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Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

© Presse-citron.net

1993. The young you, already fond of video games, was perhaps a fan of arcades, in the city or in the fashionable neighboring village. Among the available terminals, Ninja Turtles of course, Sunset Riders or even Terminator… but also an imposing terminal (also capable of accommodating 4 players) and particularly noisy, with lots of “He's one fire ”, “Woooo kaboom!”, “Rejected!< /em>” and others “Boomshakalaka !” His name: NBA JAM. The following year, the game hit our Megadrive and Super Nintendo… and some still haven't recovered.

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In the small world of video games, the years pass… but the passion and memories remain! Re:Play looks back at the great classics of video game history. A little return to the future past, in search of your child or adolescent soul, the very one that has undoubtedly already made you (or will make you) utter the magic formula “it was better before”. And if it were true…? So we blow into the cartridge, let's go for Re:Play!

NBA JAM: fun and accessible basketball

Presented for the first time in 1993, during the NBA All Star Game, NBA JAM quickly arrived in arcades. The game obviously delights basketball fans… but also everyone else, since many players (especially outside the United States) will then (re)discover the discipline with the game by Midway. Video game basketball boosted with official licenses, but matches between teams of only 2 players. Indeed, the game was one of the first sports games to feature NBA-licensed content, with most players benefiting from their actual digitized versions.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

© Stéphane Ficca/Presse-citron.net

Added to this is a welcome dose of arcade, notably through stratospheric dunks, which defy all human and physical laws. NBA JAM also means a total absence of ball releases, free throws, returns to the zone, fouls and any other event that would break the rhythm of the game.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

© Midway

Only goal tending is penalized, i.e. blocking a shot when the ball is in a downward phase, as well as the time limit of possession (24 seconds). The first version of the game includes the 27 NBA franchises, and 54 players, each assigned their own statistics (speed, dunk, 3 points, etc.). At the time, a credit allowed you to play for a quarter… which means that full matches quickly cost an arm and a leg.

Inspired by Arch Rivals (also signed Midway and launched in 1989), NBA JAM is a hit, and many people dream of an adaptation on their 16-bit console of the time, that 'we're team Megadrive or team Super Nintendo.

A dream that came true barely a year later, on March 4, 1994, with the simultaneous launch of the game on both machines (via Akklaim). So of course, the graphics are less impressive, the atmosphere is less “crazy”, but the conversion nevertheless remains exemplary.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

© Akklaim

With its official licenses, its absolute fun, its faithful adaptation and its digitalized Mortal Kombat-style sprites (also by Midway), NBA JAM immediately becomes an essential.

Three buttons, lots of possibilities… and a Mario Kart side?

At the time, NBA JAM was like… no other game! The game displays very “realistic” graphics (with its digitalized sprites), while pushing the arcade gameplay to the max. We recognize the stars of the discipline at first glance, and we take great pleasure in dunking over the heads of our opponents and/or blocking this 3-point shot. Despite its arcade side, NBA JAM offers rather fleshed out gameplay, with only three buttons, one dedicated to shooting/blocking, the other to passing/interception and the last to turbo.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

NBA JAM in arcade version © Midway

You can thus elbow your way by hammering the Turbo button, but you can also fake a shot by briefly pressing the eponymous button, or even fake a dunk with a last-minute pass to your teammate positioned 3 points away. On the defense side, by pressing turbo and the key dedicated to interceptions, you can violently push the opponent, which can destabilize them, with the possibility of seeing the ball escape.

Obviously, in order to prevent encounters from leaning too quickly to one side or the other, the developers included a trick… “à la Mario Kart” . Indeed, in NBA JAM, at the end of the game, the game tends to boost the abilities of the losing team. In this way, the lagging team will quickly be able to offer themselves a little “remontada”, so as to maintain a knife-edge suspense, which lasts sometimes (often ?) until the final buzzer.

In NBA JAM, you go from one side to the other in just a few seconds, and accumulating baskets allows you to go “on fire”, i.e. a mode where precision (among other things) is increased tenfold, until the opponent finally scores in their turn. Better yet, in the last quarter, it is possible to break the opposing backboard by performing a devastating dunk. It's useless, it's purely cosmetic… but what a pleasure to see the opponent's panel shattered.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

NBA JAM in arcade version © Midway

In the 1990s, NBA JAM was a standout game, regardless of whether you liked basketball or not. It’s a model of fun, especially in multiplayer (in arcades and on consoles). It was simply unprecedented, with an absolutely unique atmosphere and tension.

And if some have spent hours playing in cooperative mode, in pairs against the CPU, others still continue to compete occasionally today, with a good little Chicago Bulls vs Charlotte Hornets for families, which generally ends at buzzer.

And Michael Jordan, where is Michael Jordan?

Launched in 1993, NBA JAM took advantage of a blessed era in the NBA, with incredible popularity (including in Europe) and already legendary players. However, if NBA JAM is full of fun and quality, it also has a major flaw, namely the absence of Michael “Air” Jordan. For rights reasons, Michael Jordan is not part of the Chicago Bulls squad, and the players were then able to discover Scottie Pippen alongside… Horace Grant.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

NBA JAM TE on Megadrive © Akklaim

The rights to Michael Jordan were then in the hands of a certain Electronic Arts, which was developing a platform game called Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, which would later see the light of day on Super Nintendo.

Note that a limited version of NBA JAM was developed, integrating Michael Jordan, and intended mainly… for Michael Jordan. Likewise, depending on the release of the different versions of the game, certain squads are different, due to changes in the NBA and/or for purely legal reasons.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

NBA JAM TE on Megadrive © Akklaim

Charles Barkley is also one of the notable absentees from certain versions of NBA JAM, again for rights reasons, entrusted to Accolade for the game Shut up and Jam. If he is present with the Phoenix Suns in certain versions, he is replaced by Dan Majerle in the revised versions.

Cheat codes, Bill Clinton and Tournament Edition

Note that NBA JAM is also renowned for its cheat codes, which allow you to unlock game modes and characters by manipulating the various buttons. In particular, you can unlock a permanent “on fire” mode, but also have an infinite turbo, unlock “super dunks” … Added to this are playable personalities, notably Bill Clinton.

From 1995, NBA JAM will have a “sequel” with Tournament Edition. NBA JAM T.E. obviously includes updated squads (but goodbye Shaquille O'Neal…), but also teams now made up of three players, even though the clashes remain 2 vs 2 (and still no trace of Michael Jordan) . In this new opus, the player can then make changes at half-time, which adds a significant strategic aspect, with the possibility of bringing in a dunk/three-point expert for the second half.

Re:Play #3: NBA JAM: 30 years already... and still the best arcade basketball game ?

Akklaim ©

Obviously, the NBA JAM license has seen new episodes after the illustrious 16-bit opuses. The saga notably arrived on PlayStation and SEGA Saturn (with NBA JAM Tournament Edition), but also on Nintendo 64 with NBA JAM 2000. At the very end of the 2000s, players were able to discover two new opuses of NBA JAM on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, but the latter have not left serious memories in our memories.

And you, did you play NBA JAM in the 1990s ? Do you still play it from time to time ?

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116