Anyone who was grew up in the 90s and played games remembers a little sports game called NBA Jam. The over-all concept of the game was to take the teams and players of the NBA, and make them play some of the craziest basketball anyone has ever scene. This means performing outrageous looking dunks and shots that no person could ever possibly do in real life. And that was the fun of it, take a sport that people love and make it easily accessible and as unrealistic as possible, and throw in some awesome commentary. NBA Jam was the sports game that pioneered the ground work for many other arcade style sports games that followed it’s release, including a sequel dubbed NBA Jam Tournament Edition.
So does NBA Jam for the Xbox 360 keep the flare and sparkle that made it good back in the day? Quite simply, yes it does. This is the game we all loved and remembered putting so much time into. Fans of the older games will feel right at home as everything about this game feels just as it did years ago, with a bunch of new features. EA really knew what they were doing when they got the original voice of NBA Jam, Tim Kitzrow, to bring his legendary commentary to this reboot of the franchise. There are plenty of catch-phrases fans will recognize as well as a ton of new phrases that will get anyone pumped as a player begins to heat up. The crazy dunks and the flaming baskets are all present as well. NBA players look similar to their real life counter-parts, sporting still facial expressions as they move and jump all over the court.
The game play everyone remembers is hear and nicely packaged. Games are played out 2v2 with any of the current line-up of NBA teams and their players. Besides the classic arcade game mode, there are plenty of new game types to check out and mix things up. This includes a Remixed 2v2, where players can pick up power-ups and dramatically influence different aspects of the game. There is also variations of Two Way and Three Way 21, and Domination, where teams shoot baskets on different spots of half court and gain points from taking over the entire court side. What is even more interesting is the inclusion of a Smash Mode, where the main objective is to smash the opposing team’s backboard by dunking on the basket. Finally, there is a Boss Battle mode where players will play one-on-one against some of the NBA’s all-stars under different conditions. All of these modes are fun and can make for some great moments of suspense, action, and nostalgia.
Most of the different game modes can be played through a Remixed Tour, which is a version of NBA Jams campaign mode where players choose their favorite team and travel the country beating other teams under different game-types. Playing this mode is the most common way to unlock most of the game’s unlockables and hidden easter eggs. This would include unlocking different players on the NBA’s roster of teams, All Star Teams, and some special characters that range from mascots to public and pop-culture figures (Barack Obama being one of them). Many of the games hidden features are cheats that change the mechanics and look of the game, some of which can change the skin of the basketball and appearance of the players.
There are only a few present problems that plague NBA Jam from being a perfect reboot. There are some noticeable bugs that moderately occur during games that mostly only happen when playing solo with a CPU partner. There will be times when a CPU would stand idly by and let an opponent score, failing to defend against opponents when a player is unable to. This is not present when there are four players playing locally or over Xbox Live, as that each player controls a member of their team during a game. There are also some spots where players will miss baskets at random times without any real explanation. A perfect example would be a player completely missing a dunk when not being pressed by a defender, this is something that should be fixed if possible.
Finally, there is an absence of customizability to the control scheme. The default controls have the turbo buttons mapped to the left bumper and trigger, while the shoot, pass, and steal controls are mapped to the face buttons. While most might not have issue with these controls, it is a shame that there was not way for anyone to change up the controls to better suit their needs. This is especially true for anyone who wants to set up a control scheme similar to that of older NBA Jam games.
NBA Jam is a game that has a lot of flare and shine that would draw anybody in. It is a fun combination of nostalgia and over-the-top basketball action that lives up to the hype of it’s predecessors. The commentary is classic, the online play is fun, the offline game modes are interesting, and the tons of unlockables will have people constantly coming back for a great time. This is a franchise that has received a great reboot and has definitely earned it’s time back in the spotlight. BOOM SHAKALAKA!