classic Controller as both aren’t as finicky as the Nunchuck option.

The main issue that resides within NBA Jam is the lack of depth. After an hour of gameplay, it became increasingly apparent that I had seen everything it had to offer. After six hours of gameplay, I began wondering why I was sticking around. The short answer was that I was attempting to unlock all the hidden characters such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and the Beastie Boys. Excluding the unlockables, there are not many reasons to return to NBA Jam as there’s no online multiplayer and the new game modes are lackluster.

New game modes include one-on-one boss battles with legendary greats such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, elimination mode that rids the match of the lowest-pointed player after each round, a game of 21, Smash Mode that asks players to break their opponent’s backboard first via dunks, and a couple others. None of the new modes matchup well to the old tournament mode that has been re-imagined as Classic Campaign. Classic Campaign puts players on a journey through the league as the attempt to beat each and every time, along with a few classic teams to become the best in the league. Halfway through, it too, doesn’t hold interest for much longer than an hour or two of gameplay.

With an all too familiar feeling, NBA Jam serves as homage to the games we have lost from yesteryear. What it boils down to is: the gameplay hasn’t changed all that much and aside from unlocking the plethora of classic players such as Detlef Schrempf and Chris Mullin, there’s little reason to return to NBA Jam after a few hours of play.


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