He's on fire....again!
John Tesh - the one time host of Entertainment Tonight and the source of endless material for comedians everywhere. Did you know he wrote the NBA basketball theme for NBC? Seriously! Now every time you hear that tune, you'll shudder with fear. But that shouldn't stop you from getting into some digital two on two, should it?
Two on two basketball, no goal tending, five fouls and the opponents get a free throw. So states the rules of NBA Showtime. If you've ever played NBA Jam, then you already know the basics - the familiar cheap computer opponents, the lackluster single player mode, and the endless back and forth gameplay. Nonetheless, the Dreamcast version manages to capture the arcade fun, despite some noticeable snafus.
Indeed, single player will get boring. It's fun for a quick full 4-quarter game, but I've never thought of NBA Jam/Showtime as a game to play for hours on end by yourself. While you can save your game records under a name and pin I.D., there is no season mode.
When you shoot for the hoop, oddly enough, your computer-controlled teammate will jump as well; after you drain the three-pointer, that same teammate might grab the rim from his airborne descent. Maybe he was waiting for the alley-oop, but it's as if there's something not quite right with the drone member of your team. The same problem has shown up in the arcade version, but other than the complete weirdness of it, it doesn't deter the gameplay.
New to the Midway b-ball series is a Create-a-Player option. As incentive to keep playing, you can build up a player's statistics. The more you win, the better the player you can create. Unfortunately, you're limited to the set faces and mascot heads you're given. There's no way to put a reasonable facsimile of yourself among the ballers of the NBA. And mascots can only wear their original uniforms. Bummer.
At the end of every quarter, the camera arcs around the stop-motioned players in a pseudo bullet-time effect. The freeze frame shows one of the graphical problems of the game's engine - collision detection. I've seen a goal tending call when the player jumped from behind the backboard to put an arm straight through a basketball. One time, the camera froze on Chris Webber riding Kobe Bryant piggyback. Now that's something you'll never see in a real game...well, maybe with Dennis Rodman...ahem... The point is, the effect could have been altered so as not to blatantly show these flaws.
On the Dreamcast, the graphics really shine. This looks like it came straight off the arcades. From the outrageous jams to the flash bulbs going off around the stadium, the port is done well. The overblown characters fit well with the less than serious nature of the game. The animation isn't nearly as good as NBA2K, but it isn't expected to be. This is simply the prettiest version of NBA Jam on a console yet.
As in previous games, there's a wide range of witty remarks, including a few insults and color commentary. And yes, even John Tesh's signature tune is in here. Bet you'll wanna go out and buy all of his new age classical CDs now. The other music in the game is mostly background filler - trying for a hip-hop style beat to complement the action.
The additions of free-throws keep the game from becoming a shoving match, adding some balance to the multi-player. Add in the updated rosters and familiarity of the classic Jam mechanics, and you'll find the Dreamcast edition a worthy title. Despite the stop-motion glitches and the erratic drones, playing with a gang of pals is fun. While I can't quite say the same for the other versions of the game, if you're starting to get somewhat Blitzed out and are looking for a change of sport, then it's Showtime, baby.