The Jam is back! After a long absence and a couple of not-so hot 32-bit updates, Acclaim resurrects NBA JAM as a fast-paced 3-on-3 dunkfest sure to please old and new fans of the series. While the gameís overall presentation isnít as slick as EAís NBA Street series or Street Hoops, the new JAM is just as much fun as the old arcade classic. Grab a couple of multi-taps, 5 other players, some food and a couple of 6-packs of whatever, and itís an all-out blast as each team tries to showboat and out-hoop each other. Controls are simple to pick up, and after 10 minutes or so, a blind, one-legged dog could probably play well. Thatís the immediate charm of NBA JAM, and why itís such a blast to play.
If youíre an old-timer, you know the drill. Hit 3 consecutive shots, and youíll hear the familiar ďHeís On Fire!!Ē call, as your playerís stats go off the charts. Then itís 60 seconds (or 5 shots, whichever comes first) of turbo speed, goaltending, and a chance to score with some ridiculously crazy looking dunks and shots. Of course, if you lose the ball during this time and your opponent makes a shot, youíre back to normal as soon as the shot is made. This keeps each game fresh, as itís possible to build up an unstoppable run if your defense is as good as your offensive skills.
Thereís a new JAM meter that allows some even crazier dunks from select hot spots on and off court. You earn JAM points as well as game points here, and can redeem JAM points in the gameís shop for some cool unlockables like courts and new gear to strut out on court in future games. The cool thing is itís not as creepily materialistic as the buying and showing off of gear in Street Hoops- here, itís more like youíve earned some cool stuff by playing well and playing often.
There are a nice variety of game modes here, from Exhibition games to the NBA JAM Tournament, to a great Legends Tournament that (in a great touch) starts off in black and white and makes you earn the right to play in color. As you beat each legendary team, you unlock them as playable teams in the regular games, so the old school b-ballers will no doubt be all over this game. Thereís a pretty decent create-a-player feature here, and although you canít get as crazy with the customization as in something like Tiger Woods 2004, whatís here is pretty damn good.
The graphics here are nice and the animation is solid and almost too quick at times, which works well in keeping the pace hot, but sometimes itís hard to follow the CPUís antics if you go the single player route. JAM goes for a slightly big-headed more cartoony look than NBA Street or Street Hoops, but itís all good, and fits the gameplay just fine. Thereís no online play on the PS2 or Xbox versions (boo!), but Xbox owners get the wicked cool bonus of some downloadable teams. Hopefully the sequel will have online play for both consoles, and downloadable content (especially as the PS2ís HDD will be out next March)- this would make the next JAM even more of a must purchase.
Sound effects are adequate, but the music and voice work are spectacular. Chock full of Tim Kitzrowís play-by-play, NBA JAM sounds even better than the original version. The music is comprised of a wide range of snippets from familiar court jams, and legendary funk master Bootsy Collins provides some colorful commentary as well as a couple of cool new beats thatíll have you grooviní away as you play.
Of course, if youíre going to ask me ďSo whatís better- NBA Street 2, Street Hoops, or NBA JAM?Ē, Iíll have to take the neutral road and say each game has its merits overall, but it all depends on what youíre looking for in the long run. Itís not as polished as the other games, but NBA JAM is still a great deal of fun, and can only get better in future installments. If Acclaim follows up with a sequel thatís as killer as Burnout 2 was over the original, the improvements found in the next JAM will only make for an even more impressive game.
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