If you played many video games in the ’90s then there’s a good chance you’re already accustomed to the bombastic, two-on-two, no-holds-barred arcade game NBA Jam. As far as sports games go, it was loud, in your face, over the top action — the type of experience you just didn’t get anywhere else.
Well, after years of waiting, the Jam has finally returned to video game consoles in its newest, updated form: NBA Jam: On Fire Edition.
Available on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition updates the classic formula of the arcade game with new rosters, new features, online capabilities and a whole whack of bonus content.
Visually, the team over at EA Sports have struck a good balance between a game that looks crisp but still harkens back to the Jams of yesteryear. Big heads, for example, are back right where they should be, alongside ridiculous alley-oop dunks and the ability to go on fire.
One significant improvement from the earlier versions of NBA Jam is in the depth of roster. Apart from the main roster of the 30 NBA teams,many of which offer up to five different players,there are also dozens of unlockable legend players and teams that can be purchased with points earned in-game. It wasn’t too long before I had unlocked both the Democrat and Republican secret teams and was playing games with Barack Obama super dunking over Dick Cheney’s head.
For those ’80s/’90s purists, some of the unlockable legend players include Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and, of course, Muggsy Bogues.
As for the controls, NBA Jam is pretty simplistic in its move-set; one button will shoot, one button will pass, one button will jump and one button will steal. There are, however, certain complexities that ensure the game is at once easy to learn but hard to master. Button modifiers allow for razzle-dazzle moves, dirty plays, alley-oop calls and speed bursts.
For a silly game, you’ll be surprise just how much variety in challenge there is to be had in the single player alone. The game’s main mode, Road Trip, sets a series of challenges across the U.S. where you must defeat different iterations of the 30 NBA teams to earn points and unlock more challenges. Your second time around New York, for example, you’ll have to beat the team of their choice in only one quarter. Third time around, you’ll have to beat Amar’e Stoudemire and Patrick Ewing in a game where dunks are worth more than three-pointers.
It’s a pretty clever way to incorporate a unique single player mode within the game; there’s a certain retro feel to it where the basketball games become more like boss fights. It took me forever to beat that damn two-headed dragon, Ewing and Stoudemire. The online multiplayer, while somewhat lacking in variety, gets the job done and adds time sensitive bonuses as an incentive to play.
While there are a handful of issues with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, the good simply outweighs the bad to such a degree that it’s hard to imagine anyone finding too much fault with this game. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the game only costs a cool $15 on either of its respective platforms.
Let’s be honest, you’ve spent 15 bucks on some pretty dumb shit over the years, right? Well consider NBA Jam: On Fire Edition a steal of steals.
Go get it now, three shots you’re on fire.