Written: 3.15.14 Acquired: 5.30.06 Status: Cart only Price: $1
Once in a blue moon, a game comes along and becomesmore than a game. It transcends the hobby, becoming a beast. It fuses its way into pop culture and becomes a legend. In the history of video games, only a small handful of games can truly claim that. NBA Jam is one of those games that came along and etched itself into our hearts. It is still fondly revered to this day... more than 20 years later. Tonight is a celebration of NBA JAM Happy 20th anniversary to the Super NES port of NBA Jam ^_^
SATURDAY NIGHTS WITH THE BOYS... MY GAMING CREW
Growing up I was lucky enough to have a local best friend (see Nelly for more) as well as a tight-knit band of brothers and sisters who lived 'bout two hours away. The birth of the connection all started during the Vietnam War... where the dads met on the battlefield... were blessed enough to survive and then continued their bond post-war. They each went on to marry, have a family and they all stayed in touch. Our countless family-friend sleepovers during the late 1980's to mid 1990's were legendary. Staying up til 2 AM, the adults would be downstairs laughing up a storm, dancing the night away, singing bad karaoke songs and reminiscing about the good old days. Not to mention the occasional war story retold for the 90th time. Meanwhile, upstairs, a group of young boys and girls were busy hanging out, chilling, playing Nerf wars and of course, playing NES, Genesis and later Super Nintendo video games galore. It was probably the greatest times of my childhood. So many epic sleepovers and events that took place whenever my "Gaming Crew" got together. Hell, they were some of the best times of my life, period. A write-up devoted to such is definitely in the future. I loved those guys. I can't talk about my childhood without thinking about 'em. Good times
My gaming crew and I played hundreds of games together back in the good old days. But of all the titles we played, there were three we constantly came back to. The first was Super Bomberman. It was our first foray into four player party gaming bliss. Dropping bombs like mad men and cavorting around the various maps, praying that the flames miss you by at least a pixel was incredibly addicting. Add to that the chemistry our group shared and wow. It was video gaming magic Super Bomberman gave us hundreds of blast happy hours ^_^
The second was Street Fighter II Turbo. In our group the top dog was a guy we all affectionately nicked Sushi-X, for his lavish love of EGM and Street Fighter. One glance at our disfigured thumbs would clue you in at just how many bloody hours we spent dragon punching one another. Like a guitar player's calluses, we were proud of our battle scars. There was nothing better than all 11 of us huddled around the Sony monitor, determined to finally down Sushi-X, the tough bastard If you could beat Mr. X 2 out of 3 rounds, you were immortalized
Before we get to the third game my crew was madly obsessed about [I believe they can figure it out... at least I sure hope so -Ed.], now then let's take a quick stroll down memory lane. THE YEAR WAS 1993. Fighting games were all the rage. Everywhere you went, people were either waxing poetic about Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Fighting games dominated the arcade scene. They graced gaming magazine covers month after month and EVERYONE on the playground was buzzing about them. What could stop this roaring freight train? Or at least, what epic game could come along and steal some of the thunder? And that's when NBA Jam swooped in and took a gaming nation by storm. The unique and outrageous arcade style of 2 vs. 2 basketball immediately caught on. 1993 was conquered by fighting games and NBA Jam Everyone was kung fu fighting... and JAMMING
NBA Jam became a hefty monster in its own right. In fact, it had captivated the imagination of the gaming nation so much that many people were forced to beg the question, is NBA Jam better than EVEN Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II? Walk into any arcade hall back in 1993 and you would hear the eclectic medley of "HADOKEN!" "FINISH HIM!" and "HE'S HEATING UP! HE'S ON FIRE!!!" Man, you talk about the good old days. Coupled with the 16-bit war, it was a hell of a time to be a robust 10 year old boy growing up in suburban America. Don't forget Doom came out that December as well, and it joined the lofty ranks of being on the tip of everyone's tongue. Then, in March 1994, NBA Jam hit home consoles. My brother and I bought the SNES version on launch day. We did not even bother to rent it as we knew it was going to be epic. So what makes NBA Jam so compelling? What made it the AMAZING phenomenon that it was? I came up with six reasons why. Fittingly, I will present those six reasons in the form of NBA JAM, acrostic style
SIX REASONS WHY NBA JAM RULES
N = No Holds Barred B = Boy on Fire A = Aerial Assault
J = "JAMS IT IN!" A = Al Gore, 'Nuff Said M = Multiplayer Madness!
1. NO HOLDS BARRED
The very first thing that strikes you about NBA Jam is the simplistic 2-on-2 texas tornado tag team style of play. Next, you quickly realize there are no rules. No fouls, no out of bounds, hell, you can even push the opponents as if it's the NBA meets WWF. This led to a unique, frenetic and exciting experience
It's like the old ARCH RIVALS video game, but on steroids
2. BOY ON FIRE
Like how athletes can get into a "zone" in real life sporting events, so too can you in this nutty title. You can catch fire, almost literally. It was all part of the fun... and there was nothing better (or worse, depending on which side of the coin you're on) than hearing those infamous words, "HE'S ON FIRE!"
It became something you heard about on playgrounds everywhere
The best thing about being on fire? Your turbo meter never runs out (which means you can shove to your heart's content, without discretion) and your three point shot becomes nearly automatic, even if you're not a deft 3 point shooter. That's the beauty of being on fire. You'll be singeing the net with the best of them. I just love the sweet sound effect of the ball scorching its way through the hoop. It's friggin' beautiful. MAKE IT RAIN, BABY!
3. AERIAL ASSAULT
Of course, you can't talk NBA Jam without the crazy slams. It would be like talking about the Civil War without mention of Abraham Lincoln, or all-time movie monster icons without Godzilla. In other words, it just wouldn't be right. Here at NBA Jam, there are no limits to what these athletes can do. They will flip, twist and launch themselves 20 feet in the air to throw it down with the best of them!
Dunkers' Delight: NBA JAM TAKES DUNKING TO THE EXTREME!
One of my favorite dunks is the one where you soar in the air spinning like a mad top before crashing down with a thunderous one-handed slam jam. But the best part of dunking occurs in the 4th quarter. With the right power dunk, you can actually...
... SHATTER THE GLASS! Beautiful. Simply beautiful
It's a veritable scene of pandemonium! Chaos has erupted here, folks, as the sharp shards of glass pierce and mutilate the human flesh of MAD MAX Vernon Maxwell. OH MAH GAWD! </Joey Styles>*aHOLY SHIT! chant breaks out followed by anE-C-DUB chant* Sir Charles, the mound of rebound, has shattered the soul of Texas -- Houston, we have a problem! In the midst of all this, Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon is step dancing all over Barkley's face! SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH! It looks like a 10 car accident on I-10 here folks, and I don't like it a damn bit! Bodies are strewn everywhere. For the LOVE OF GOD, get doctors and an ambulance out here; for pete sake these are human bodies! As God is my witness, he is broken in half!
[Hmm. Someone's been watching too many old school ECW pay-per-views on the new WWE Network... -Ed.]
Shattering the glass is such a rare occurence in real life basketball that for anyone who does it, it puts you into a little slice of basketball lore. From the Darvin Hams to the Shaquille O'Neals, few things in sports match the sheer spectacle of a grown man ripping down the rim as thousands of glass pieces engulf him and anyone nearby in a shower of broken glass
Now THAT'S what I call BREAKING BAD [Har har har -Ed.]
Jason Collins is the first active openly gay player in NBA history
My favorite video game glass shattering though has to be, hands down, Slam 'N Jam '96, for the Sega Saturn. It really puts you in the action, up close and personal. I still get a kick out of it everytime I pull it off. It never gets old. The game itself is very fun and overall, underrated. A must for Saturn basketball fanatics. Check it out y'all
Better than NBA Jam? Well, the backboard shattering is, anyhow
You can't help but jump outta your seat, cheering like a mad man
It's fun to hit the replay, hearing the glass shatter again and again
To cap it off, he gives them a macho taunt. Good trash talkin'
4. "JAMS IT IN!"
NBA Jam is known for many things. Wild slam dunks, being on fire and basketball brutality. But that list would never be complete if one didn't give proper credit to the game's wacky announcer. Being in an arcade hall filled with fervent screams of "HE'S ON FIRE!!!" and "BOOM SHAKA LAKA!!!" meant a quality time was always nearby. Some of the zany catchphrases have gone on to become rooted in American pop culture.NBA Jam transcended video gaming itself The zany announcer was in your face. Ya couldn't help but smile
5. AL GORE, 'NUFF SAID
Full of easter eggs and fun oddities, NBA Jam has more secrets than a congressman. I mean, for goodness sake, you could play as the chief-of-state himself, Bill Clinton. Or the vice president, Al "Brings The" Gore. At the time, this was rather unheard of, and made for some interesting water cooler discourse among me and my boys. They were ahead of the curve. For they knew a rainstorm of secrets meant extra and prolonged free press publicity. It helped to fuel the fire and made the JAM revolution even bigger and stronger. Indeed, it was a brilliant strategy. The proof was right there in the pudding. Because in 1993, AND 1994, everyone was NBA JAMMING. EVERYBODY HAVE FUN TONIGHT! Easter eggs kept NBA Jam in the spotlight for months
6. MULTIPLAYER MADNESS!
I spent countless quarters on this game when it ruled the arcade scene in 1993. It was only a matter of time before it would come home via a 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Sure enough, when it did in March 1994, my bro and I rushed out to buy a copy, and we never looked back. My gaming crew and I prob'ly devoted hundreds of hours to this game, basking in the glow of its tantalizing and highly addicting four player jam sessions. Between SNES Super Bomberman, Street Fighter II Turbo and NBA Jam, we spent countless Saturday nights in '93 and '94 bombing, dragon punching and slam dunking on each other. 20 years later, I still look back to those good old days every now and again, recalling the special moments those epic and classic games produced for us. There was nothing better than spending a Saturday night with your boys, four player NBA Jam, with winners playing on and losers rotating. We played this until the cows came home. What an idyllic time it was to be a 10 year old boy growing up in suburban America
Midway developed the arcade game. Iguana did the SNES port
THE definitive arcade style basketball game of the '90s... it's...
20 years, DAMN. Thank you, Midway, for all the JAM memories
Options were basic / simple. Just press start and let the fun begin
Hey, when you're this good... [Don't get crazy now, buddy -Ed.]
RAISING THE BAR
Back in the day, 1991 to be precise, my friends and I were obsessed with collecting and trading Marvel '91 cards. For me, it was the cool pink bars on the back of the cards that I loved so much. At a glance, you could see who fitted where in the pantheon of the Marvel universe. NBA Jam brings back fond memories of those days as it too implements a bar system. The more green you see, the better that player's ability in that category. Look at the 26 NBA teams below. Although, I found some of the ratings a bit suspect, if you know what I mean. Reggie Miller's 3 pointer rating should be MUCH higher, but alas, I digress
Like I said, I feel some of the players got jobbed in certain categories. I have no idea why Nick Anderson is basically a 0 out of 10 in 3 point shooting, as that season he shot 35% from distance. Interestingly, in the sequel, he was rated as a 9 out of 9 from downtown
This halftime "cinematic" bit blew my mind back in the day, ha!
Indeed, it's always satisfying to hit that magical 100 point barrier
Individual player stats are shown both at halftime and postgame
One minor gripe I have though is that the game does not save
SEND IN THE CLONES!
When a successful formula is found, rival game companies often rush to create their own in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the magic. The first on the SNES was Barkley Shut Up and Jam! I find it to be a mildly amusing alternative to NBA Jam. It does do a better job at capturing that gritty street ball feel, but that's about it. Still, it's fun enough for me to want to pop it in for a go or two every now and again
Blacktops, mean elbows, and street ballers reign supreme here
The real winner of the clone heap is easily Looney Tunes B-Ball. It's a wickedly fun and entertaining alternative to NBA Jam. There are even crazier moves here than what you'd find in Jam. It makes sense, since this is a cartoon universe and not just any cartoon but a Looney Tunes universe. Some comical and unique super powers give this game a superbly wacky atmosphere like no other
The timeless Looney Tunes characters will never become outdated
BASKETBALL MEMORIES #87
From playing hoops in my backyard as a youth, to ballin' on the blacktops as a teenager, I have fond memories of the game. And I remember, growing up, wanting to always prove myself to my older bro. He used to ball a lot and I picked up on that
My favorite thing about the game is that it possesses a certain purity. At the heart of the game lies a bigger message. Case in point: 1997. I was in the 8th grade. At lunch one day, I was playing one-on-one with my friend, Simon. Then we noticed these four 7th graders walking nearby. Three of them were bullying this one hapless shrimpy kid. Seeing the three of them pushing the defenseless kid around rose my ire. I looked at Simon and without saying a word I knew he knew what we both knew. If we don't help him, the poor kid was gonna die. We weren't about to let that happen, especially not on our watch. So, we walked over
I challenged the three 7th graders to a little classic game of "21" -- three-on-three basketball. Simon and I, of course, would take the helpless kid. He was not much of a baller, but I had an overwhelming confidence in Simon and myself that we could take these cocky sumbitches. Simon was the ole Dennis Rodman of the team, and I was Reggie f'n Miller. Man, nobody could hit the glass like Simon. Dude was a *BEAST* on the boards. He cleaned up like Dennis Rodman used to. And as for me -- I was the three point specialist. And that cloudy afternoon, I drained three pointer after three pointer. Hand in my face -- it didn't matter. I was a man on a mission. Not only did I want to beat those losers, but I had to defend the honor of that kid. Because, if there's one thing I can't stand, that's seeing a couple lowlives gang up on the small and weak. Pick on someone your own size -- be a man. Anyone could match up against someone much smaller. I guess that's why they're bullies, but as long as I'm around, that injustice / cowardice just won't fly in this town [Look at 'chu, Batman -Ed.]. It was one of those coming-of-age days!
I was in the proverbial ZONE that idyllic, cloudy afternoon, swishing three after three
It was one of those afternoons I wished would last forever. The sky was blue with puffy clouds standing still overhead. Amid the usual lunch playground chatter of 7th and 8th graders jocking for social position and status on the hierarchy that is junior high, I was locked into my own world. Bombing three after three, the opposition had no answer
My team won going away. The three bullies bitched at each other in disbelief before slagging off, disappearing around the corner moments later. Simon and I smiled at each other. The little 7th grade kid came over to us, and he said four words to me that to this day I still remember, with great fondness. He said, with an appreciative smile:
"Thanks for the help"
Simon and I watched in silence as he walked away, his head held high. Through basketball, in a way, we saved him. It was just one more reason for me to love the game as much as I did, and I still do to this day. You could be big, small, black, purple, it don't matter. It's a game that brings people together. It can even heal some wounds, as it did that idyllic cloudy afternoon of '97 ^_^
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The SNES port of NBA Jam fared very well. In some circles, people do consider the Genesis version to be superior. In other circles, the SNES. I played both as a kid and they are both excellent in their own respects. EGM awarded it with scores of 9, 9, 9 and 9, making it the Game of the Month in their February 1994 issue (#55). GameFan gave it ratings of 83, 90, 94 and 94. Super Play Magazine rated it 87%. Everywhere you looked, everyone was playing NBA Jam, and loving it. It captured the imagination of a nation and it reinvented the way sports video gaming was presented. Sure, Midway's Arch Rivals was first, but it was their refined effort in NBA Jam that made their company a fortune and changed the landscape of gaming. OK maybe that's a little hyperbole, but NBA Jam did cement itself in arcade gaming lore
The port does an ace job at bringing the arcade experience home
Nintendo Power ranked it the 28th best game of all time Sept. '97
What can I say, NBA Jam slammed its way into our consciousness more than 20 years ago and to this very day it still resonates deeply and fondly in my heart. It took the simple sport of basketball and made it even more simple by stripping it down to 2 on 2, followed by no rules and wild exaggerated slam dunks. Above all else... it tapped into something you just can't short-change: it was a blast to play. With three buddies in tow, it's super competitive, highly addictive and quite frankly, magic. Although the game features greater than life player skills and abilities, I still enjoy executing the basic fundamental plays, such as faking a jam into a mid-air pass for the 14 foot baseline jumper. It's immensely satisfying to trounce someone with a sound strategic play in a world that promotes the complete exact opposite NBA Jam shoots... and SCORES! THIS.GAME.IS.ON.FIRE. YES!
One can speculate what makes NBA Jam work so well, but at the end of the day I think it boils down to how simple it is, yet within those simple parameters there still exists some key strategies and a number of directions one can go... IF one so chooses. Sure, a lot of it *CAN* be seen as mindless running down the court and slamming it in your opponent's face, but the real joy comes in the delicate and nearly perfect marriage of arcade style mayhem and regular NBA simulation. An unselfish pass leading into a wide open 18 foot jumpshot, for instance, or passing the rock in mid-air for the wide open 3 point corner shot. It's the simple pleasures, then, combined with the reckless wild jams, that make NBA Jam play like a sweet medley of basketball heaven. Where its titans can rise 20 feet in the air, yet still make the basic winning basketball plays. 20 years ago NBA Jam gave me and my friends a lifetime of memories. On this day, as NBA Jam celebrates 20 years since being ported to home consoles, I salute thee. Thanks for the blissful memories... and may the JAM live on -- long after all of us are gone. "BOOM SHAKA LAKA!"
Graphics: 9 Sound: 9 Gameplay: 9 Longevity: 9
Of all the crazy, acrobatic dunks in the game, one of my favorites is this classic jam. There was something gratifying about slamming it home with two hands from the baseline. You could do this dunk in real life, which added to the appeal for me. Amusingly, sometimes you miss this dunk and there's a hilarious 3 Stooges-esque sound effect that follows. But man, if you jam it home, it has the sweetest crunch sound to it