Genre: Sports Developer: Funcom Oslo Publisher: Midway Players: 1-4 Released: 1996
NBA Jamand NBA Jam T.E. are two of the most beloved games on the Genesis and for good reason, too. Midway took an arcade game that was total dynamite and ported it in such a way that made it fun to play, even though it looks very inferior. But after NBA Jam T.E. was released, people were probably craving a new addition to the gameplay and the graphics of their favorite two-on-two basketball game from Midway. That’s where NBA Hangtime comes in. NBA Hangtime basically takes the gameplay of NBA Jam T.E., then adds a couple of new quirks and changes the look up to make it fresher and different enough to merit playing. It’s a bigger jump between games than NBA Jam to T.E. was.
Let’s start off with the gameplay. NBA Hangtime is basically the same two-on-two basketball that we know and love from NBA Jam. You control one player, and you have a teammate. You simply shoot, pass, and turbo on offense, and jump, steal, and turbo on defense. You’ve got all your NBA sanctioned teams and players, and the roster doesn’t seem much different this time around. You’ve got six combinations of people, just like NBA Jam T.E. Hangtime makes the game a very diverse in terms of teams, and keeps in substitutions from its inspiration. The one new gameplay element that Hangtime brings around is the alley-oop. Your teammate (or you if your teammate has the ball) can jump high above the net and flash white, prompting you to pass the ball to him while he’s in the air for a slam dunk. Three of these in a row and both players on the team are on fire! It adds a new component to the cool dunks that made the first NBA Jam game famous.
There is also one more thing that Hangtime adds in that either pleases people or annoys them, and that is the create-a-player option. In NBA Hangtime, you can create your own characters and answer questions to earn stat points for them. The characters can look like mascots or regular NBA players (why this is I do not know. I find it very unnecessary), or new characters in general. I, for one, do not like the inclusion of this option, as it can really break the gameplay. When you use the regular teams, there aren’t any over-the-top always good players (although Scottie Pippin could possibly be a candidate for best player in the game). With create-a-character, you can end up with such broken characters that the game could end up being not fun due to how much they dominate the computer. As there is no limit to how many points you can get on a player, it’s just not realistic at all.
Graphically is where the game tends to fall a bit flat for me. Although the sprites are REALLY large this time around, your view of the court is more of an along-the-sidelines view, compared to the three-quarters view of the original games. Also, the sprites and graphics in general look really grainy. It reminds me of those FMV games on Sega CD. They just don’t look very good. The backgrounds are rather plain too, and very dark. The whole look of the playing field makes it look as if no lights are on in the stadium that these guys are playing in. The audience isn’t as active as they were in the last two games either. At least in NBA Jam T.E. you had a couple of animated people on the sidelines. In this game they look like cardboard cut-outs.
Hangtime’s audio is another weak point, in my opinion. It sounds really bad compared to the last two games. NBA Jam and NBA Jam T.E. had some really good music. it was catchy and stuck in your head. It got you in the game on the court. This game’s music just sounds bizarre. There’s no music that pumps you up really. The first half music is absolutely horrible, and the main notes sound like a bunch of bleeps, like something that would come out of an old DOS computer game. And the theme itself is just bizarre. When I hear that music, it sounds like something I would hear on the deck of a spaceship in a FPS game. The quarter break music isn’t too bad, but it’s really short and repetitive. The second-half music is good, but it sounds more like something you dance to. It’s got some breakbeat rhythms that are catchy though. And the main sounds still sound like bleeps, but not as bad as the first-half. And all of the music in this game is very quiet overall. Sometimes you really have to listen in order to hear it.
Moreover, the announcer is absolutely abysmal compared to the last two games. Sometimes he sounds really robotic, or like a game show host with a little bit of a sore throat. And the crowd doesn’t even boo this time around! All you hear from the players is an odd grunt. It sounds more like they’re getting the wind knocked out of them rather than being knocked to the floor.
In short, Hangtime isn’t too bad, but there are some things that plague it that just could’ve been improved. The create-a-character options, the sound, and the graphics all seem to just bring the game down considerably. Luckily the core gameplay is still there. The alley-oop option is good, but you can live without it. Get this game if you’re looking for something new, but if you already have NBA Jam T.E. on 32X or NBA Jam on Genesis, you should be set.
SCORE: 6 out of 10