“He’s on fire!” You couldn’t walk into any arcade, pool hall or even bowling alley about 15 years ago without hearing that catch phrase from the NBA Jam arcade machine. I myself plunked down at least $100 playing all the different series of the game in the arcade. When EA announced that it was bringing it to the Nintendo Wii, I was extremely excited and scared at the same time with this remake of the arcade classic. Will it be true to the arcade version or get rejected?
To start off, it sure feels like the arcade version. The announcer has tons of catch phrases and the graphics slightly improved but still has the original arcade look. The feel of the game hasn’t changed so that’s a good start to whether it is a true NBA Jam game. The pick up and play a quick game of 2 on 2 basketball is well ported in this reincarnation of the game, with up to 4 players local jamming away at the net trying to get on fire.
The controls on the other hand are another story, if you were a true arcade player and played many hours of the game in the arcade and then try to use the Wiimote alone or the Nunchuck and Wiimote, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The Wiimote is held sideways, but straight off you are stuck with the turbo button UNDER the D-pad. Try pressing the d-pad, while holding the oddly shaped B button trigger for turbo and pressing 1 or 2 to make a pass/shoot is not comfortable. The Nunchuck isn’t that much better as the game forces you to use gestures to shoot the ball and to block instead of just pressing a button, there is no way to disable this in the options. The only way to properly play is to use the Wii Classic controller, you’ll be double dunking and doing alley-ops in no time flat with a Wii Classic controller.
Another oddity is you can’t use the Gamecube controller, seriously…we all don’t own 4 Wii Classic controllers so I’m not sure what EA was thinking here when you can easily add Gamecube controller support “for free”. There is also no online play, so you can only play offline which is a bit of a downer since this game is so fun to just hop in and out of games whenever you please, you could hop online and play someone and shutdown the Wii, but no online mode at all.
EA stuck to the original NBA Jam arcade version to a tee, no fancy modes where you have hotspots and other “fluff” that has nothing to do with this no holds barred classic basketball game. The “catch up” if you are loosing really badly is even there, you’ll know what I’m talking about from the arcade, if you are down by over 12 points, you can nail 3’s from almost a mile away. This is how close EA kept the mechanics of NBA Jam for the Wii to the arcade version.
The game’s roster has been updated with current players from 2010, if you are looking for the old players you played with, there aren’t here. To spice things up, you can play against some cool “legends” in the game. You can play against these classic players and teams in the few extra modes included in the game: Classic Campaign (play against classic teams and modern teams till you win the tournament); Remix Mode has three different challenges you can try to beat including a cool Boss Battle. An interesting mode is Backboard Smash, in short you try to do amazing dunks to “smash” the backboard of the hoop. In this mode, the health meter of the backboard drops according how spectacular your dunk was.
NBA Jam is a great pick up and play no rules arcade style basketball game that deserved revival. What’s missing is online play and the lack of Gamecube support and the odd locked controls for the Wiimote that you can’t change. Basketball sim players stay away from this game as this is purely a pick up and play type game that is just for short games.