Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
While I’ve enjoyed playing the technically-evolved games like NBA Live (Elite) and NBA 2K for the past ten years, the NBA Jam franchise never left my heart. Memories of me playing in the arcades and stealing quarters from my mother’s jar to play as the mighty Chicago Bulls are forever engraved in my brain. After a conclusive experience with an early build at E3, I finally got to play the full retail version of NBA Jam and while it doesn’t really recapture the full experience from back in the day, this re-imagined version manages to capture some of the original game’s essence.
As I was playing my first few games, I quickly came to the conclusion that the team over at EA Canada loved the Midway/Acclaim classic as much as I did. The high-flying dunks, the body shoves, the crazy shot blocks, the audio tomfooleries of Tim Kitzrow...every thing was done in a way to pay tribute to a franchise that we all loved. Visually, NBA Jam presents its potential to maximum levels despite the hardware’s limitations. The smooth and funny looking 2D/3D animated characters do the job, the environments are crisp and framerates are surprisingly steady. The whole thing would have looked even better if the console was capable of delivering true high-definition graphics. I expect this game to look phenomenal in its XBLA/PSN form. In terms of presentation, NBA Jam is rather bland outside of the hardwood. One would have expected to see the craziness of the game transpose over to the other areas, such as the menus. Disappointing, but in the end it turns out to be a tiny complaint that will be quickly excused by the high-octane gameplay.
NBA Jam features the classic Campaign mode that we all loved and cherished back then. Pick a team and beat them one by one until you become the champion. As gamers need more bang for their buck these days, EA Canada went out and added Remix Tour, which is essentially the same thing as the main Campaign but with different twists. Once you pick a team to compete with, you will be tasked to beat each opposing team via specific challenges. Each team carries three challenges from a list that includes Remix 2v2 (game with power-ups), Domination (make shots from a marked spot to own it), Smash (dunk against your opponent until his backboard breaks to win), 21 (first to score 21 points), Elimination (1 vs the others with the lowest scorer getting booted) and Boss Battle (beat an ultra cheap and tough NBA Legend). All modes are also playable as standalone experiences except for the Boss Battles, which you will need to unlock via the Remix Tour first.
Some modes are more interesting than others but all will definitely keep you busy since there’s no online play. I for one, hate the online infrastructure of the Wii. Instead of having to deal with dumb friend codes and online matches that crash or fail to connect, I prefer having offline modes that I can enjoy in solo or with some friends locally. NBA Jam has always been a game to be played with your buddies and this remake is no different. An NBA Jam online mode would be more than welcomed, but since the console can’t do it right, I will keep my wish for the soon-to-be-released HD versions.
Mainly configured to be played with the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination, the motion control scheme is responsive and intuitive. Running, passing, swiping, shoving and turbo are done with button presses while shooting and dunking requires you to flick the Wiimote to jump, then flick it forward to perform the move. Timing and strategy is essential or else the opponent is going to almost instantly deny you...and it will happen incredibly often no matter which team you play against if you don’t pay attention. Fortunately, those looking for a more conservative experience will be happy to know that the game does support the Classic Controller and the remote-only sideways set-up. Personally, I have nothing negative to say about the motion controls but feeling the frustration arise and my wrists starting to hurt, it felt more logical to switch to a regular controller. By the way, the Classic Controller set-up comes with two control schemes, one that uses the right analog stick for dunks, shots and spins while the other maps all moves to the face buttons. The only problem with the classic controller is that the menus weren’t optimized for them. Everything responds to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk set-up. Little dumb, isn’t it?
Finally, it wouldn’t be an NBA Jam game without unlockables, would it? The developers integrated an in-game achievement system that will award you with cool additions, unlocks and modifiers based on what you accomplish at the end of each match. Big Heads, ex-NBA players (retired and Hall of Famers) and custom basketballs among other cool stuff. You can even unlock hidden teams like The Beastie Boys, The Democrats (with Barack Obama, Biden and the Clintons), The Republicans (with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden) and even a team of Stickmen (literally). There’s more but I’ll leave them for you to discover.
That’s NBA Jam in a nutshell. An honest remake of an old and timeless classic. The changes and additions brought by EA Canada are interesting and could have been even better had the developer wanted it to be - which is what I would have expected knowing the $50 price tag. While the game is solid, it does feel weird to be “on fire” and hear BOOM-SHAKALAKA without thinking about the original NBA Jam. Younger audiences are sure enjoy it to the bone but to old timers, this new version of JAM feels more like a friendly hug rather than the first kiss from back in the day.
+ Tim Kitzrow!!
- Presentation outside the game is flat
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Release Date : 2010/10/05
System : Nintendo Wii
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : EA Canada
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10