NBA Jam (Wii)

Game Review

NBA Jam Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Come on and slam, and welcome to the Jam

You’d be forgiven for looking at this fall’s Wii release calendar and thinking you had stumbled out of a time machine set for 1997. Between all of the new 2D revivals starring some of gaming’s all-time classics and a new, old Bond movie adaptation, there's almost no time to see whether the Fresh Prince will ever move out of that pool house. Possibly the gravest threat to your spare time, though, is the return of NBA Jam.

For those new to the series, NBA Jam is a fast-paced basketball game birthed in arcades in 1993 and with a healthy disregard for referees and the laws of physics. Its foundation is built on 2-on-2 matches where shoving players, smashing backboards and flaming basketballs are par for the court.

Anyone who has spent time with the series, particularly NBA Hangtime, will feel right at home hopping in to a quick 2-on-2 game or in Classic Campaign, where you choose a team and take on the rest of the NBA in a ladder-type progression. The barrier of entry is low for those new to the series as well, as it requires virtually no knowledge of rules and uses simple controls. That isn't to say the game is simplistic; mastering shoves, pump fakes, steals, blocks, crossovers, spins, and hidden hotspots will separate the Nets from the Lakers. You can opt to play with a Classic Controller (an arcade stick would be fitting too) if you're not into motion controls, but the default Remote and Nunchuck combo work very well, with gestures relegated to shooting and jumping. It's surprisingly fun to lift and slam the Remote to do a dunk as your TV blares "BOOMSHAKALAKA!" It's a little jarring at first to learn that, when playing with a CPU teammate, you can't take control of them, but this is in keeping with Jam tradition; it also helps that they're not incompetent and are able to score left and right if you let them.

Besides gesture controls, new for this Wii revival is Remix Tour and its associated six new game types: Smash, Elimination, Domination, 21, Remix 2v2 and Boss Battle. Tours are structured by conference divisions, and completing enough events against the teams in each opens up new divisions and opponents. These teams can be tackled in any order you choose. The new game types are different enough from the main game that they're worth a look, and you'll likely favour one or two to dip into between regular tip-offs. With 91 total events to tackle, Remix has a lot of meat to it, even if after a while it starts to feel like it's eating itself through repetition.

In Smash the goal is to whittle away the health bar of your opponents' backboard with each successful basket to ultimately shatter it, with alley-oops and dunks acting as the most damaging parts of your repertoire. Elimination is a free-for-all between three or four players on a half court, with the lowest scoring player booted after each round until only one remains. Domination has teams trying to score from marked spots on a half court to take them over, which earn points over time in addition to baskets made. Good ol' 21 is another half-court game type where the first to reach said points wins, and in which a certain well-placed manoeuvre will reset your opponent's score for maximum insult to injury ratio. Remix 2v2 is like a standard game but with periodic power-ups for power, speed, accuracy and so forth. Boss Battles pit you in a scenario against a specific player, typically with minor tweaks to a Remix mode; the 21 battle against LeBron James, for instance, has him catch fire after one basket if you're ahead.

Stomping through Remix and Classic Campaign will gain you access to many of the plethora of secret characters and extras, which are for the most part unlocked through completing the 58 Jam Challenges. The range of hidden characters is impressive, including players like Scottie Pippen and Orlando Magic Shaq, Legend teams like Utah's Karl Malone and John Stockton, or Democrats and Republicans. Hell, even the Beastie Boys weasel their way in somehow. Besides new players, Challenges open up "privileges," or what would typically be referred to as cheats or modifiers like Big Head Mode (the only real way to play), as well as new skins for the ball.

A huge part of the Jam experience has always been the announcer, and fan-favourite Tim Kitzrow returns for all of the boomshakalakas, fires and shoe questions that have come to define memories of the old arcade game. He's more verbose and lively than ever, making each dunk and boomshakalaka that much more exciting. We can't say the same about the background music, however, as it's largely forgettable and serves mostly as blank filler during games and in menus. On the other hand, the graphical style and animations are a joy to watch and do a great job of capturing the cartoony, hectic feel of the arcade game, all the while running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. The photograph cut-out heads on 3D bodies are very charming, and the cardboard standee crowd is a very nice, playful throwback to the 16-bit era. The style helps ground the game in the real world, but gives just enough room to make a high-flying, flaming dunk that shatters the backboard seem appropriate and, importantly, pretty cool.

Apart from the largely forgettable music, the only beef we have with the game is a lack of any online components. Multiplayer is strictly local, nor are there any leaderboards of which to speak. Given the revelation in the wake of NBA Elite 2010’s delay that this once Wii-exclusive game will be released on HD platforms later this year with online play, it’s tough to whole-heartedly recommend multi-platform players pick this up yet. It’s still an exceptional game on Wii, but it doesn't feel complete knowing that a more fully-featured version is supposed to be out elsewhere before the year is up.


EA’s NBA Jam revival is not only a ridiculously good time, but it’s among the best arcade sports games on any platform this generation. Unless you abhor the series or genre in general, it’s tough not to get a kick out of Jam. Its fast gameplay, playful graphics and over-the-top action make it easy to get that adrenaline pumping, and the relative brevity of games acts as an infectious vector for one-more-game syndrome, especially if played with three other people. That being said, multi-platform gamers might want to hold off for the incoming HD versions that include online play, which is sorely missing here. If you only own a Wii, though, NBA Jam is a no-brainer.

From the web

Game Trailer

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EA shows us it's not all about the 2 on 2

User Comments (55)



Corbs said:

Great review Jon! Can't wait to take this one for a spin when things slow down around here.



zionich said:

Wow, I feel robbed now the full version is comming to PS3 and 360 with online.



FunderThucker said:

Their attitude is the only reason why I'm not picking this up. Shame though as it seems like it would be a perfect game with the online. Too bad wii don't get it.....



Tasuki said:

Great review!!! EA did a great job capturing the essence of the original NBA Jam. Heck if it wasnt for the new rosters and updated graphics I would think I was playing the original. I do like the fact that they added alot of the legends like Pippen Rodman, David Robinson, John Stockton and many more that I can mention. Playing as them also makes it feel alot like the original.

As for online play and leaderboards the original didnt have them and it was a great game so I dont know why the Wii one needs them to be great.

IMO its is worth the $50 I couldnt be happier with a remake now lets just see if GoldenEye does just as good of a job.



Rarewarefan7495 said:

Great Review. The game is still good without online IMO. Local multiplayer just has much more fun because you're having a good time and socializing with friends. Hopefully they'll update rosters to keep up with the changes of the NBA season. That would be neat.



Slapshot said:

Great Reveiw, and if the Wii nets a 9/10 the HD ports should be nothing less than Perfect!



KyubiStewie said:

Local mutiplayer > Online Multiplayer.
BOOMSHAKALAKALAKA! I'll buy this and play it with my brother. He'll have as much fun as I did back in 1993 when I had the Genesis version.



DAaaMan64 said:

Yeah the whole other consoles thing is just bull crap. We own a 55" inch HD tv. You can imagine which version we're buying.



sonic_brawler95 said:

Wow, I am interested in this because I loved the original PSone and Genesis versions. But there are too many great games coming out, so maybe some other time.



James said:

I really enjoyed this when I played it in August so I'm glad to hear the full version is just as fun. I'll definitely be picking this up!



JamieO said:

Fair play, I am really pleased with how this has turned out, because me and my mates played absolutely loads of SNES NBA Jam, (even though we didn't know anything about basketball, not that you need to for its 2-on-2 arcade action).

I felt a bit unsure about the screens with the cut-out faces at first, but from what Jon says they add charm to this, so I am pleased that they work. Brilliant news about the announcer being "on fire" as is expected, NBA Jam's frantic speech is up there with the announcer from Smash TV.

Quality review, Jon.



Sylverstone said:

Am I dreaming or is that tagline from one of my favorite childhood movies of all time? (Space Jam).

Anyways, great review as always Jon.



OldBoy said:

Looks great.Nice review.
Gonna have to get this on the old Xbox though ,HD and online far outweigh the motion controls for me.Its terrible that the Wii gets shafted everytime when it comes to online play,theres really no excuse.



lex0plex said:

I don;t know which one to buy to play with my roommates... NBA Jam or Wii Party.... i cant afford both



SwerdMurd said:

Space Jam was ALMOST as good as Kazaam!

/shudder....mid-90s movies starring basketball players that can't act....so glad that trend died.



Slapshot said:

@Swerd... but think of it this way and Im actually being serious. At least in the 90s there were great sports idols that actually had a positive influence on us. Compared to half the crap that our sports are today with nothing but guys that are in it for the money.



PSICOffee said:

yeah I'll wait for this game to be in the bargain bin so in the meantime I'll pick up the GBC or SNES one.



Skotski said:

Got it for the Wii!
I have a 360 and PS3, but I don't play these kind of games with people online (games that can get overly-competitive despite that it should be treated just for fun... unless it has other options to make it less competitive: MGO's ability to do anything you friggin' want with people is a +).

I'm seriously disappointed the Wii version got shafted on the online. I mean, I don't think the game should have had online to begin with! Sure many of us are in college and far away from friends and family now, but that doesn't mean kids can't learn the value of local play! Putting online just encourages them to never even use local play.
But even still, why give the 360/PS3 online? The Wii has proven it can have good-to-great online capabilities if the dev cared enough. Why should you tempt those with multiple consoles to choose one of those consoles over an unfair advantage??? At least give the Wii more unlockables if you're going to remove something from it! That's just plain unfair! ...and it encourages the very attitude gamers have that this company is against.



RonF said:

Just got it and love it. I spent the whole afternoon playing it and it was a blast.



rustythekid said:

and boom goes the dynamite.

To buy or not to buy, that's my dilemma, because I have my eyes set on something golden.



ToadFan said:

Wow higher then I thought. (Thinking it would be a 7.0) Might get this now.



suburban_sensei said:

Good review. I am really interested in this game, since I adored the original. However, with quite a few games coming out his month as well as in November, I think I will wait for a price cut.



WAM2 said:

Wave your hands in the air if you feel fine...we're gonna take it into overtime!!! Welcome to NBA JAM!!!



XCWarrior said:

Wow, really? A 9? After they promised an exclusive... and then put a better version on the other systems. It has no online. This deserves no better than a 7. Thank goodness it won't sell.



JaredJ said:

I still have NBA Jam Tournament Editon on Sega Genesis. I may pick this up eventually.



Skotski said:

"Wow, really? A 9? After they promised an exclusive... and then put a better version on the other systems. It has no online. This deserves no better than a 7."

The treatment of a game and the company's standards doesn't equate the score of a game.
If that were the case, the attitudes of its creators would be enough to make Gears of War a 6 by a mature adult's standards - Rock Band games would never go beyond a 7 due to their lies of the Wii's limitations - and Final Fantasy games after VI should never get a grade beyond 5 due to them creating the FF7-generation of gamers.

"Thank goodness it won't sell."

Who says? At least locally in my area, the Wii versions are emptying in stock. It may not be an overall success, but it's a success to those who bought it.



Skotski said:

Oh, and let's not forget: Blizzard's Starcraft and Warcraft games, according to your standards, shouldn't ever be scored beyond a 3 for stealing almost all of Games Workshops' intellectual property, claiming it's original, convincing their fans that it's original, breeding thousands of flame wars across the internet, and never once giving them credit for breathing life into their games.

...fact is though, Starcraft and Warcraft are good games despite them being stolen ideas. And they have encouraged new generations of gamers to try out something different.



modular said:

BOOMSHA..... huh. What? No online multiplayer?
This is such a no-no. Anyway, I can't wait to try this game. It looks wicked!



outrun2sp said:

Will be picking this one up for sure. Looks very good and nice to see an arcade style game.

Online gaming is good but I played games for 15 years before online was available so im used to it. The days of megadrive, snes, saturn, gamecube where no games were online so im totally accustomed to it still.



LuWiiGi said:

This is great and all, but I'm very annoyed with the devs for not giving the Wii version online play. I'd still buy the game without online, but what possible motive is there to stop the Wii version having online? Why are people determined to make the Wii look worse than other consoles?



Kelvin said:



I loved NBA Jam and owned it on both SNES and Mega Drive, so it's very likely I will be buying this... from downtown!

(sorry again)



Mono05 said:

This game is great. I have people over all the time so I don't really care if it has online. It would have been nice tho. But it would be like madden games. Once you start to win. They will just dope out of the game. I hate that about online gaming. Smash and Domination are a great add to the game. If you have real life friends and family and have a them over your house like back in the 90's. When people would visit each other. This is a great game to pick up.



Gamerdad said:

Not to throw a spoiler out in the air, but I played this game... LOVE it just as much as I did back then. BUT, can you say "PUSH FEST 2K10"? I can understand a little hustle in the paint, or just before a 3 is about to cause a FIRE, but the cpu will knock your socks off on an inbound pass! "Is it the shoes"? Nah, it's ARCH RIVALS NES with style!

@Mono... Sho' Ye right!
You just took me back! I remember mad NES tournaments among the neighborhood boys!
A Tear 4 Ol' Times!
PS* I didnt actually cry; just an expression...

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