I recently had an opportunity to get hands on with EA Sports NBA JAM and I have to admit that I had my pre-conceived notions about this remake and the possibility that they may not stay true to the franchise, but after playing it I have only three words for you… “BOOM SHAKA LAKA!”. If you do not know what that means then do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars and do not read on; for the rest lets take a trip that includes a teaser clip as well as a clip of some young kids playing and their reaction to this title is.
NBA Jam is a classic for anyone who played it in the arcade and can recall the first time the announcer yelled out “He’s on fire!”. When I first picked up this game I thought how can Wii controls translate to this experience but after a very short 30 second tutorial with the Creative Director, Trey Smith, I was in a 2 on 2 match that would teleport me back to those days.
The controls are simple and easy to grasp. You use the nunchuk and Wiimote combo, with the Analog controlling your character movement, A being you pass, B being your shove/steal button, Z being your turbo, C being your crossover and shooting being triggered by slashing the air with your Wiimote. Sounds complicated huh? It really isn’t and after one game I had novice players who had never touched a Wii telling me that they felt comfortable. The only real drawback I found was that occasionally I would take an errant shot because of an excited movement I made with my Wiimote hand, but aside from that the controls felt great.
The build I played was not done as you could see some bugs like the team names not being portrayed correctly and music sound being turned off which only allowed you to hear the sneakers of players squeaking on the court. I was actually told that the original game was only 50% of the game with the other 50% percent being a brand new experience. What that means to me is I am getting a game I love with a lot of extras. Speaking of extras EA has added alley-oops, killer cross overs and spins, which will nullify the dreaded push.
I played a few games and even though there was Madden NFL 11, NCAA Football 11, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and EA Sports Active 2.0 in the room, this was by far my favorite title to get my hands on and had the biggest crowd around it at any given time. It was actually great to stand behind a younger group of gamers and watch them cheer as the dunked on each other and then have the waitress and security guard come over and talk to me about their memories with the classic NBA Jam titles.
As I spoke with Trey he mentioned that EA was working hard to stay true to the original franchise and I have to say that what I played holds very true to its ancestors. It was all there and quickly the trash talking memories of half court dunks flooded my mind. Great blocks, helicopter dunks, fire shots, shoving your opponent to jar the ball loose; it was all present and accounted for. The classic voice was there to remind me that my players were taking bad shots or being rejected at the hoop.
Although this title is a Nintendo Wii exclusive we are hoping this does transition over to the other two consoles so everyone can enjoy this. Also there was some discussion about how many characters were going to be in this title and it is still up in the air. So far the people/gamers have voted via the EA website to see what NBA players made the cut but there still remains to be seen of what other characters will make it in, possibly a Bill Clinton appearance?! There still is plenty of time for the folks at EA to add in as much as they can by the fall release timeframe and this gamer has his fingers crossed for a few things.