Posted 2 years ago By - Marko Djordjevic
The 90s were a great time for the sport of basketball. Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominated the decade while kids threw quarters into arcade machines to play the excellent NBA Jam. The series transferred fairly successfully onto the consoles, but it has been while since we last got a truly enjoyable arcade-styled hoops game. EA, who have had previous success with their NBA Street series, decided it was time to bring back the nostalgic feelings many of us once had and give us an updated version of the arcade classic. Originally planned as a Wii-exclusive, then as a bonus download to be included with the now-defunct NBA Elite 11, NBA Jam is now on HD consoles as a retail disk with the addition of high-res graphics and online play.
Anyone following EA’s basketball offerings this year know quite well the up-and-down experience it offers. NBA Jam was supposed to be EA’s Wii basketball title, while NBA Elite was planned to replace the poorly-performing NBA Live franchise. When EA decided to
hold-off kill Elite 11, they knew they needed a basketball game to compete in the market. That decision pushed the once Wii-exclusive into the forefront on HD consoles.
The HD version of NBA Jam is exactly identical to the Wii game. Within, you have the option of partaking in a classic campaign which has you play each of the thirty teams in the league as well as a few surprises along the way. If you want something different, the Remix Tour mode is for you. Remix still has you select your team of choice, but instead of simply playing the same style match over and over again, they literally mix it up with different game types. These vary from quick matches that have power-ups to performance-specific matches including one called Smash, which requires you to perform dunks and alley-oops in order to break the backboard; the first team to do so wins.
In all, there are seven different game types that you will have to complete in order to unlock additional divisions to play against and other bonus content. While the Remix Tour is a welcomed addition, not all of the game-types are incredibly good. There are a few enjoyable match options but some, specifically the ones involving you against two CPU players can be down-right aggravating due to questionable AI decisions and rubber-banding. Since these match-type choices are predetermined, you may have to play one that you don’t enjoy because you have to. Chances are, you will lean towards playing through just one, either the Classic Campaign or Remix Tour, though completing both are required if you hope to unlock all of the additional content, such as classic players and secret teams, of which there are quite a few.
Where the HD versions begin to differentiate from the Wii original begins with the controller set-up. As one would expect with an EA Sports title, there are different control options and you can fine tune these to your preference. In game, the suggested method of play is using the right analog stick. To perform shots, you simply flick and hold in an upward motion then quickly releasing downwards to perform the shot. This works for both dunking and shooting, you just need to time the downwards motion properly in order to sink the shot. To do spin moves, you flick the stick left or right. The same method is used on defense to steal while pushing up is for blocking. If you don’t feel like using the right stick for shooting or on defense, the face buttons are available as well. The only buttons that are locked out, regardless of which method you play with, are the left shoulder buttons for turbo and the X/A button for passing.
Ultimately, there is no real preferred method. In fact, my time with the game saw me frequently switching between the two and mixing it up. The most common set-up was using the right stick for shooting and face buttons for everything. Thankfully, the controls are extremely simple to grasp and newcomers will have no trouble getting accustomed to it.
The major addition to NBA JAM for the HD consoles is the inclusion of Online play. There are three game modes to participate in. Solo Matches let you play in the various games involving 2 or 3 other people depending on the game type, of which there are five total (2v2, 2v2 remix, Domination, Domination 2v2 and 21). Co-Op Match lets you and a local guest player face off against two other people while the final mode, Jam Party, lets you bring in your friends to play unranked matches.
Online can be quite enjoyable depending on the games you want to play. While it was easy to find one other person to play a 2v2 match, it was rare to get opponents to play in a 2v2 with four human players. I also found it quite difficult to get people to play a game of Domination or 21 with me. In situations where you want to play the less traditional game types, you’ll be more inclined to play with friends instead of relying on finding matches with strangers. The matchmaking would have been significantly simpler had they included a lobby-room. Instead, you simply have to rely on the quick search to help you find an opponent.
Graphically, there is an improvement over the Nintendo variant, but not a drastic one. NBA Jam on the Wii was already a great looking game, so the changes here are quite subtle. While the players themselves and the court do look sharper, the background animations - specifically the crowd and bench players - didn’t benefit much shifting from the low-res platform to the high-res ones. It’s understandable that the backgrounds were meant to retain the classic feel but when the court looks so dynamic, it would be nice to see a bit more life from fans in attendance.
In game, there were a couple of clipping issues and one or two hiccups encountered, but nothing that really ruined the experience. Online, the graphics don’t suffer at all and the game moves at a surprisingly quick pace. The only time you may experience any issues at all would be when playing with three other people; but this slowdown is strictly related to the online connections and not the game itself. In terms of sound, the music and commentary of Tim Kitzrow is identical to the Wii version. While the soundtrack was fairly limited, the commentary is extremely solid and there is actually of lot of different dialog to discover, especially if you mix up the teams and players you use.
If you were waiting for all available versions of NBA Jam to hit stores, the addition of Online make this the version of choice. While it would have been nice to get a bit more content or some extra fine-tuning, if you plan on playing against strangers or friends across the country, you will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if you don’t plan on playing online, I would recommend picking-up the Wii-version and experiencing the game how it was initially meant to be played.
+ Controller setup feels more like the classic NBA Jam-style of the 16-bit era
+ Everything that was good about the Wii-version is here
- No extra features outside of Online play
- Online really needs a lobby to help find matches
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Release Date : 2010/11/16
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : EA Canada
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10