NBA Jam Wii Review
Publisher – EA – Developer – EA Canada – Genre – Sports – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360, PS3
Some franchises are just so good that they never go away, and it’s even possible that such a franchise would survive a world apocalypse and then be revived on another world. NBA Jam is a famous arcade success story and as EA saw fit to revive the franchise for the home, it’s a series that is still alive and well and has been released on all the current major consoles.
The last NBA Jam game was released way back in 2003 and a number of things have happened since its release. Acclaim, the company that held the home rights for the series, has folded and more recently, Midway, the creators of the series, has also had a sad demise. NBA Jam remains very much alive, though, and EA has been sure to treat this hot property with the respect that it deserves.
So, for those who don’t really know what to expect from an NBA Jam game, well expect a very exaggerated game of basketball in which elbowing your opponents, setting the ball on fire (by netting it three times in a row) and huge dunks are very much a part of. It’s also 2 vs 2 as well, in which you can team up with another player or, if that’s not possible, play alongside and instruct an AI team-mate. More importantly, it’s a multiplayer game that possesses all the characteristics that makes for a fun time and additionally, it’s simple enough for anyone to just pick up and play.
If you’re a Purist and you are worrying about this Wii version being motion control only, get down off your high horse and calm down, NBA Jam does indeed give you the option of motion control, but the classic controller (sadly the GameCube controller has been forgotten about) can also be used if you’d prefer to use only buttons as opposed to motions. The control options are pleasing enough and if you’re using the Wii remote you can play with or without the nunchuk, and even with the latter option you’re only going to be using the buttons on the remote.
But if you do give the motion controls a chance you may be surprised as to just how much fun they are to use in this modern day NBA Jam. Simple shots, massive dunks and blocks are all done with simple motions, and thankfully EA knew exactly where to stop – we haven’t been left with a game that requires plenty of practice to remember the dozens of ways that motion control is employed. Sensibly it never goes insanely overboard with motion control and button presses are still very important for actions such as turbo, elbows, stealing the ball off your opponent, spins and more. This is NBA Jam we’re talking about; I certainly don’t think the long-time fans would be happy if a new game came along in the series and brought a serious amount of depth with it.
The game may not have an online mode, but there are still a number of modes for local multiplayer as well as single player if you’re really that desperate. Indeed, NBA Jam is a game that should really be played in multiplayer and thankfully all the modes allow for at least two people to play together. There’s the Classic Campaign that has you working your way through 36 opponents, and the Remix Tour instead has you taking on teams in six different divisions and playing some fun modes.
Indeed, the remix modes are silly and enjoyable. There’s Smash, in which the aim is to smash your opponent’s backboard, 21 tasks you with being the first player to score 21 points, Elimination has the player with the lowest score being eliminated at the end of each quarter until there’s only one left, and Domination asks you to take shots from a certain spot in order to gain control of it, with points rising quicker if you are controlling more than one at once. Finally, the Remix 2 v 2 is the NBA Jam that many know and love, although the twist being that there’s power-ups to pick up on the court. All these remix modes can be played with up to four players and separately outside of the Remix Tour.
Visually, NBA Jam is unique and also a very fine looking Wii game. The game has what I would describe as a near photo realistic look, although the animations and such are exaggerated and it’s even possible to give your players oversized heads. Sound wise, the original NBA Jam announcer is also in the game and he delivers his lines with such excitement that his commentary really adds something to the game.
This is the very thing that games were originally designed to be, of course I’m talking about fun and this revival never stops being anything other than that. The motion controls feel a lot more than tacked on, there’s a pleasing amount to unlock, the game is approachable for all, and the multiplayer options makes this a very re-playable and exciting game. NBA Jam was certainly a revival worth making and definitely one worth playing.