Genre: Sports Developer: Hitmen Productions Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1994
Basketball is one of the few sports that one can just pick up and play. Over the years, we have found basketball video games to be either utterly amazing or miserably pitiful. We have had the heights of NBA Jam and the pits of Arch Rivals (among nearly six million other horrible basketball games. I’m talking to you Pat Riley Basketball), and everything started off with Basketball on the Atari 2600. But nothing by 1994 had really captured the spirit and intentions of the team sport. It has either been all slammin’ and jammin’ or too heavy on the simulation with the Celtics/Bulls vs. Lakers/Blazers games. There really hasn’t been that one game that you can just pick up and say “this is NBA Basketball at it’s finest.” Until this game came out.
Most experienced gamers will tell you that the most important facet of any video game is the ability to play it. And you can play this game, alright. NBA Live ’95 just gets it right on all levels, plain and simple. There is not any one single thing that stops someone from just picking the controller up and throwing a three ball up against their friends. Everything about this game is terrific, from its excellent 16-bit graphics to its flexibility of options, NBA Live fails to disappoint. I can only find one “real” problem with this game, and it is that my Detroit Pistons are god awful in it. No, actually I feel that the one big problem here is that the control is a bit slippery. More about that later though. We’re down by three with only a few seconds left. We gotta go!
Let’s rock and roll. You get the usual EA Sports “it’s in the game” intro, which actually looks like it is new for this game because NHL and Madden still had the regular one that year. Then the arena lights turn on one by one, NBA, Live, ’95. Sweet, then we get to the whole 1995-ish menu screen with the usual garb. I think the menu area is nice, but where this game really shines is “in the game.” Everything about the in-game graphics is very well defined, from the player introductions to the team statistics comparisons. Before the game, they show what type of skills each team is good at – scoring, rebounding, defense and ball control. Teams are ranked from one basketball being the worst to three basketballs being the best. It is a nice way to let people know if a team is good or not without bogging us down with stupid numbers or hard to decipher graphs.
Once we get to the real game (which, of course is presented “live” from wherever it is), they have a skippable introduction screen with actual player photos. That’s nice, especially because no one remembers who played for what team back in 1994. After that, it’s game time, baby. The gameplay in NBA Live ’95 is nearly spot-on. The passing is simple and easy, though the shooting is sometimes way too easy. There is a setting that allows the player to basically swish any shot inside the half court stripe, which is a little ridiculous, perhaps. Maybe you won’t make every shot inside the half court line, but it is a little heinous. Maybe if you are playing your little sister and you want to spot her twenty-five points and make her laugh at the center draining fourteen consecutive three point half court prayers, that would be cool, but it gets a little inane sometimes. Okay, it’s not that crazy, but suffice it to say that it is not far away from that if you want to make it so.
It goes the other way too. There is a huge variety of rules, changes, speeds, sounds – anything you want, you get in NBA Live ’95. On the court, some of the rules get called more than others in different gameplay modes. There are two basic rules set ups: arcade and simulation. I have played a few games on each, and simulation is the way to go. And unlike in some games, the simulation mode is not crazy difficult and doesn’t blow the whistle all the time. That is nice and just goes to show that a lot of time was spent ensuring that players would enjoy their experience playing this game, which is more than what can be said about today’s sports titles that sometimes are nothing but cookie-cutter versions of previous years’ games with new bells and whistles.
As I mentioned earlier, the control can sometimes be a bit slippery when you don’t want it to be. If you are like me and hold the turbo button down all the time when you are running, and you happen to tap someone, you are very likely to get called for something. Mainly, it just feels that the world of NBA Live ’95 is a bit short on friction. Sometimes, you can dunk from nearly the free throw line if you have enough speed. Defense can be slightly challenging partly due to this and takes some getting used to if you aren’t ready. It is something that certainly requires some adjusting, but if you are playing against someone new or the computer on easy, it won’t be too tough to pick it up before halftime.
There is nothing that makes NBA Live ’95 difficult to pick up and play, but to that effect, I think that the game can get kind of monotonous after a while. Even the average beer drinking, sports loving guy like me will get kind of bored being up by twenty with 4:05 to go in the third quarter. Only the top teams in the game will give you a challenge down the stretch, which makes me not want to play a full eighty-one-game season very much, like I do in the NHL games and Sports Talk Baseball. This is clearly not as groundbreaking or as fun as the sports “holy grails” like NHL ’94-’96, Bill Walsh College Football, etc, but I do believe this is the best true basketball action you can get on the Genesis. I think that there is a lot of fun to be had in this game by anyone, and for what you are going to pay for it, why don’t you dish this one up and in for some terrific basketball action today?
SCORE: 8 out of 10