Genesis Reviews

NBA Jam Tournament Edition

Genre: Sports Developer: Sculptured Software Publisher: Arena Players: 1-4 Released: 1994

When Midway released NBA Jam in the arcades in 1993, it became an instant smash hit, as players enjoyed the over-the-top arcade b-ball action. The following year Midway followed up with a sequel called NBA Jam Tournament Edition, an upgrade which gave players more of everything. Much like its predecessor, NBA Jam TE soon hit the major systems, and the Genesis was not left out. This was one of the last of Midway’s games Acclaim ported to the home systems, so is it nothin’ but net, or does it miss the hoop by a mile?

You can play from a choice of three main modes. head-to-head pits player one against player two on opposite teams, while team game puts both human players on the same team. Unlike the previous game, this version features four-player action, which you can use if you have multitap such as the Sega Team Player. It also features a handy practice mode, letting you work on your skills without the pressure. You can also access the options menu and customize your game with several options including timer speed, difficulty of the CPU-controlled players, and even whether or not you want computer assistance. There’s also the special features menu, where you get some unusual options, which I will describe below.

Once you decide which mode to play, the game asks you if you want to enter your initials for record keeping, which is saved by the game’s battery. When you get to the team selection, you’ll find that the roster has expanded greatly. You choose from the same 30 NBA teams, but each team now has 3 players, and you choose which two to control at first. Each player’s stats are also more in-depth, highlighting their attributes such as speed, 3-point shooting, whether they come through in a clutch, and others. The NBA license means you get to play as the top NBA stars of the time, such as Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Scottie Pippen, and many others (still no Michael Jordan, though). After both teams are selected you get a look at the Tonight’s Match-up screen, where you can enter secret codes to enable certain cheats, if you know the right buttons to press. Also there are a slew of unusual secret characters you can play as by entering certain initials with the right button presses, such as then-President Bill Clinton, Larry Bird, and more.

Now down to the actual gameplay, which is just like the original: four quarters of 2-on-2 action. You still have very few penalties (just goal tending and shot clock violation), turbo is still available, you can still push and throw elbows at each other with reckless abandon, and you’re still able to get “on fire” if you make three consecutive scores. But there’s some new additions to this game. One nice feature is after every quarter you’re allowed to make substitutions to your team. So if one combination from your team isn’t working out or if one player is taking it hard on the chin, you can replace one or both players with others from your reserve. You can also play with a feature called tag mode, where you control the player with the ball and switch by passing it.

There also some weird options you can enable from the special features menu I mentioned earlier. For starters, you can enable “hot spots,” which enable you to get more points if you shoot from a certain spot on the court, even up to nine points. Then there’s juice mode, which makes the action move faster. Also power-ups randomly appear, giving your player special abilities such as unlimited turbo, faster speed, the ability to dunk from anywhere, and even cause an earthquake. But if you don’t want to have all the special add-ons, you can turn on tournament mode, which disables ALL cheats, power-ups, and computer assistance. You’ll have to work for your victory in this mode.

The graphics are pretty decent. The players have some good detail and resemble their real-life counterparts, though their movements are a little on the jerky side. The close-up portraits on the team select screen are very clear. The super dunks also look great and are fun to watch. The fans in the background seem static for the most part, but they do get into the game at times, which is a plus. The audio is also pretty good. As you play an announcer shouts phrases like “Rejected!,””No Good!,” and the infamous “Boom! Shakalaka!” The clips are pretty clear, though they do tend to get repetitive at times. Most of the sound effects just do their job but some sounds, like the ball bouncing on the hardwood and the swish of the ball going through the net are well done. The crowd noise is barely audible and nothing to get excited about, though. The background music during the gameplay is just okay, while the main title theme and team selection themes are great to listen to.

The controls work pretty well, especially on the old three-button pads. It’s easy to move around and keep up with the action. Some may find the button layout confusing, but luckily you can choose your configuration to suit your needs. Giving your CPU teammate commands to pass or shoot is no problem. The tag mode feature also works great; switching between players is smooth as silk. The only hang up about the controls is that some of the moves requires the turbo button and another button pressed simultaneously; if you put turbo on either the A or C buttons you’ll have to reach over the B button with your other fingers to hit the other button. A minor annoyance, but no big deal.

Of course the major concern is the gameplay, and NBA Jam TE does not disappoint. This cartridge delivers some great fast arcade action, with power-ups and cheats that really add some new dimensions to the standard game. Not everyone will like the power-ups, and fortunately Acclaim didn’t make them mandatory. Those who just want straight b-ball action can use the tournament mode to keep things fair. The computer puts up a good game and never really gets frustrating; usually you’ll lose from your own careless mistakes. Some may feel the gameplay is too much like NBA Jam, but while the basic action is the same, the extra features add so much to the already-solid action.

The bottom line is while NBA Jam was great, NBA Jam Tournament Edition is better that great. Simply put, this game is an awesome hoops title that keeps what was good about the first game and adds more players, features, modes, and other stuff to make one of the best arcade-style sports games ever. Plus, its four player capabilities mean more sports fans can get in on the action. Even if you already have the original NBA Jam in your collection, you’ll definitely want to pick up this excellent follow-up. This is one cart to slam dunk into your Genesis!

SCORE: 9 out of 10


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