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Double Dribble: The Playoff Edition

Genre: Sports Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami Players: 1-8 Released: 1994
I’m not the finest connoisseur of sports games. I play them; NBA Live ’95 , Arch Rivals and NFL Football ’94 Starring Joe Montana will remain forever etched in my gaming memory. However besides the staples, I never delved deep in the sports genre.
In the Genesis’ heyday, the NBA Live series was the most popular basketball games around. That didn’t stop other basketball games from jumping into the fray. Double Dribble is one of those games that entered the basketball market to get a piece of the consumer pie. With a legendary developer like Konami at the helm, one would think this could have a shot at being a serious contender, right?
 
Double Dribble, like most sports games, doesn’t have any relevant storyline. The game puts you right into the playoffs, completely omitting the regular season.  The 16 teams featured in this game are: Utah, Minnesota, San Antonio, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Cleveland and Atlanta. Each has different strengths and weaknesses and difficulty of the game, in part, depends on which team you pick. You might be wondering if Double Dribble has the NBA player’s license. Unfortunately, no.  Instead you get generic players like S. Bolf and M. Gallo instead of the real players of the 1994 NBA season. Strike one.
 
As for controls, when you are on offence, press A to shoot or tap it to pump fake. B is for passing. You’ll use C in mid-air to shoot or dunk. On the defensive side of the ball, the A button will block shots. B will change the player you’re controlling and the C buttons will have your player attempting to steal the ball. Finally, the start button will pause, call time-out or exit the game. The controls themselves are fine.
 
My main issue with Double Dribble is how slow the gameplay is. I mean it’s painfully slow. It feels like most of the players are running on a court of molasses. Where’s the blast processing when you really need it? There’s also no turbo or running button in this title. Strike two. Now not all is lost though. There are certain players that can move quickly and you will find yourself using them during the majority of your playing time even when they begin to tire out. if it weren’t for these handful of speedy athletes,  the game would be almost unplayable for me.
 
Another issue I had concerns switching players. Often, when changing to another player it’s not always clear as to whom I’m controlling. It takes a few seconds to finally locate where my newly selected player is. Sometimes you want to switch to a player off screen to try to intercept the ball carrier before he gets near the basket.  And when I think I positioned myself right under the basket, it turns out I couldn’t be farther away from it! I also feel the basketball is too small as I really have to look around to see who has it. Half the time the opponent went to the hoop before I could identify where the dang ball was! I don’t know if it’s me or what, but I don’t recall having these kind of location issues with NBA Live or Arch Rivals.
 
I found there is a disparity between your squad and the computer-controlled team. The team members you aren’t controlling seem to be no more than stand up dummies. I mean they don’t block, they don’t try to steal the ball, they will allow the ball carrier to run right past them and take it to the hoop. I drop my jaw every time I see this. Why are they even on the court if they aren’t  going to defend? It’s like I have to do everything defensively which is a bummer. On the flip side every member of the computer controlled team has no problem stealing the ball within a couple of seconds, blocking nearly all of my shots, and performing picks. The degree of difficulty is frustratingly high. Strike three; you’re out.
 
Game modes are playoff (single-player), exhibition (one game mode with CPU or another player) and multi-player. Perhaps the value of this game would be the multi-player option. Between two and eight human players can get together to compete in a match using the Sega Team Player according to the manual. I haven’t used the multi-player option, but I would imagine it would be infinitely better than the single-player experience. Although the fun factor would still be diminished due to how slowly most of the players move. Other options include setup mode: arcade or normal (No fouls or Fouls), quarter time, shot time, BGM mode (game music or just real game sounds), BGM type (stereo or mono). There’s also a password system so you won’t have to try to win the championship in one sitting.
 
Perhaps the strongest components of Double Dribble are its graphics and music. You are treated to a gorgeous looking intro where a ball player is powering dunking the basketball. Accompanied by the rousing hip-hop tune, I was initially pumped to get ready to play. In-game, sprites are of adequate size, there is a nice use of color, and the bench and audience are well represented.
There are good sound effects as well such as the bouncing of the basketball, the sound of blocked shots, the oomph a player makes when he makes contact with another player, etc. The announcer adds a spark of life with phrases like “monster jam” and “nothing but net.”
 
This game really didn’t do it for me. The slow movement of many of the players plagued my enjoyment of the game. Add to that the fact your team members are like the walking dead on defense, this is a definite skip in my opinion. It probably would be a little bit more fun with four to eight players, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.

SCORE: 3 out of 10

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