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Bulls vs. Blazers & the NBA Playoffs

Genre: Sports Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

Before NBA Live became their annual basketball franchise, Electronic Arts’ EA Sports imprint made some solid basketball sims for the Genesis that directly followed the NBA playoffs of the year before. Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs follows in the footsteps of the previous editions Lakers vs. Celtics and Bulls vs. Lakers. On the surface, there isn’t much difference between BvB and those two games which came before it, but nevertheless, this is one enjoyable basketball game, and one of the better basketball games that you’ll find in the system’s library.

Picking from one of the sixteen teams that made 1992 playoffs (I remember this upsetting me a bit in my youth for the game not featuring my beloved Sixers, even though NBA Hall of Famer and then Sixer Charles Barkley is featured on one of the game’s all-star squads), BvB owns a place in sports video game history by being the first game allowing the player to create their own fantasy team, in which you can have Jordan and Jordan duke it out, or even have a whole team consisting of nothing but duplicate Michael Jordan’s or whomever else you desire. And yes, if for some reason you haven’t gotten the point already, the legendary NBA superstar is here in all his glory, which is an ultra-rarity in itself in the world of basketball video games, let alone ones from the 16-bit era. Certain players are also able to perform their signature dunks, a majority of which look alike to one another, but that’s only one of the few flaws of the game as a whole.

BvB features some surprisingly good graphics for its time and some startlingly good sound effects as well. The squeak of player’s shoes on the hardwood and the whistle of the officials all sound crisp and clear, with only the voice-overs sounding slightly grainy. Graphically, the character models resemble their real-life counterparts, although after a while you’ll notice how there are only so many different head models to use for different players. Despite that though, the game still looks good for its time in terms of 16-bit graphics as the players move fluidly, and most of their signature dunks are well animated enough.

The basketball mechanics are solid, and the game is easy enough for newcomers to pick up and play without too much of a steep learning curve. One thing that is noticeable (and current-gen developers should take note of this) is that the game actually gets more challenging the deeper you progress in the playoffs. The NBA finals are no cakewalk here, and if you win the title here, trust me when I say that you’ve earned it. BvB doesn’t feature a battery-backed save feature (which wasn’t just yet a staple in sports video games cartridges), so a password system is implemented in order to save your playoff progress. Thankfully, the game’s password system is short and sweet, unlike a number of other password-featured games of the time which feature more cumbersome and flat out annoying codes to enter.

When you take everything that BvB offers, you’ll soon realize just how ahead of its time this game was in its day. Calling this game a sim is the right term to use, as it just lacks that feel of an arcade-like endeavor. The opponent AI is beatable, but it just doesn’t lay down and let you pass and shoot all over it either, which is something else that EA would do well by looking back into their past for inspiration with all the recent conundrums that have popped up of late, resulting in shelving its latest NBA game before this past holiday season.

All in all, just like the two games that came before it, Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs laid the groundwork for EA’s NBA Live franchise, and for a number of other basketball titles to follow as well. BvB is a worthwhile (and generally pretty cheap, even complete with case and instruction manual) pick up for your Genesis collection if you desire some vintage basketball action that delivers the goods. If you want the whole regular season & playoffs with all the teams involved though, you’ll want to look elsewhere, but still, you could do a lot worse in terms of Genesis hoops than Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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