NBA Jam 2004 Review

Review Format:

Playstation 2

NBA Jam was a huge hit when originally released on 16-Bit consoles in the early 90’s. It’s arcade playability introduced basketball to mainstream gamers, and made being ‘On Fire’ a good thing. (I’ll explain later). Since then, many basketball franchises have been created, offering both arcade and simulation style game-play.
After taking a well-earned rest, NBA Jam is back on next generation consoles. But has Acclaim managed to capture the series’ former magic?

Sticking with the same formula, NBA Jam once again features gravity-defying dunks, over-sized heads, and the commentary of series regular; Tim Kitzrow. As expected, NBA Jam features all current teams and arenas. Keeping up with current arcade releases, the playable roster has also been extended from 2 to 3 players per team.

There are several game modes on offer, including Exhibition for when you want a quick gaming fix. Here you can take on the computer, or up to 6 friends (multi-tap permitting). If you’re after a more lasting challenge, then the ‘Jam’ Tournament is for you. You can even face off against over 70 NBA all-stars including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the ‘Legends Tournament’. There are era-specific moves and commentary, and for added nostalgia, the mode is completely in black and white.

The action is suitably fast-paced, combining all of the spectacular moves that made the series famous. Every time you score, your turbo metre fills up. This allows you to perform special shots and defensive moves. If you manage to get 3 dunks in a row, the ball will catch fire and you will have unlimited turbo for a certain amount of time. With the turbo metre fully charged, you can also place a ‘Hot Spot’. Shooting from this position will initiate a super-charged dunk, earning you up to 6 points. The controls are easy to pick up, and you will be pulling off gravity-defying moves before you can say Boomshakalaka!

As you progress through the game, you will earn money that can be spent at the ‘Jam Store’. While it doesn’t contain any fruity breakfast condiments, you can purchase many game-enhancing unlockables. There are several Outdoor and Retro Basketball arenas including Venice Beach, Acclaim Rooftop and Retro Lakers Arena. You can also purchase 73 game altering cheats, including Super thug mode, unlimited turbo, new tournament modes and a beach ball. As if that wasn’t enough, you can even unlock character designs and concept art.

If the official teams don’t take your fancy, you can create and customise your own. Attributes can be purchased to improve your skills and abilities. Must-have clothing includes the anti-gravity boots and the ultimate in 70’s fashion - the Afro!

Graphically, NBA Jam is consistently colourful and features some great effects. Though the character models are quite simplistic, the animation more then makes up for it. With over 700 motion-captured moves, there are loads of signature dunks to try and pull off.

Acclaim have licensed hit songs from the last 40 years, including Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’, Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ and Tag Team’s ‘Whoomp! there it is’. In-game sound effects are typically cartoony, featuring over-enthusiastic crowds, commentary and squeaky shoes.

‘NBA Jam’ still feels somewhat dated when compared to rival basketball games. Both ‘NBA Live’ and ‘NBA Inside Drive’ offer full teams, with highly detailed players.
Also, each unlockable item and cheat is given a code that must be entered before each match to activate it. Strangely, you are only given 5 seconds to enter the codes. This can prove difficult, as there are literally hundreds of button combinations to remember.

While online support would have made ‘NBA Jam’ an essential purchase, its 6 player offline action still makes for a great multiplayer session. If you are patient enough to stick with the game, there are endless amounts of extras and game modifications to enjoy.

‘NBA Jam’ is essentially a fun game, which is best enjoyed with friends. Featuring pure arcade action, plenty of laughs, and a staggering amount of unlockable features, ‘NBA Jam’ is well worth checking out!

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