A long, long time ago, when hair bands roamed the earth and there wasn't a “W” somewhere between the words “President” and “Bush”, there were primitive structures where people would gather to test their physical and mental prowess in the sport of video games. These noble meeting huts were known as arcades and they were nothing like the ones you have on your 360. People would come from miles around just to stare in awe at the latest achievements in modern gaming technology and watch the greatest heroes of our time compete for fame and glory. One such contraption was known as NBA Jam and its tale is epic.
[image1]For roughly the last decade and a half, it has been nothing more than legend to those born in the post-cade era. But now, after what some, including myself, would call too long and one painfully brutal bankruptcy, it is finally returning to us in all its greatness and glory.
You youngsters may have never heard of NBA Jam, and that is a goddamn shame. Jam, along with NFL Blitz, helped redefine the concept of what an arcade sports game was and made them not only accessible to a market of mostly pale-faced, acne-laden nerds who had never even so much as held a basketball in real life, but it also made them fun to play.
For those of you old enough to have tried Crystal Pepsi and own a copy of Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em on cassette, you'll be glad to hear that from my brief hands-on time with EA's new Wii version of the game, I can proudly report that nothing has changed in the best way possible. They figure that “if something ain't broke, why fix it?” - a sentiment all too lost to most game companies nowadays. Just take a look at Sega's last Golden Axe game or try and play through the newest iteration of Bionic Commando, and you'll know what I'm talking about. They even went as far at to hire Mark Turmell, one of the game's original designers, to work with them step by step to guarantee that it was true to form.
[image2]All the old-school two-on-two, back backboard-shattering, heating up until you're on fire, big-headed action is back and the rules are the same, only the faces have changed. Not only have rosters been updated, but more detail has been added to players' faces. To keep the classic look of the arcade, all those pretty mugs have been rendered in 2D on a 3D body, and more facial expressions have been added to give the players the reactionary depth needed to experience arcade sports at its full potential.
On top of the facelift, a new remix mode will be available as well. Not too much information was available on the new mode, but it looks like it will add features similar to what you see in other EA Sports titles, such as Madden and FIFA. So it wouldn't be far-fetched to say that you'll see something resembling a career or dynasty mode stuck in there somewhere.
All of you who have lived long enough to experience the Snorks first hand probably have fond memories of plunking down two dollars' worth of quarters for a full game of NBA Jam (that's fifty cents per quarter-game) in their local pizza parlor or a dimly-lit nickelodeon. And you probably already knew that you were going to pick up a copy when it releases later this year and were just waiting for confirmation that EA didn't screw it up. Heck, the enticement of this new edition is enough to even make me contemplate buying a Wii. As for the rest of you... I envy your youth, but I also pity you for never having the privilege of experiencing the Jam for yourselves. Soon enough, though, I'll just envy you.