Blast from the Past: NBA Jam (SNES)

Sports
8.5

Great

Not all gamers enjoy sport games. Hell, if you had to stereotype many gamers they just about hate sport altogether. However, back in the 90s there was a sports game that reminded players just why the sport genre had a place in video games – NBA Jam.

What started off as a smash hit in the arcades finally got ported to console, as most games did in that era. Up to this point, developers had attempted to simulate their NBA games to match that of the sport as close as possible. NBA Jam moved in the opposite direction by going completely over the top with its highly addictive arcade roots taking centre stage.

He’s heating up

A full team of players were replaced by a 2-a-side game of basketball. Thanks to the official license some of the best players of the time made a showing in the game. For example, the very popular Chicago Bulls included the likes of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant and the Phoenix Suns had Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson on the team. Each character had Speed, 3 points, Dunks and Defence defining their stats. Once done with your team selection it’s a quick move into the action that’s aged very, very well.

NBA Jam works as well today as it did back in 1994 on the Super Nintendo. It’s due to the simple control system that comes with quite a bit of depth. You have a pass and shoot button, and when on the defence this turns into a steal and jumping block defence button. You’re generally just dealing with two buttons to pull of your basic moves. Press in the turbo button (right shoulder button) and NBA Jam kicks the action up a few gears. By pressing in the turbo the player you’re controlling will have his shoes turning red, indicating that you can pull off some special moves. Your stealing ability gets upgraded to pushing your opponent over and when shooting at the hoop you’ll now not only perform a dunk, but you’ll pull off the craziest moves ever seen in a basketball game.

These moves aren’t realistic in any form whatsoever unless jumping four metres high and slamming it down seems normal to you.

He’s on fire

These moves aren’t realistic in any form whatsoever unless jumping four metres high and slamming it down seems normal to you. The limits do however not end there. Score three times in succession (without your opponents scoring) and you’ll unlock unimaginable dunks that’ll last as long as your opponents do not score. When ‘on fire’ these dunks are completely insane. You’ll fly several meters into the air with a chopper sound indicating your rotation and slam it down through the hoop or you’ll perform several somersaults and hear nothing but net at the end. Whenever you perform these moves you’ll see the netting on the hoop turning into fire. It’s a very satisfying feeling. There are so many cool moves, but breaking the glass backboard is still the highlight. There is a lot more charm to the game.

Half the reason this game has aged so well and has remained so incredibly entertaining comes down to the inclusion of Tim Kitzrow who commented in the game. He had some incredible one-liners that have been etched into the minds of fans since. Hearing BOOMSHAKALAKA or FROM DOWNTOWN is an iconic bit of audio from the era. Whenever you hear those words you’re thinking of one game and one game only.

Hearing BOOMSHAKALAKA or FROM DOWNTOWN is an iconic bit of audio from the era.

Rejected

Those one-liners are very iconic, but unfortunately, there is somewhat of a shortfall on the SNES version of the game. The audio quality is nowhere near as good as the Mega Drive version. There’s a distinct drop in clarity and almost sounds muffled by comparison. Seeing as the commentary plays such a big part it’s something that unfortunately stands out. Graphically it’s a fantastic port from arcade and looks the part, though the crowd are made up of cardboard cutouts that do not move – something just a little too advanced for most games at the time. Console versions (included in the SNES version) did get a pretty cool cheat code mode where you can unlock people such as Bill and Al Gore or big head mode among others.

NBA Jam is a treat when including a second player and it even comes with its own save file system to keep track of your records (yes, it’s still working in the cartridge all these years later). If you’re finding yourself on the rebound the only hang time you want will be with NBA Jam.

Good

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Still fun pulling off Turbo moves
  • The announcer is as classic as ever
  • Could even please non-sport fans

Bad

  • There are sound quality issues on the SNES version

Summary

NBA Jam is still a fantastic take on the sport of basketball, even if it doesn't take itself very serious at all. It's because of its arcade roots that it'll remain a timeless classic for years to come.
8.5

Great

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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