Genesis Reviews

Jordan vs. Bird: Super One-on-One

Genre: Sports Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1992

As a kid growing up in the ’80s, I idolized Larry Bird. Here was a man who came out of what seemed to be nowhere and willed his way to the top of his profession. On the court, he did virtually anything he wanted with the ball, and his uncanny aim made him a threat from anywhere and everywhere. He could penetrate, fade away, and his outside shot was unstoppable. He was also supremely confident in his abilities, smack-talking his opponents constantly and getting into their heads almost on a daily basis. To me, he was the only player who could match Michael Jordan’s explosiveness whenever arguments about the best active player came up, and while I understand that he and Jordan shared a relatively short span of their respective careers, Larry was the reason I watched basketball. I readily admit that His Airness is the best to ever play the game, but at the time I was not on the bandwagon and was ready to argue Bird’s superiority whenever the opportunity arose.

Of course, it was ON when Jordan vs. Bird hit the Genesis. I’d played the NES version with friends (all Jordan fans, of course), but the Genesis upgrade gave me the chance to play as my favorite player on my favorite console. That’s right! Those friends now had to take on my favorite player in my house, and on my favorite console too boot! I was smack talking in a way that would have made the Birdman himself proud.

From the moment one hods the box, it seems that this is a game that will reside almost permanently in one’s console. It has that early EASN charm found in Lakers vs. Celtics, and everything is clean and well-detailed. The three-point competition looks especially nice, and while it’s the best looking of the three events – the others being the slam dunk contest and one-on-one match up- the whole game does a good job of showing off the hardware (for the time, at least). Both Bird and Jordan look very much like their real-life counterparts and boast large sprites. Nope, no one who sees this version for the first time will doubt that this is definitely an step up over the NES port…

… that is, until they actually play it.

It seems that Electronic Arts didn’t really know how to take advantage of the superior hardware beyond a graphical upgrade, and the result is basically a watered down port with prettier visuals. Honestly, I was really disappointed by how Super One-on-One played. How could a game that controlled so fluidly on the NES go so wrong on the Genesis? Think about it; this is a game that consists of only three events: one that highlights Bird’s strengths, one that favors Jordan, and a neutral event for both. How difficult is it to make something that simple work? Even more upsetting is that this  game was released on everything but Game & Watch by the time it came to the Genesis, so there was no excuse for the latest port to actually play worse than earlier ones.

The three-point competition was the event I wanted to play the most, and it’s very unintuitive. It uses all three buttons, which makes no sense at all. Why do I need one button to grab a ball, one to make a shooting motion and another to actually release? Perhaps the developers wanted to add an element of challenge, but don’t the clock and different shot spots already do that? When has anyone ever heard any player who actually participated in the event suggest that just grabbing the balls should be challenging? With some practice, the scheme dwindles to being only a minor annoyance, but that’s the whole issue: it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

My biggest disappointment was with the one-on-one match up, which is really where the meat of the game is supposed to be. In either a timed or scored game, the Genesis edition seems to move at half the frame rate of its NES counterpart, and this makes it very difficult to keep the action moving. The computer tends to steal the ball way too often, which can make drives to the basket a wasted effort. Comparing both ports, the NES one moves much more fluidly, and while everything looks larger and more detailed on the Genesis, it’s all just so clunky and stiff that the eye candy is wasted.

I didn’t have as much trouble with the slam dunk contest, which may be the best-playing of the three events. I do, however, think all the judges were Russian. There was simply no pleasing those people. To be fair, the NES version had the same problems, so at least there’s some consistency in this area. Players are given a decent selection of dunks from which to choose, and it’s possible to pull off some really Jordan-esque moves, despite what the judges think.

Overall, I really, really wanted to like this game more than I did. An excellent example of style over substance, Super One-on-One has no reason to be this clunky, especially after the brilliance that were Lakers vs. Celtics and Bulls vs. Lakers. This could have been the ultimate game for playing against a friend on a rainy afternoon. Instead, it looks more like Bird and Jordan did at the end of their careers: slow and creaky, with occasional glimpses of greatness. That’s understandable for aging basketball players, but it doesn’t work so well for the fifth – and what should be the most technologically advanced – version of a video game.

SCORE:  4 out of 10


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