This is truly a golden age fans of remakes of classic gaming titles: Kirby, Donkey Kong, Mario and Sonic are all still rocking 2D like it’s 1994, and EA’s keen to get a piece of the two-dimensional pie with NBA Jam.
A throwback to the classic basketball title of old, NBA Jam features the same two-on-two action as its predecessor, with the licensed teams and players you’d expect from an EA Sports title. Our reporters Darren and James picked the Cleveland Cavaliers – still with LeBron James on their books, basketball fans – and faced up against the CPU’s formidable LA Lakers.
Played at a breakneck speed, NBA Jam is as easy to operate as they come: executes a dash, is pass and steals or performs a skill move, and a shooting action with the Wii Remote performs shots and jumps. Although the motion controls aren’t exactly Wii Sports Resort level of detail and precision, it’s still immensely satisfying to raise the Remote high and slam it downwards as your player dunks the ball, smashing the glass in the backboard. NES-style controls are available too, but we didn’t test them in this session.
With their photographed faces perched on polygon bodies, the players look admittedly odd in screenshots, but on the move they’re limber and animate very well, with elaborate dunks really boosting the excitement level. Wild facial expressions during dunks, steals and fouls bring some character to the game, as does ever-present commentator Tim Kitzrow who proclaims “he’s on fire” and, of course, “boomshakalaka.” Whilst no cheats or power-ups were mentioned or available, we know from an interview with producer Pete Trenouth that plenty are in the works.
NBA Jam is the kind of game that will appeal greatly to some whilst others will fail to see the appeal. Playing side-by-side with a friend is as much fun as you’d imagine, and it’s easy to see how these games could become regular sessions among gaming friends: a few pizzas and some NBA Jam will sound like heaven to plenty of gamers. If you’re in the market for a fun-sized, fast-paced and completely over-the-top basketball game without wanting to sacrifice those beloved NBA all-stars, NBA Jam could well fit the bill.