NBA JAM – Review

A WiiNintendo game review by hattrick.

Game – NBA JAM
Version – Wii
Obtained – From EA Sports

Introduction
I do not even know how many hours I have spent on both the 1993 arcade and SNES versions of the original NBA JAM. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that EA was bringing the original JAM back. So, was it worth the wait? Did they bring back the arcade fun of the original, or was it a big air ball?

NBA JAM is classic arcade 2-on-2 basketball. There are no fouls, except goal tending (blocking a shot after it has started its downward slope). So, that means shoving and throwing elbows are perfectly legal. When you make 3 baskets in a row, you will catch “on fire,” which gives you unending turbo, and increased shot accuracy. In addition, this game is all about the crazy dunks. So, be sure you have full turbo in your meter, because you are going to need it in this fast-paced street-ball style contest.

Making a return are unlockable players, but this time around, we also have classic or “legends” that join the rosters. For instance, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Spud Webb, and Clyde Drexler all make an appearance. One of the satisfying aspects of this game is the ability to play with such legends after you have unlocked them. Matching up Kobe Bryant and Dr. J is only something that could happen in a video game like NBA JAM.

Visuals and Sound
It is hard not to compare this game to its original counterpart on the SNES, Genesis, and arcade. And while the graphics have been upgraded for today, it still looks like the class game. Do not get me wrong. This is a good thing. It was a smart move to bring in the original development team when designing this 2010 remake. The players on the court have a 3-D look to them with several 2-D faces. For instance, they have a dunk face, shove face, and a face for every time they make a shot. This captures the fun of the original, but definitely moves it forward. Having the actual NBA licensing to put the players in actual jerseys and on their own courts is an added bonus, as the 1993 versions did not have these assets. Notably, cheerleaders and the crowds make a welcome return, as it feels exactly as an updated NBA JAM should.

The music has also been updated, and you will not hear any of the original tunes. Overall, this is not that bad, since NBA JAM was never known for its stellar soundtrack. Instead, what I do want to praise is the sound effects. The original announcer, Tim Kitzrow, makes his return, which is perfect. In fact, I do not know if it would be NBA JAM without this man. Also returning are sounds like the shoves and breaking backboards. Combine this all together, and you have one great sounding NBA JAM remake.

Gameplay and Controls
As far as gameplay goes, there are several new modes in this version of JAM. In addition to the classic campaign, which has you playing against every team, there are 5 other “Remix” modes.

  • Smash (first to break the backboard) – This is possibly the most fun of the remix modes, as it is all about dunking to lower your opponents power bar and break your backboard.
  • Domination (own specific spots on the floor by making baskets from those areas) – This is all right, but it is a bit confusing on how the scoring is tallied.
  • Elimination (lowest score eliminated at end of each round) – This is probably my second favorite Remix mode, as it can definitely be fun with multiplayer.
  • 21 (first to score 21 points) – This is a great idea, but because of the “no foul” nature of NBA Jam, it is easy to dominate this game, especially when you catch “on fire.”
  • Remix 2v2 (2-on-2 with powerups) – You have the ability to grab temporary powerups like power, quickness, rubber, accuracy, and mini. This is another great idea, probably taken from the Tournament Edition of the original game. However, it is not executed nearly as well.

The Remix Tour combines these modes into an additional campaign. On top of that, there are several Boss Battles, where you will face off against several While these extra modes add much more to gameplay and increase the replayability, where JAM really shines is in the multiplayer. Getting a group of friends together and playing some 2-on-2 feels better than ever.

There are several control options in NBA JAM, which is great. If you feel most comfortable with the Wii Remote turned sideways, then go for it. If you want to grab a Nunchuk or even go with the Classic Controller, that will work too. After trying all the controller styles, my recommendation is to stay away from the Wii Remote sideways. The main reason is there are not enough buttons, so you will find yourself doubling-up in order to do certain moves. For example, to do a crossover, you will have to hit 1, 2, and B at the same time. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk work great, as the only motion-control is jumping and shooting. Both are accomplished by swinging the Wii Remote up. It is quite satisfying to jam down a dunk by actually jamming down your Wii Remote. The Classic Controller feels very familiar, as it replicates the basic feel of the SNES controller. The only issue I found was that turbo was only mapped to the L button and not the R button, unlike the SNES original. The great thing about all the controller options is that you can switch on the fly whenever you want. Tired of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk? Unplug it or connect a Classic Controller, and you are ready to go right away.

One small issue I found with the alternative controller options was menu navigation. For some odd reason, the game always expects you to have the Wii Remote held vertically. On top of that, if you plan on navigating with the Classic Controller, expect to learn what button does what. The menus will still read with the Wii Remote prompts. This is more annoying than anything else, as the B button advances (on the Classic Controller), even though it says A to advance (on the Wii Remote).

Concluding Overall Impressions
NBA JAM is back! Combining the original ideas of quick, crazy, fun 2-on-2 basketball with updated graphics and rosters has proven a winning score. The voice has returned, the feel has returned, and the addiction for this game has returned. Congratulations to EA for bringing JAM back to its roots.

The only major complaint I have is the lack of online multiplayer. While local multiplayer is a blast, it is unfortunate the developers opted to leave the online out of this installment. Their main reason was that they could not get it to run consistently at sixty frames-per-second. While that sounds legitimate, I do not think most fans would care. We just want to show off our skills by playing NBA JAM against our friends and strangers online.

FINAL SCORE – 4 out of 5
While the lack of online multiplayer is a strong negative, it does not outweigh the rest of the game. Not to mention, NBA JAM is meant to be a local multiplayer delight, and that is exactly where this game excels. Even if you are not into sports video games, you might be surprised  by NBA JAM.

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About the author:

Steve has been a Nintendo fan since the NES. He currently owns a NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, GameBoy, DS, DSi, 3DS, and 3DS XL. His favorite types of games are action platformers and multiplayer “party” games. Overall, he loves a game that is pure fun and pulls him in for hours, and if that can be shared with friends, it is even better.

Steve has been blogging for NintendoFuse since April 2008. He started off as an avid reader, and eventually was asked to jump on the team. Currently, he enjoys writing game reviews and sharing breaking news with the fans and readers. You will also find him on the forums as an admin.

Steve – who has written posts on NintendoFuse.