Each of these modes is enjoyable and will provide a little bit of fun above and beyond the standard mode of the game, but unfortunately none of them are good enough to keep you coming back once you have finished them all aside from the multiplayer. The bread and butter of the game is playing the original game mode with friends (up to 3 other players) and that will be the mode that you come back to play over, and over, and over again. The game also features unlockable boss battles which are one on one confrontations with some of the NBA’s greatest players. Within this mode though, each opponent will have their own win conditions as well as special abilities that you have to contend with like Magic Johnson’s ability to teleport all over the court. I really like the premise of this mode but find it incredibly frustrating as most of the matches just feel downright unfair. The computer controlled opponent, when paired with special abilities, becomes incredibly tough to the point that a lot of the fun is sucked out of the game. Thankfully, EA included online play in the HD version of the game, something that was missing from the previously released Nintendo Wii version of the game. The online play of the game is as solid as I could have asked for and provides some great games with both your friends and random opponents around the world. There is a very slight hint of lag that can be noticed when playing the game online; it isn’t anything that ruins the game, but something that you can detect mainly when it comes to the passing game.
I should also note a couple of other aspects that the development team made sure to include in the game that make it as enjoyable as it is, most notably the extensive list of hidden characters and teams that can be unlocked and used in the game and the incredibly entertaining announcer (Tim Kitrow). In additional to the classic NBA superstars mentioned earlier, players will also be able to unlock various ESPN personalities, politicians, rap stars, and team mascots... just like the original. It is hard to put it into words but there is just something fun about controlling Hillary Clinton and launching for a dunk, while on fire, from the 3-point line. The charm that these characters bring to the game, just based on their physical appearance alone, remains the same almost 20 years later. It is the little charms like this that make NBA Jam as enjoyable as it is; the game hasn’t changed a lot since the first release by Midway and that is a good thing. It says a lot about a game that can still hold up after all of these years. The same charm is spread through the game’s announcer and his unending stream of one-liners spewed throughout your games. The original announcer from the series returns with not only all of the classic phrases we know and love, but a slew of new phrases that span the years in pop culture references (No Hoop for You!). All of this makes me feel as if I jumped in to a time machine and transported back to my local Putt-Putt back in 1993.
If nothing else, EA has proven that they definitely have the “chops” to carry on the NBA Jam franchise in the future. The new rendition of the game is as faithful to the original in terms of its presentation and gameplay as anyone could have hoped for, but unfortunately it does little to build on the foundation already laid in Midway’s classic title(s). Fans of the series will definitely enjoy experiencing the classic with a couple of small gameplay tweaks and an incredible (HD) graphical updgrade. EA has firmly planted their feet for the series, now let’s just see what they can do to make it their own. Personally, I cannot wait to see where they go with this franchise.
More On:NBA Jam
NBA Jam is a lot of fun to play, especially with friends both online and off. The game plays exactly like the original in terms of gameplay, which was the series’ strong point. EA has gone to great lengths to ensure that the strengths of the original has remained in tact. On top of that great gameplay is a fresh looking coat of paint with HD visuals that look fantastic. Unfortunately, little else has been done to bring the game into the current generation. What little gameplay tweaks and options that were added grow old quickly and players end up falling back to the basic mode in order to get their “fill” of the game. There is a ton of fun to be had here but you will get a major sense of deja vu very quickly.
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