It's gotta be the shoes.
Although I was born in the '80s, I consider myself to be a '90s kid. It’s now 2011, and I’m 29. But in a way, I’m still stuck in the early '90s. I still listen to Wu-Tang Clan and Nirvana, and I still play Mortal Kombat. My time playing Mortal Kombat was spent almost entirely in dirty, sticky, dingy arcades, bowling alleys, or wherever I could find some coin-op cabinets. It was hard to pull me away from fighting games—Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Primal Rage, and of course, Street Fighter II—but whenever I took a break from uppercuts and combos, I looked for my fix of Boomshakalaka.
I loved me some NBA Jam. And I’m not even that big of a Basketball fan, but NBA Jam wasn’t NBA as usual. It didn’t take itself seriously; the gameplay was over-the-top, the announcer was funny, I could even play as Bill Clinton or Mortal Kombat characters. It was my kind of game. So when NBA Jam was making a comeback last year, I was on fire with anticipation. However, I either had to buy it on the Wii (no thanks) or pick up NBA Elite, which had NBA Jam bundled with it. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, who knows?), NBA Elite was canned, and instead EA published NBA Jam separately for $50, but without the depth and features a retail release demands.
Now, EA is making up for it with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, which is a supped-up version of last year’s release, with all the bells and whistles fans were begging for. And the best part of all… it’s only $15.
The gameplay hasn’t changed at all. It’s simple, easy to get the hang of, but doesn’t offer a lot of strategy. Pass, steal, and throw elbows, block and shoot. That’s it. Mix things up with an alley-oop, here and there. Getting three baskets in a row will set your player “on fire” and grant him unlimited turbo. But even this doesn’t seem to have much impact on the outcome of the game. Three alley-oops in a row and the whole team (I say "whole team", but the game is only 2-on-2) catches aflame. It’s fun, it’s classic, but there’s not much to it—you have to know this going into a purchase. If you’re looking for sim-type sports, go elsewhere.
Aside from standard pick-up matches either by your lonesome, online, or locally with up to four friends, the meat of the game is in the Road Trip mode. It’s broken up by division and through bronze, silver, and gold challenges. Bronze challenges are your typical 2-on-2, but Silver and Gold set modifiers to the match, such as making dunks count as three points. It forces you to change up how you play and will help to hone your skills. Unlike most sports game’s season modes, you don’t have to play through Road Trip with only one team. But if you’re like me, you’ll stick to your home team the whole time anyway (Go Celtics!).
Winning, even losing, earns you Jam points which you can spend on everything from cheats, to secret teams like the Seattle Supersonics, to classic players and hidden characters like Larry Bird, characters from SSX, Faith from Mirror’s Edge, and the Beastie Boys. It’s that kind of stuff that makes NBA Jam stand out from other NBA games.
It all gets old a little too quick—even faster if you don’t play with friends. But if you do, or you were a fan of the old-school NBA Jam titles (or you’re just stuck in the 90s like me), then NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is a slam dunk.
Review is based on the PlayStation 3 version. Voucher code was supplied by EA.