NBA Jam: Tournament Edition

Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9

 |||   Jaguar Review: NBA Jam - Tournament Edition
 |||   By: Damien M. Jones
/ | \  GEnie: DMJ   Internet:

High Voltage Software's own Adisak Pochanayon (an excellent Jaguar
programmer) has churned out in an amazingly short time what amounts to
a very good port of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. After wheedling a
review copy out of Travis (who is notably stingy with these things ;-)
I slapped the funky-looking FlashROM cart into my Jaguar and powered
it up.

I should point out here that I'm not a basketball nut. I like to watch
basketball because it's fast and professional players are just
awesome. Basketball is entertaining - but it's not (for me) a way of
life. The last time =I= tried to play basketball, I was completely
devastated within five minutes and had to sit down before my heart
jumped out of my chest and filed a complaint with OSHA. So to help
with this review, I collared a friend of mine (Abe Torres) who is not
only a basketball fan, but also very familiar with NBA Jam on other
systems. Together we sat down in front of a nice big TV, with the
Jaguar and a couple of controllers, to rake Jaguar NBA Jam: Tournament
Edition over the coals.

After a couple of screens full of fine print, there's a nice High
Voltage Software logo, and then the attract mode sequence kicks in.
Right off I notice the music is kinda cheesy, but that's okay, it's a
cartridge, and I'd rather the space was saved for something more
useful, like gameplay. The attract sequence shows off some of the
fancy moves of the players, and talks about all the neat stuff in the
Tournament Edition of NBA Jam. Things like: more moves, more sounds,
more players, substitutions, and so on. Cool stuff, but we didn't want
to sit through the attract sequence, we wanted to =play=. So play we
did, both of us fiddling with the controllers to see what we could
figure out, since we were both too lazy to read the directions.  (Who
reads manuals, anyway?)

All right, I won't bore you with the final score (even though I beat
Abe, heh heh) but it was fun. Too bad we didn't have a Team Tap and a
couple of extra controllers handy, because NBA Jam: TE will use one if
you've got it. So we just had ourselves. Two people can play against
each other, or they can both play on the same team against the
computer. Four people, of course, don't need the computer to play.
Our verdict? We enjoyed it, which means right off the bat, this game
is =fun= - always a good thing for a game to be.

For those of you not familiar with NBA Jam (and I can't imagine who
that might be) let me briefly explain the game. There are two players
on each team, and when you start the game you can select from
twenty-seven NBA teams, selecting two of the three players available
from that team to play. There's also a special "Rookies" team with
five players. Each player has their own stats - how fast they are, how
good they are at making field goals, and so on. These stats really do
matter (especially that FG rating!), so it's nice that both players
can choose the same team - that makes a matchup completely fair.

Once you've selected your team, the game begins. There are four
quarters, each three minutes long. And, well, it's basketball.
Players run up and down the court, taking shots at the basket, passing
to their teammate, or trying to block the other guys from making
baskets and steal the ball away from them. There's also a turbo
button which, if pressed, makes your player go faster. Turbo runs out
after a while, though, so you have to use it when it counts. You can
also shove the other guys, which often results in them landing on the
floor. Ya gotta be careful with that shove, 'cause you can push your
own teammate (as I found out the hard way). When you're in the mood
for some impressive moves, you can take a shot while moving and
holding down turbo, and your player will usually do something very
cool and, while he's at it, make a basket. Life is good.

And then there's the Special Options. Just when you think you've got
everything else under control, you can throw in hot spots - if you
shoot from one, you'll get bonus points. Or throw in powerup icons.
(Powerups?!? In basketball?!?) Better yet, there's Juice Mode, where
you can crank up the speed on =everything=. You thought things were
fast before?

For those of you who get addicted to this game, it'll keep stats for
you, too. You can put your initials in, and it will remember your
winning percentage, ranking, and so on. (Just to keep things fair,
powerup and hot spot games don't count for record-keeping.)

//// Nits

After beating Abe, I suggested we play again, this time paying a bit
more attention to things in the game besides the gameplay. I'm
ashamed to admit that Abe beat me this time, but at least I have an
excuse. Anyway, we noticed a few things this time that sort of
slipped by us the first time. Some of the players look a bit odd,
but there's only so much detail you can pack into the small heads on
the screen. The Knicks' uniforms were the wrong color (not a big
deal, but if you're an NBA fan like Abe, you notice these things).
Occasionally the announcer would declare a basket to be missed
("Rejected!") when it actually went in. I still have trouble with the
controls, and I keep jumping instead of swiping at the ball. It's
kind of hard to keep track of who is who, especially when the players
are off-screen. And there's the above-mentioned cheeziness to some of
the music.

But these are minor complaints. The colors don't affect gameplay.
The controls are configurable (independently for each controller).
And the sounds don't really matter - real sports announcers make more
screwups than I've heard out of NBAJTE.

//// Vs. the PlayStation

Yeah, we have a PlayStation here. So I thought, to really make
things interesting, I'd compare the PlayStation version of NBA Jam:
Tournament Edition to the Jaguar version. And you know, I was really

The PSX version has much larger players. Whereas the Jag version has
small players with enlarged heads (so you can recognize the players),
the PlayStation version enlarged the players to match the head size.
This might sound like a good idea, but it cluttered up the PSX's
screen and made it even harder to see what was going on. There's also
the differences you'd expect from a CD vs. a cartridge version -
screen transitions on the Jaguar are snappy, but on the PlayStation
there are noticeable waits between screens. Sound on the PSX is also
better - simply because there is more storage space.

The PlayStation version also plays differently than the Jaguar
version. The players block more aggressively, and for me it wasn't as
much fun. I haven't played the arcade machine, but I've been told by
more than one person that the Jaguar version is closer to the arcade
than the PlayStation version.

//// Wrap-Up

NBA Jam: Tournament Edition for the Jaguar is excellent. The graphics
are good, with lots of details - multiple layers of parallax in the
background, motion in those (cheerleaders!), perspective floor,
perspective backboards, and so on. Sound is decent, and the title
screen proclaims 3D sound (although on my TV, even with a stereo
hookup, didn't seem very 3D). Gameplay is great, it's lots of fun, and
it even edges out the PSX version!

//// Final Ratings

        Title: NBA Jam: Tournament Edition      Jaglink: No
    Developer: High Voltage Software            Players: 1-4
 Published by: Atari                          Cart Size: 4 Megabytes
       Retail: N/A                          Availability: 1/96

 A Summary of Ratings:
              "*" is a whole
              "+" is a half
              5 stars Maximum

  Graphics - ****    Excellent, although some players look odd.
  Audio    - ***+    Pretty good inside the game, "okay" otherwise.
  Control  - ****    Takes a little while to get used to, but
  Gameplay - ****+   Get a Team Tap and extra controllers and have
  Overall  - ****+   Almost as much fun to watch as it is to play!

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

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