Some games you just can't help but fall in love with. Some games you just click with that few others understand why. For me, Slam 'n Jam '96 is the very definition of such. It's one of my all-time favorite Sega Saturn games, believe it or not. I can remember scouring Dave Z's legendary sega-saturn dot com website, reading the infamous Dark Falcon and J.M. Vargas' thoughts on said game. Just looking at the images of Slam 'n Jam it brought back a flood of great memories -- Konami's Run 'N Gun and SNES translation NBA Give 'N Go. I had always assumed, going off the screenshots, that SNJ would play just as well and be just as fun. Reading Falcon and Vargas approve of SNJ made it all that much more a done deal for me. I always enjoyed reading their takes and found myself agreeing more times than not with them. Who knows where they are, but I salute them both. Good times. At any rate, on October 21, 2002, I bought SNJ for a measly four bucks. It was on like Donkey Kong right? Well, but FIRST... Reminiscent of RUN N GUN :)
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
One extremely vivid memory surrounding this game that I have (and I have quite a few) came the night SNJ arrived in the mail. I remember ripping open the package, seeing this game along with Scorcher and just couldn't wait to fire up SNJ later that evening. Well, that same evening my old high school buddies dropped by. I was a college sophomore in October 2002, and during college I just drifted apart from my high school buddies. You know how it is. Life happens. And you go your own way. Anyway, for months now prior to them stopping by my doorstep that cold night in October of 2002, I had been avoiding them. I didn't know how to put it to them. I wasn't feeling the hang outs anymore. And we had grown apart. That night they decided to hit up my door without so much an invite. It's an evening I will never forget...
It was around five of them trying to convince me to go hang out that night. I told 'em I was cool and that I was going to stay home tonight. They then continued to give me a hard time about it, and the words finally blurted out of my mouth:
"Look, I just don't care to hang out with you guys any more"
There was a very long and deafening silence. I knew I had moved on. They were simply no longer a healthy source. They weren't gangsters or anything... but sometimes... people just grow apart. That's life. Some folks -- they come into your life for one season, suppose to teach you one thing, and that's their reason -- the next day they gone like the wind. Problem comes when you mix up seasonal people with lifetime expectations [Story of my wife, er, I mean life... -Ed.]
It was surreal those final 10 seconds before they left my porch. I watched them file off as I closed the door. Everything appeared to happen in slow motion, in black and white. And then, just as suddenly as they arrived that night, they vanished. It was done. Over. Finished. FINITO. I had officially closed that chapter of my life
After which, I went to pop in Slam 'n Jam '96. I'll always remember it as the first video game I played right after that episode I had with my old high school "friends." And you know what -- I was DAMN sure glad I stayed home... SNJ turned out to be every bit as fun as Falcon and Vargas thought it was, and THEN some. But MOST importantly, I knew I couldn't waste any more time or energy with those old 'friends.' It was just draining me. I don't know how old you are, yes YOU, you reading this right now, or where you've been in your life. I just know for me there comes a certain point in life where you're tired of putting up with people's bullshit. And quite frankly, you don't need to be taking their crap anymore. You are your own person, and you're responsible for your own choices and life decisions. That chilly October night of 2002, I just knew I had to walk away from that old high school group for good, and never look back
Life is funny though, you know. Eight years later, this past January in fact, I ran into one of those very same high school friends at the most random of places. It was good to bump into him again. Jerry was ALWAYS one of the good guys in my group, but I knew back in 2002 I had to break off ALL association with the group. When Jerry spotted me, his face grew pale as his jaw dropped to the floor. It was as though he just seen a ghost. And in a way, I had been a ghost to him the past eight years... "WHOA STEVE is that you?!"
Jerry asked what I had been up to these past eight years. I told him the biggest thing was I recently came to faith. As a result, Jerry was overwhelmed. He himself is a Christian; he was back when I knew him in high school but he never wore it on his sleeves. He was more of a closet Christian. Nonetheless, he rejoiced that I had turned my life over to Christ and was now saved. It was a very very pleasant, out of nowhere type experience. We now keep in touch today. In fact, the new small group I've been visiting these days, and a small group for those who don't know is a place where people (varies, typically eight to twelve members) come together once a week to do some Bible study, discussion, application, singing and praying for one another... the new small group I've been visiting these days, Jerry is actually in it! And it wasn't as though he invited me. One night I just decided to check out this new small group, and he happened to walk through the door five minutes after I came in. This was this past April... three months after our impromptu reunion back in January 2010 and the first time we had seen each other in nearly eight years (!)
Huh! Life can truly be ironic at times, eh? What a trip. Crazy stuff...
The action in SNJ 96 is fast-paced and decisively arcade-like. If you're looking for a super pure basketball simulation, look elsewhere. But pure fun and fast-paced roundball action? You've come to the right place, friend! If you don't care for the sport whatsoever, I can't recommend this title whole-heartedly, which would be a bit of shame because it's really solid. However, if you have any small inkling of interest in the sport, and enjoy competitive 2 (up to 4) player outings, Slam 'n Jam '96 will likely please
The players have fake names but are actually REAL NBA players. The trick is, the team before is who they are. For example, Utah comes before Oakland in the game, so Oakland is in fact, Utah [WAIT, WHAT?! -Ed.]
OK another example, the team Charlotte, look at the team before them. That would be Atlanta. Therefore, Charlotte has players based on Atlanta's squad! So Charlotte is really Atlanta; Charlotte have Hawk players Mookie Blaylock, Stacey Augmon, and so forth. Pretty sneaky huh? The jersey numbers match right up. My favorite team in this game, Oakland, is really the Utah Jazz. Virgil Johnson = John Stockton, Martin Carlson = Karl Malone and so on
Ah trust me, it'll make more sense once you go through the teams. Speaking of which, there are over 25 to select from. Each team has an ideal starting five, and a seven man bench
The stats rank players' 2 point efficiency, 3 point, ball handling skills, defense, and speed
You have your typical basketball options available:
Quarter length can be adjusted from 2, 4, 6, all the way up to 12 minutes
You can set Fatigue on or off. When selected on, you'll have to carefully substitute your players. The more tired a player, the less effective he will play
If you want nonstop action though, set Fatigue on "off"
You can configure the control to your liking
Boundaries on or off
Referees strict or lenient
All these options vastly affect whether the game experience is more arcade-like or simulation. Though to be frank, even with all the sim rules on, it still plays quite arcade-y (which is not a bad thing at all, per se)
Graphics: 7 I wish it were brighter. A little dark looking at first, but you adjust. The crowd looks good though, and the player sprites are huge. Just also wish that the players looked a little bit "crisper"
Sound/Music: 7.5 Not much music, but the sounds are cool. Nice rim sounds, net swishes sound spot on, sneakers squeak the hard wood, fans cheer, and commentator Van Earl Wright throws in his one-liners such as ''Take a look at that!'' Also, the sound of a shattering backboard is awesome... more on this later...
Control: 8.5 Mostly responsive, but might feel a little sluggish to some at first. Generally you go where you want, but sometimes you wonder if the controls could be a little better
Gameplay: 8.5 This is as good as arcade-esque fast-paced round ball 5-on-5 action as you're going to find on the Saturn. The only things I didn't like about gameplay were:
When you're close to the sidelines, it doesn't look like you'll touch out of bounds, but sometimes you do
It's quite easy to take or receive a charging call, which can get annoying. Sometimes it can feel like you're going up against a dozen Derek Fishers for crying out loud
Blocking dunks is a little TOO easy and frequent. Remember though that this is an arcade game more than a simulation
And the camera, while it scales smoothly, doesn't show the whole court from baseline to baseline, so a pass from one side to the other is quite risky as you can't see the defenders
BUT you can work around all this, trust me. These aren't huge flaws. Give it a chance
What I really like about the gameplay is that like in real life basketball, there will be times where you lose it, or as the old cliche goes, ''the wheels fall off.'' It's an ace virtual simulation of the real life game. How mentally tough are you? Do you have the ability to bounce back after a terrible 3rd quarter of your team only scoring a lousy seven points?
I play quite a bit of 5-on-5 in real life, and know that like life, basketball will not always work in your favor. Slam 'n Jam '96 does a nice job of representing the highs and lows of that bouncing orange ball. You'll get knocked down many times, but what matters is your character and integrity -- how many times you'll get back up that counts
Replay Value: 10 Addicting, and no two games are alike. I'm also a big basketball fan, so yeah
Fun Factor: 10 Incredibly easy-to-pick-up-and-hard-to-put-down once things get hot
FACE TO FACE WITH MAGIC AND KAREEM
Thanks to EGM Magazine (issue #80, March 1996), here's an exclusive interview with Magic and Kareem on Slam 'n Jam '96
Van Earl Wright proved to be the right man for the job again as he dished out one-liners with authority and had the gallery of media gathered at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles laughing. Van Earl is the voice of Crystal Dynamics Sports and he was also the MC of the Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar press conference. Once the NBA's greatest one-two combination, Magic and Kareem are teaming up again as members of Crystal Dynamics' Championship Sports starting lineup. The five-time NBA champions will be strutting their stuff in Slam 'n Jam '96. Continuing the tradition of supporting the next generation of superstars and creative talent, Crystal Dynamics is donating a portion of its sales of Slam 'n Jam '96 featuring Magic and Kareem to fund scholarships at Michigan State and UCLA -- the alma maters of Magic and Kareem
MAGIC:First of all, on behalf of myself and the students that will receive this money, let me thank Crystal Dynamics for giving back -- that's what it's all about: helping out students who may not have the money but have the grades to get in to Michigan State. So you know that they're not just pocketing all the money that they're making because they have a great game. That's what it's all about. That's why I think I'm with this company. They are trying to do something in the community. I also thank their fans for buying the game. Now I'll hand it over to the captain
KAREEM:I'm very pleased to be part of this process. I'd like to thank Crystal Dynamics and all of you for coming out
TEAM EGM:How much video game playing do you guys do?
KAREEM:I have not played any video games ever in my life... this was my agent's idea (laughs jokingly)
MAGIC:No, because I'm like him. My son Andre helped with the game. I asked him, "What would you like to see" that hasn't been in a basketball game, and wasn't in Slam 'n Jam number one? He would talk about the players, and they made the size of the players bigger... now he's all happy... he helps me make my suggestions to the company: to make the players bigger, play faster, make it more real. And of course, with Van Earl's voice on it, it's fantastic and very realistic
TEAM EGM: How did this deal come about and how realistic is this game compared to the real game of basketball?
MAGIC:They captured everything... you know, you call your agent, you go through the whole thing... I let my son play the game and I asked him some questions about it. He answered a lot of them and got me up to speed with the game. That was the key. Between the both of us, we haven't played a video game quite like this. We had a great time playing it
KAREEM:I think that they researched the game and tried to make it as realistic as possible... I think they nailed it. I'm very pleased to be a part of this
BREAK THAT GLASS!
The glass backboard shattering feature is perhaps the best thing about this game. You can only shatter the glass with your big man center. The backboard will shatter into a thousand tiny pieces! Perfect for some taunting and gloating. You have to see and hear the glass shattering. It's LOUD and has a great ''OOMPH!'' to it. You'll love watching the replay, slowing it down, and hearing and watching the glass shatter again and again...
SLAM 'N JAM 'N WHAM!
There's nothing more satisfying than shattering the glass!
"HEY COACH -- SCREW YOU! I'M OUTTA HERE!"
It's ALL about the little things, folks, believe that!
EPIC GAME ON JUNE 10, 2010
After watching a tremendous Game 4 of the NBA Finals earlier tonight, where the Boston Celtics defeated the L.A. Lakers to tie the series 2-2, I was inspired to fire up ole Slam 'n Jam '96 again. Not to mention, revising this review which I originally wrote over SEVEN (!!) years ago has given me quite the itch to give it another go. I used Oakland and played VS. Chicago. There were ten seconds remaining, and I was up 93 to 90. Here are the incredible events that transpired in the closing seconds of this epic game...
The big man passes it off to his teammate for the potential game-tying 3
Using Assaf, I quickly pressed the jump button in anticipation
I perfectly timed and blocked a game-tying 3 point shot! My center had my back and #23 in the background there was ready and off to the race to stuff the ball on the other end of the court. What an exhilarating win!
Moments like this that just make Slam 'n Jam '96 priceless
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS...
''Why should I play this game? What has your personal experience with the game been like?''
SNJ '96 is simply fun. Some sport games are a chore to play, I know. But some are amazingly fun and this game to me fits that bill. Let me share with you a classic war that my brother and I waged once upon a time...
The first time my brother and I played against one another, the game went straight down to the wire
There were 20 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. The score was tied at 89 a piece. In the previous minute I was winning by 9. But one of my brother's players got red-hot and swished 3 three pointers on me consecutively. It was unbelievable. I was to blame as well, as I had a poor shot selection down the stretch, and turned the ball over once. What they say is true -- pride comes right before one's downfall!
Tie game now.... I'm on offense...
I missed the shot -- D'OH! My brother grabbed the rebound -- fast break! Ten seconds to go! The ball was in the hands of the shooter who just hit those 3 three point shots...
Instead of my brother taking the easy lay-up for the 91-89 lead, he decided to pull up for the 3 pointer!
The ball was in the air as time froze...
Still in the air...
We're still tied at 89 a piece...
6 foot 8 inch hardworking, blue-collar Martin Carlson pulled down the rebound, and I heaved a full court pass to my shooting guard. 5 seconds ticking on the clock and counting!
360 Rim-Rocking Slam Dunk!
I was now leading 91-89 with 2.5 seconds left... ... and taunting my bro like NO TOMORROW :D
My brother inbounded the ball to half court and launched a prayer at the buzzer...
It bounced on the side of the rim and up...
Team Oakland wins 91-89! Free drinks on the house for everyone! Small drinks, that is ;)
My big man, 7 foot 2 inch center Patrick Allen, put in a hard night's work. He had 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. Virgil Johnson was the player of the game, as he lit my bro up for 33 points. What a game -- ''They'll be talking about this one for ages!''
Slam 'N Jam '96 is just a brilliant 2 player game. I think what I wrote above speaks for itself, and the intensity that this game can quickly take on between two evenly-matched players. CPU AI can be cheap on Hard, so to get the most value, just like any other game, play against a friend or sibling. Good times to be had, for the basketball fan anyhow. It should also be noted that the CPU here is much tougher than most other basketball games. You won't be winning by 40, 50 points here. The computer puts up a hell of a fight. Not rare for them to win, or for you to escape by the skin of your teeth. CPU AI may be a little cheap, but they keep the games competitive!
Man, who knew such a "little" game would create such warm memories and memorable wars? I'm not shy to call this game as one of my all-time favorites on a system that houses such awesome titles as Metal Slug, Radiant Silvergun, Panzer Dragoon Saga, NiGHTS and so on. I shall never forget that chilly October evening of 2002 where I broke it off with my old high school crowd and then spent the rest of the night playing this game for the first time ever. I'll never forget all the epic battles that my brother and I waged... games that came down to the very last shot at the buzzer. Games in which I still recall fondly to this day, even. There's just something awesome about Slam 'n Jam '96. No it's not for everyone, but if it's for you, you'll be glad you gave it a shot! ^ Magic: "I BEAT AIDS, BITCH!" [So that's why they call 'im Magic -Ed.] Kareem: "Well actually no. He's Magic coz -- " Magic: "HEY! Don't get me in no trouble now..."