|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 5, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
April 28, 2010 - NBA Jam is a rarity. It's one of those few games that was an instant classic and to this day has a seemingly ageless quality. Midway's cartoony basketball sim title was a pioneer (as if one could lose that status) in the early days of over the top sports games. Say what you will about games like NFL Blitz, Double Dribble, or even old-old school titles like Jordan vs. Bird, NBA Jam was the first title to really put the over-the-top-sports genre on the map.
With a horde of secrets, players, and teams to unlock (from mascots to presidents), the legendary and ultimately zero-effect Big Head mode, and rim-rocking super dunks, it's little wonder that the original NBA Jam series was so popular. The irresistibly outrageous gameplay and unending stream of unlockables made the original 'Jam' series one of those games that you just had to have. EA is hoping to recapture that magic of the early days of the Midway baller, and they could be on the right track.
The tough thing about re-releasing a classic game of yesteryear is that we tend to take fonder looks backward than we should. In honesty, it's no surprise some remakes suck, especially when their predecessors were one dimensional (which was ironically a tough thing to do back in the days of two dimensional games). NBA Jam could have suffered a very similar fate, but it appears EA has tried to lovingly recreate a beloved archetypal game. Wisely developing the system for the Wii (with no plans to release on other consoles as of today), the team bringing EA's NBA Jam to life is poised to bring the budding family-friendly/party games fan base in with the same things that made the series popular initially. EA has basically upped the pixel count on this dusty entry, while leaving the major gameplay untouched in its Wii port. In our time with the game, there was one key question that had to be answered. Is it fun? Heck yeah.
Avoiding the whole HD thing was probably a plus, but NBA Jam plays like it was meant to be a Wii game. The controls are as intuitive as you might guess. The buttons are used for passing and shoving, holding the trigger on the back of the nunchuk uses turbo to sprint or shove hard, the control stick moves your player and you can dunk, block, or shoot by flicking your Wii-mote up and down. As I said; simple, but it's very satisfying. The first time you knock an opponent out of the air and bring the hammer down to the tune of that very excitable NBA Jam announcer's Marv Albert impression you'll be hooked.
The teams and graphics have been given an update. Although EA's NBA Jam took most of its visual cues from the Midway classic, it has a bit of polish to it that has only come with the jump to Wii. When you play, you may not even notice it though because this game looks so darn similar to the SNES and SEGA versions. The crowds and cheerleaders are a bit more active and nicer to look at, but the core of the graphics remains the supercharged animations. Shoves look as goofy as always and still send players flying. Dunks will attract every flashbulb in the arena as in earlier versions, and nailing enough shots in a row still brings out the flames for a bit of pseudo-invincibility. The decision to borrow so heavily from the first 'Jam' series' aesthetic may have been a no-brainer for a remake, but it was a good one just the same.
Unfortunately, a quick exhibition mode was all we had time for before the end of the demo, but I was assured that EA's not just relying on nostalgia to bring in the federal promissory notes. As the game was reset for the next demo, I noticed the title screen had a Remix mode and something called Remix Tour. "It's like dynasty mode if Nintendo ran it," the representative said. Think power-ups and boss battles. We weren't treated to a preview of the mode but I was told it was worth the wait.
EA's NBA Jam delivers all the furious fun of the original and has a few extra points coming off the bench. There's a lot of vintage gameplay here but I suspect that would only go so far. Rather than charge players for a basic port that probably could be DLC, EA seems to be covering its bases with all new modes and a new flavor. If you liked putting in code combinations to unlock all kinds of surprises on the SNES (many of which will be returning, probably with some new secrets), playing fast-paced over-the-top roundball, and all the hang-time you can handle, you'll dig EA's NBA Jam. With so many new and veteran editions to the team, EA is betting the Wii will be another slam dunk.
Leon Hendrix III
CCC Freelance Writer