In October of 1994 EGM ran a preview on a Super Famicom basketball game by the name of Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. Being a huge fan of NBA Jam, this preview intrigued me highly. Man, I miss those pre-internet days when gaming magazines were not only a thing but they were magical.
Not only was I a huge fan of NBA Jam but I loved Konami’s Run ‘N Gun arcade game. It came out in 1993 and I figured it was only a matter of time before a home translation would come out for the SNES. We finally got it in November 1995 under the name NBA Give ‘N Go. But back in ’94 there was no sign of this, so Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop gave me great hope that I could play a Run ‘N Gun-esque game in the comforts of my home.
After I got back into the SNES in early 2006, I thought back to all the SNES/SFC games I wanted to play and own. Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop came to mind. I remembered the preview in EGM 12 years earlier. Found a copy online and was excited to quell a 12 year long curiosity. But before we get to that, I’d like to share a personal basketball memory that made me a fan of the sport for life.
MIRACLE DAY MIRACLE
Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget.
It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, pitting the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw the game playing on ten TV screens. There were three people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined to make it a crowd of four. The game was in the final three minutes and as the drama unfolded the crowd steadily grew with each passing dramatic play. Even the employees stopped to observe the madness.
With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:
- Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
- Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
- Mere seconds later, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. To this day I can still hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, blaring on no less than ten television monitors. The incomparable John Tesh theme reverberated throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core even more than 20 years later.
Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. I saw basketball in a new light. There was strategy, tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.
That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.
Down by one point with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack became a mad house.
I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me was 20 or older. Those 15 minutes cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. Basketball brings people together.
PUTTING A 12 YEAR CURIOSITY TO REST
There’s always a moment of slight hesitation when popping in a game you have been wondering about for many years.
There are 16 non-official teams plus one Japan team. Though oddly, if you look at the EGM preview you’ll see Spurs and Bulls. So I looked at the teams closer. The subtle not-so-hidden parallels are definitely there. For example check out the Wizards (keep in mind back in ’94 the Wizards were known as the Washington Bullets). Their court is the same color as the Orlando Magic and they have a starting center with incredible stats who wears # 32 (Shaquille O’Neal). Besides, Magic… Wizards… hmmm…
Shaq’s 1993 stats in bold. Cooper’s stats in italics:
23.4 points per game
13.9 rebounds per game
56% field goal
59% free throw
So there are real players in this game. Just like the classic Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, the jersey numbers are the same as well as their stats (or very close anyhow). They just have different names. Sneaky!
Fancy a game of one on one? You can with Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. First to 10 points win. It’s pretty fun for a quick little fix. When you make shots the game gives you some encouraging messages, such as GREAT! and NICE DUNK!
Regular field goals count as one point in this mode, and three point shots are worth two. Just like on the playground. You know what this mode reminds me of?
Perhaps you fancy practicing your free throws? HUMAN gives you that option! Of course, the Fire Pro creators are big on timing. It’s kind of their thing. You have to release the ball at just the precise moment to swish the shot. A little off and it will rim in. But anymore off target and you’ll brick the shot. It takes some practice but once you get it down it’s extremely satisfying. And of course you get the lovely Engrish of “NICE SHOOT!” when you make a basket.
5 ON 5 MODE
It looks just like a poor man’s Run ‘N Gun. So far, so good! Unfortunately, it doesn’t play as well. On the bright side, there is no slowdown or lag whatsoever. On the downside, it’s way too easy to steal and block shots. The team that is going down the court also has a disadvantage as the view is more obscured. There’s still some decent fun to be had but it’s passable. Between this mode and NBA Give ‘N Go, I’d rather play Give ‘N Go.
Definitely not unplayable and there’s zero trace of slowdown, but it’s nothing special.
3 ON 3 MODE
The last mode, 3 on 3, takes me back to my blacktop days. Pick any of the 17 teams and then pick any three players on that team. Then duke it out in a 3 on 3 half court battle. Adjust the time from 3, 6, 9 or 12 minutes. It’s one quarter to the finish. Best of all, since you’re playing half court, everyone gets the top end of the court which has no obstruction of view. The passing is less clunky on account of there being less players to pass to. It works like a charm.
This mode somehow never gets old.
Select from two different courts in the 3 on 3 mode. It’s all cosmetic but these little touches go a long way in my book. I love both courts. The beach one has that exotic fun casual feel to it, like you and your buddies are hooping it up after a summer BBQ. The other court has an impeccable street ball gritty feel to it. In addition, you can pick from four different color balls. I like the funky blue ball. [You would, wouldn’t you… -Ed.]
EVEN MORE CHOICES…
Punch in any of these secret codes at the password screen and it’ll give you the option of playing either at dusk or dawn. It only works on the beach court though. Check out how atmospheric these new backdrops are:
Oooooh, ahhhhh. I love it when a company puts in these extra details. It goes a long way to make the game even more endearing. I love the feeling of balling in the early morning or late at evening. It’s the small things!
Night or morning, morning or night — raining threes with the greatest of ease!
AND EVEN MORE CHOICES STILL…
Press any direction on the D-pad at the versus screen and you can change the floor design of your selected court. Try up, down, left or right. Hell, you can even try up-left or up-right for even more choices. Or down-right and down-left. Here you can see I swapped the floors for the two courts.
Reminds me ever so slightly of the Mortal Kombat games and how you could tinker with the icons at the versus screen to unlock secrets…
Favorite combos for me: the green court matches the coconut trees nicely. Dig that green overload. Speaking of overload, how about the combination seen in the second pic there? Talk about splendid color coordination! It’s so inviting and hits all the sweet spots.
A GAME FOR THE AGES
Before the start of a game you can view stats as well as change the lineup. I love how they list their stats both by numbers, percentages and then in Marvel 1991 style they have the pink bars. Japan is the best shooting team in the game and if you’re looking to be Stephen Curry then Japan is your go to team.
Things start off well as I nail a simple mid-range jump shot that hits nothing but net.
Another sick dunk — 360 in your face! 7-Up.
Definitely way too easy to block shots but that only lends an arcade style to the otherwise simulation feel. It’s a fine balance that works well.
Trailing 9-12, Hara makes a beeline for that 3 point line and swishes a 2 pointer right through the net. 11-12 with under two minutes to go.
AGAIN from way downtown! Hara ties the game at 13 points a piece.
ARGH!! Hara barely misses a clutch 3 point shot. Thus sending the ball back to the Rings up 16-13 with only 41 seconds to go. It ain’t looking good for Team Japan…
Mutsuki with the save! 15-16 with 30 seconds left!
Right on cue, Hara hits yet another clutch shot, bringing the score to 17 all with just 18 seconds remaining.
Stealing and blocking the ball happen a little too frequently as mentioned earlier, but it sure makes for some dramatic defensive stands! The Rings try to break the 17-17 tie, but that’s not happening tonight — no siree!
Every kid grows up dreaming about hitting the game winning shot. Here’s Hara’s chance. Running to his sweet spot, Hara drills a picture perfect jumpshot, giving me the lead 18-17 with only two seconds remaining. Clutch! But I can’t get too cocky now. The Rings still have two seconds left…
Baumann rises for the game winning shot. He barely gets the ball out of his hands as the shot clock expires. This is either going to be the greatest victory ever or the worst defeat of all time…
WHEW! In and out! Talk about cutting it as close. Look at that Baumann punk turning around after shooting the ball. You ain’t Steph Curry, son!
Japan is such a good shooting team. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson would be proud.
Defeat everyone in the Round Robin mode and you’ll get this snazzy congratulations shot.
Speaking of endings, if you enter this password you can view all of the game’s multiple endings. Human did it with Clock Tower as well. It was kind of their thing to have multiple endings, no?
Goddess of Victory, eh? Who is that, Lady Luck’s mother?
- In either 3 on 3 or 5 on 5, you can play an exhibition or compete in a Round Robin. In Round Robin you’re given a password after each victory. At the end you’ll face your clones and then the USA Dream Team
- Street Hoop (Neo Geo) came out in December 1994, a month after this game. There’s something about a basketball court right in the middle of a beach that does it for me…
- I’m a sucker for the players’ ratings. Reminds me of the old ’91 Marvel trading card series. Ah, those were the days…
My friends and I collected the hell out of the 1991 Marvel cards. My favorite thing about them were the pink energy bars on the back that let you know at a quick glance what you wanted to know. Playing Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop and seeing the Marvel ’91-esque pink energy bars brought back a lot of fond memories!
- The 3 on 3 mode is good for quick arcade thrills but the full-court 5 on 5 mode has more strategy thanks to the bench and stamina factor. Players are rated fresh, OK or tired. You’ll have to do some managing throughout the four quarters to keep your players fresh
- My favorite team are the Photons. In the 3 on 3 mode I use Rogers, Davidson and Feguso
STREET BALL MEMORIES
From playing hoops in my backyard as a youth to balling on the blacktops as a teenager, I have fond memories of the game. At the heart of the game lies a bigger message. Case in point: 1997, 8th grade. One day at lunch I was playing one-on-one with my friend, Simon. Then we noticed these three 7th graders bullying a hapless runt. Seeing them push the defenseless kid around pissed me off. I looked at Simon and without saying a word I knew he knew what we both knew. And thus, we made our way over to the kerfuffle…
I challenged the three 7th graders to a game of 21 — 3-on-3 style. The kid getting bullied wasn’t much of a baller, but I had an overwhelming confidence in Simon and myself that we could beat these cocky bastards. Simon was the Dennis Rodman of the team. Man, nobody could hit the glass like Simon. Dude was a beast on the boards. As for me, I was the three point specialist. The Reggie Miller of the team. And on 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.
Basketball pundits like to call it being in the proverbial zone. And that I was on that idyllic, cloudy afternoon — swishing three point shot after three point shot!
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 jockeying for social position and status on the hierarchy that is junior high, I was in 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 said four words I still remember to this day with great fondness.
“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. You can 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 serene cloudy afternoon of 1997
On a technical level, the NBA Jam and the NBA Live games are far superior. But on a fun level, I actually prefer Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop. If a basketball game could be my spirit animal, this game would be it. It just resonates with me in a deep and personal way that no other basketball game does. I always have a blast playing it. The 3 on 3 mode takes me back to the days of my youth balling without a single care in the world. From making friends to even saving a kid from being bullied, basketball has always been a part of my life. Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop captures the feeling of street ball to a tee. I also love the little touches like the secret courts and being able to play at dawn, mid-day or dusk. This is such a criminally obscure hidden gem for basketball junkies.
It’s been over 10 years now since I bought this game and still to this day I find myself busting it out frequently. I can’t guarantee you’ll like this game — hell I bet you probably won’t like it as much as I do, but if you enjoy vintage 16-bit basketball games then it’s certainly worth a look. Call me crazy but Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop is one of my all-time favorite Super Nintendo games, period. I know that may sound a bit absurd but there are certain games you just click with that’s hard to explain. There are many better SNES games than this but few I enjoy playing more than Dream Basketball: Dunk & Hoop!