He's not " On Fire" anymore...
Several years ago, the arcade world was rocked by the introduction of NBA Jam
, the larger than life, in-your-face, slam dunking video game. After all, it was clearly the finest hoops game on the scene. Great graphics, exciting action, and the real stars of the NBA all wrapped up into one machine. The problem was that you had to pay 50 cents to play it for 5 minutes. After 2 or 3 games, you were tapped dry. And unless you had a few thousand dollars to buy your own arcade sized version, you had to wait until you came across a few more quarters.
Years later, after many fruitless efforts by software companies to bring the game to the home entertainment systems, Acclaim decided to give it a shot. And while they gave it a good effort, they failed to duplicate the feats of the original game version.
The biggest difference between the arcade and the Sega Saturn versions is the presence of the 3D graphics on the Saturn, which are not great. Ironically, they hinder the gameplay more than they help it. The game moves too fast to fully appreciate them. Often, a player will move by his opponent in such a rapid fashion that you find yourself wondering, "How did that happen?" And due to a combination of the speed of the game and the color of the basketball, the ball gets "lost" somehow on the screen. Suddenly, your opponent will be standing under your basket with the ball, laying it in for an uncontested two. Once again, you will say to yourself, "How did that happen?" Call me crazy, but I feel that if you're recreating a game that was made four or five years earlier, you should be able to improve, or at least replicate the aforementioned game's features and graphics.
Aside from these flaws, my biggest problem with the game is that it is difficult to get into any type of flow. For one thing, you have to change the setting on the clock speed to the slowest setting possible. Otherwise, the game will be over within 5 minutes. But the main reason for the lack of rhythm is the length of the breaks in between quarters. From start to finish, the game requires about ten load up breaks. Each one is roughly 20 seconds long. That's about two minutes worth of waiting time in a 5-10 minute game. And some people, kids especially, would have a tough time sitting through all of these breaks without bouncing off the walls. Even after the final buzzer, you have to wait another 20 seconds just to see your statistics. And to play again, it's about another 40 second delay. Why?! Let me play!
Once you get past all the hold-ups and get down to the game itself, you'll find that it is pretty cool. The contests are always close, coming down to the last couple of seconds before being decided. Let's face it: if you win every time you play a new video game, you'll drop it within hours. However, I do have one problem with the computer's skill level. Let's say that after 3 quarters of play, you are beating the computer by 10 points. You have dominated throughout the game. Just when you are about to really pull away, the computer essentially stops you. All of a sudden, the wide open dunks where you do somersaults in the air clang off the rim, only to be rebounded by the computer opponent, who promptly dribbles right through you to score. As soon as you inbound the next play, the computer steals it immediately and drains a three!. This will happen until the game is tied, or until the computer is beating you. And while I enjoy the competition, it gets a little ridiculous. It goes beyond the scope of the patented "computer assist" feature common to the NBA Jam series. And it certainly takes away from the fun...
Actually, the most disturbing thing about this game lies within the manual. In discussing the functions that certain buttons perform, they mention the "Turbo" button. According to the manual, "This is the juice button, and pressing it will make your player run faster, jump higher, shoot better, pass better..." The next button is called the Extreme button. And I quote, "This is Turbo on steroids/ Turbo with vitamins! Extreme power gives you that boost over the edge that means crunch time for your opponents."
I have a real problem with a product that is marketed towards children that puts a positive connotation on steroids. What is a kid supposed to think when he reads this? It'll give you that extra boost, huh? Now I don't know if they were trying to be cute or what, but it's in very poor taste. (Excellent point - Ed.)
Overall, the game is just OK. Acclaim basically took a game that was great in the arcade and made it bad in the home entertainment systems. They improved upon nothing at all, and the only area they attempted to upgrade were the graphics, and they failed. I would have a difficult time justifying the $54.99 price tag on this one, the total from my local toy store. Sure, the game is kinda cool, but no, it's not different, and certainly no better that the one that we saw years ago.