NBA Live 97

What can be said about NBA Live 97 that can’t be said about all the other NBA Live titles on the Super Nintendo? I’m sure you might be able to fill a whole paragraph if you tried hard enough. You could probably talk about roster updates, maybe some control or graphical changes, a fancy-pants new title screen, and so on.

Of course, this is based on pure speculation; you’re not going to get me to fire up the other titles to do a detailed, comparative analysis. If you thought you were, well, I apologize, but you came to the wrong site. For me at least, reviewing a title usually involves playing said game for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour until I get sick of fumbling with the direction pad on my PC’s Xbox 360 controller, consuming a 12-pack of Tecate and maybe a few shots of Jameson, punching the keyboard until words form, and passing out on my couch while watching cartoons. Given, that’s no way to spend a weekday morning, but in my defense Tecate is fairly cheap around here, so I make due.

The games in the NBA Live series are often called “basketball simulations”, in which they curtail the highly flammable sporting equipment of NBA Jam and intense hand-to-hand martial arts of Shaq Fu in favor of a more “authentic” basketball experience, albeit with somewhat less drug abuse and gambling scandals. Don’t be confused by this, though! NBA Live 97, in fact, does a terrible job of properly simulating real-life basketball! After playing this game for a while, I thought I would step outside and tear up the neighborhood court, but instead I just made an ass of myself and accidentally hit some kid in the face with the ball. Next thing I know, I’m on the receiving end of a punch to the downstairs baby factory, followed by having my shoes stolen while lying down, hunched over, crying on the pavement. Yet another awkward Thanksgiving holiday with the grandparents, I guess.

Anyway, I’m about due for a run to Office Depot to get a new keyboard.

Advertisements

NBA Live ’96

Basketball: It Happens Live in Cities.

I have no doubt that this is an excellent Basketball Game.  Look, I even capitalized Basketball Game.  I’m sure that, based on the pedigree of the other ’96 EA Sports titles, this is an excellent addition.  The problem is that I’m completely unqualified to talk about how good or bad this obviously-alright basketball game is.  Sure, if this were NBA Jam then I’d be able to say boom shakalaka or something.  Maybe this game is on fire.  I liked NBA Jam.  As a kid it even gave me some sort of appreciation for the Charlotte Hornets for some reason.  I have no idea why.  Now that team doesn’t even exist anymore and I don’t know what to believe!

My issue is not with sports games.  I like sports games.  I just don’t really like basketball.  It’s probably a great game and all, but I don’t find it interesting.  You have dudes running back and forth, sneakers squeaking on hardwood, and dunking.  You don’t get more points for dunking no matter how stylish or aggressive you do it.  I just don’t understand.  I can tell you that in NBA Live ’96 that when someone does a dunk they do it in slow motion and it looks pretty badass.  Likely, my disinterest lies entirely in the fact that the NBA season lines up almost perfectly with the NHL season and I’m a huge hockey fan.  Sure, I follow football, but football only happens two days a week, it’s not that demanding.  Baseball is too much work to follow… they play, what, like 900 games a season or something ridiculous? Pfft.

Anyway, it’s basketball.  It’s isometric-view basketball.  With dunks.

I will say this, the game begins with you having to perform a draft lottery for the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies.  This was a fascinating piece of information and historical recreation.  These days we have the luxury of downloads to fix our broken rosters, and since the games always come out before the season starts, those roster updates are totally necessary to have the game be closer to the real thing.  In NBA Live ’96, you basically get to make up 2 team seasons from scratch!  And since all your players are, like, the dregs, you get to emulate what it’s like for real expansion teams when they show up and try to compete and end up basically unsuccessful for repeated seasons because player development takes time.  Amazing!

The road to the top is paved with now-defunct NBA franchises, you guys.

In conclusion, basketball.

 

NBA Live 95

NBA Basketball is a game where ten men dress in two shirts with one ball on a court of play and thrust their bodies at each other, attempting to draw fouls to score points. There is more to it than this, I am sure, but that is all I have ever gleaned from any level of play. There is also cunning ball-passing and heroic jumping over heads involved as well, but, to be honest, other than the one-on-one I played growing up, the entire sport is a mystery to me.

In fact, if any sport is more like a video game, I would be shocked. The constant “yes, a basket” or “no, an enemy basket” is not entirely unlike a gun game battle in Counter-Strike, where the very act of doing that which it is intended for you to do (getting point in basketball, and shooting people in CS) becomes so devalued that one must start looking for the quality of the success to get excited. While in a game of soccer, every goal is a rush, in basketball, the only baskets that are enough to get one’s ass off of one’s couch is one that particularly embarrasses your enemy. Like when someone jumps over someone else’s head< and slams the ball into the net with one hand.

This isn’t going to turn into an article about NBA Jam, as you might think– yes, it is the unholy union between video game tomfoolery and basketball basketery, this is to address the legion of “real” NBA games– and their failure to become like basketball in that sense.

A basket in this game is always the same level of enjoyment. I have not played these games to death, truth be told; I’ve played them hardly at all. But, from my experience, that required varying level of enjoyment from a boring basket to an astounding basket– the crux of a good basketball game– is lost. All baskets are the same. Seeing a star player get a basket is no longer a thrill– you know he’s the star since he has a literal star underneath him– you get the ball to him and he has a near-100% chance to make the ball go into the net. There is no thrill no drama. NBA Jam even fails in this aspect by making every basket so stupidly “awesome” that the contrast is not there, either.

As such, the best basketball games are first-person shooters. That’s fucked up.

NBA Jam TE

JAMMIN'
I HOPE YOU LIKE JAMMIN' ALSO

NBA Jam Tournament Edition is one of those games I’d definitely enjoy much more if I had any interest whatsoever in pretending to play basketball. I know it’s stupid and missing the point, but I prefer to do things in video games that I can’t do in real life. Granted, I can’t play basketball worth a damn (I assume), but if I wanted to, I could likely learn. Maybe I’ll go down to the local YMCA and try and hire a basketball coach (I won’t)!

In order to write this review I selected the “Head to Head” setting; it pits two men I’ve never heard of against two other men I’ve never heard of. Ok, that’s not entirely true: I do know who Dennis Rodman is due to his flamboyant antics and the fact that I dislike everyone associated with PETA. I’m totally cool with vegetarians and vegans so long as they don’t try to talk me out of tearing the neck out of a baby lamb, which is my traditional English breakfast. And they always do! Every. Single. Time. “It’s in pain! Can’t you hear it screaming?” “It’s bleating and it won’t be able to much longer anyway. Pass the butter.” Mmm. Baby lamb neck in butter.

This game looks and sounds decent enough; there are fairly clear pictures of each player, and the little announcer voice isn’t bad for a SNES game. Sadly, I like terrible video game voices. They make me laugh, which is like a little gift from the people who make the games. The gift of laughter. That I waste. On everything.

The gameplay was quick and furious, with an awful lot of running back and forth. It made me tired just watching! I had to stand up so I could sit down again. Even though I’d never played before and had no idea what I was doing, the controls were intuitive enough that I managed to tie my opponents. I did find myself grinning every time I slapped the ball away from my opponents, even though it made an odd barking sound effect every time I did so. Perhaps my spirit animal (a snickerdoodle) was giving me aid?

I bet this game is awesome to play with a bunch of drunk friends who hopefully aren’t racist. Stop being racist, you drunks!

NBA Jam

Here’s what I think about telepathy: it’s up to no good. Whenever I feel like someone might be attempting to communicate with me using only their mind, I do the responsible thing and leave the room immediately. I just don’t want to be a part of that sort of tragedy. It starts off innocent enough; someone raises their eyebrow at you meaningfully across the table, either to indicate that they want to love you like it’s the 60s (or 70s, even) or that they are about to say something Oscar Wildeish — something churlishly witty. Something like: “More people every day succumb to the madness of Marriage. Luckily for me, I’m a dandy and that sort of thing really doesn’t fly in this time period.” And then you reply with something scathing like: “Well, dandyism was a common trope among literary figures of the late 19th century. To associate it with homosexuality, and the pertinent ban on sodomy, is putting the horse before the well-adorned cart, so to speak. Perhaps you meant to say that, being an alleged homosexual, Oscar Wilde was unlikely to experience marriage in the traditional sense. But that would actually be incorrect, as Oscar Wilde married a woman named Constance Lloyd in 1884 and had two children with her. Really, you are just revealing yourself to be a dunce of the first degree.” And then your friend will likely begin to gesticulate wildly with his left arm, indicating that you should really STFU. That’s where you draw the line, my friend. Leave the room at once. Have none of this so-called non-verbal communication. It leads to the horrible road of telepathy. What we have in NBA Jam is a perfect example of a couple of gents who let the whole mind reading business get a bit too far. It is to the point where, without any communication at all, one player (you) can tell the other player (him) to throw the ball (round) into the net (also round, but only when viewed from the top or bottom). This is completely unnatural, and I wont have anything of it. For the longest time in this game I was sure that I was controlling both players, like you do in the sports games these days. But then I realized, I was actually only one of them! First – disappointment. Then – HORROR. MIND CONTROL.

GIVE... IT.... TO...... ME.... *excitedly rubs temples*

The other was nought but a zombie at my disposal. This is the equivalent of realizing that the person you have loved for six years is really just an extension of your body – say a nipple. At first, I thought I was controlling both the nipple and myself, but at different times. Then I thought that the nipple was a separate entity altogether, and I loved him for it. THEN I realized that the nipple was attached to my man-boob!!

NEVER AGAIN WILL I BARE MY CHEST!

Satan is at work here, I know this!

Otherwise, the game is pretty dickery-doo. I played this one as a kid so it made me all nostalgic.

It’s also pretty boring, like real basketball, once you realize that the teams basically score each time and if you go in for a dunk you will never bloody miss.

The moral of this story is this: never trust anything with anything related to NBA. It probably has something to do with mind control.

NBA Hangtime

Recipe for NBA Hangtime:

"Lays it up...GRABS the rebound!"

Preheat fan-forced oven to 220° Celsius.  Take NBA Jam T.E. and trim off any excess modes and options.  Double-dunk game in hot water; be sure to boil out any over-the-top commentary and funky music.  Drain the essence, remove game from the pot, and place in a baking dish.  Lightly drizzle with white wine vinegar and set on fire – ask a friend to assist if needed.

"That's baby-making dunking is what that is!"
Shake and bake.

Throw in a character creation mode of dubious value and roast – turning once only – until tough and rubbery.  Pepper with annoying “pass” calls.  The resulting flavour will be a muted, more understated brand of NBA Jam.  Serve alone on a round plate.  Feeds one to four people.

"With my brains and your brawn, we'll make an excellent team!"
Curry and Rice - The Ultimate Partnership.

Alternatively, NBA Jam can be enjoyed as is.

NBA All-Star Challenge

This is a ball. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it.

How do we turn sports, as physical, real-life games, into video games?  There is necessarily some abstraction, some reduction, some kind of stripping-down to a group of core mechanics.  You can’t really make a game that’s like playing basketball, for example, so you have to make up a game that represents basketball in a suitably pleasing fashion.

This is extremely difficult.

I’m not sure what the underlying mechanics are in NBA All-Star Challenge, but they are certainly not very pleasing.  The closer to the peak of your jump, the more likely you are to get the ball in the net, but it still seems random (perhaps based on the stats of the player you’re using).  In order to block a shot, you must predict your opponent, which is essentially impossible if you’re playing against the computer.  There is no way to block a shot on reaction; you jump at exactly the same speed, after all, and if he’s already started jumping, there’s no way you’ll come between the ball and the net before the shot happens.  Stealing is extremely difficult due to the isometric angle and the difference in horizontal and vertical distances, especially since perspective is erased when sprites don’t change size no matter how close or far from the viewer they are.

Basically, as far as representations of basketball go, this is a poor example.  Even taken as a simple electronic, abstract game, it’s not very fun at all.  Let’s see if any of the later ones are any better.