Genre: FMV Developer: Digital Pictures Publisher: Digital Pictures Players: 1 Released: 1994
As soon as I heard about Slam City with Scotty Pippen I immediately went to eBay and bought all copies available, including one sealed copy which will follow me to the grave. Then I used up my last days of vacation so I could wait at home for the postman to deliver what would definitely change my opinion on what is the best game ever. Yep, Phantasy Star IV, you are dethroned!
I mean, just look at the facts. Four discs of real video – NOT a “computer generated game” and licensed by and starring “the real deal himself” – Scottie Pippen (the most talented and successful rap musician EVER!). Compare this to Shadow Dancer, which has 5200 times less content (!), ALL computer generated graphics and NO rapper starring in the game. And just for comparison, Slam City was a top four seller in the EU for Mega CD 32X games, and at least top six in the whole world. I doubt Shadow Dancer even made the top 20 for Mega Drive games in any region!
Sarcasm aside, Slam City with Scotty Pippen for Mega CD 32X is a FMV style basketball game where its gameplay is just as insulting to it as the scamming hype is to the customer. You are in control of a guy called Ace, and you are out to get “respect” by defeating opponents in one-on-one basketball. Nearly everything is in full motion video and you have little control over Ace, who is a sprite put atop the video. Whenever you feel there is an “opening,” you can shoot with the A button, break with B and press C to do a hook shot. In defense A hinders the opponent’s shot with your hands, B blocks the shot (there is a difference, yes) and C attempts to steal the ball. I can say that finding this opening is very hard, but if you select training mode (which gives no “respect” at all…), the screen will blink with the green word “break” when it’s time to do so. But it seldom works! Only on the first opponent I managed to do it, even though I felt I timed it perfectly on the other opponents as well.
The other parts of the gameplay are just as bad. The problem is the video itself, as you cannot fully control your character and are expected to time everything perfectly. Perhaps it is so that I suck at Digital Pictures games, because I didn’t get much farther in its Supreme Warrior title. But then again, I had no problems reaching the later levels in the GOOD FMV games known as Road Avenger and Cobra Command, so I think the flaw lies in the game itself here. It would have been good if you could train with all possible buttons flashing on screen when you should press them. After training it could have been turned off like in Road Avenger, or perhaps the video could have been mirrored like in Time Gal. I don’t know if this is possible in this case though, but I just want to say the developers could have spent extra time making the training mode better… or the entire game!
To be fair, the game hits it right with the style. The design and setting feel “ghetto” with the graffiti and the dark, worn basketball court. The acting is, as you can expect, very cheesy, but it gives the game a slight charm. And Mad Dog, played by Keith Neubert, is pretty damn funny. “Have you considered tennis?” Some videos look quite good for 32X standards, and some are too grainy. The backgrounds have some dithering, probably because they were too lazy to use the 32X palette for them.
The funk and rap style music isn’t too bad either and fits the game really well. While listening to it I actually thought of ToeJam & Earl, which isn’t too surprising since I later looked it up that John Baker composed the soundtracks for both games. However, Scottie Pippen had better left the theme song to someone who actually can sing. Basketball players need to realize talent at the sport has no link whatsoever to musical capabilities. It’s like suggesting you are fluent in Japanese just because you’ve stared at hentai for the last decade.
Slam City is a poor excuse for a game and a typical example of when “realism” of video doesn’t hold a candle to real gameplay, a licensed celebrity is slapped on as a quick cash-in and the quantity of the media is light years ahead of the quality. It has got the right style for the concept and the acting may give you a few smiles, but this doesn’t bring the game up from being nearly unplayable nor make it worth buying.