“Welcome to NBA Jam!!”
Those are the words that welcome you to one of the most fun arcade games of all time, and certainly an influential one. Although those words are not actually spoken aloud in the version I’m reviewing, “NBA Jam” by Acclaim for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it didn’t stop gamers in the mid 90’s from spending hours performing super spinning slam dunks, breaking backboards, and catching On Fire.
Released on March 4, 1994 accompanied by a HUGE ad campaign, Acclaim produced a faithful (but not quite perfect) port of its incredibly popular arcade sensation for Super NES and Sega Genesis. As an owner of the Super Nintendo, I got to enjoy the (arguably) superior home version of Jam.
For those of you born in a cave, NBA Jam is a side-scrolling arcade basketball game where teams are paired-down to their two best players and every game is two-on-two. The key aspects to the game are its big, realistic (in their day) graphics and booming sound effects, along with the incredible and sometimes ridiculous slam dunks. Another great aspect of NBA Jam is the absence of fouls. Sure, you can still foul your opponents, but the refs won’t bother to call the violation so you can feel free to shove your rivals to the hardwood with reckless abandon.
This game was so much fun in the arcade and luckily Acclaim was able to capture the feel of the arcade gameplay pretty much perfectly. Games in NBA Jam can come down to some tough last-second maneuvering that often require tight controls and fast reflexes. Acclaim’s “Jam” provides the former, but you’ll need to supply the latter. The graphics and sound have been scaled back a bit, as many of the game’s trademark announcer’s voice clips are missing (but the classics are still there, “boomshakalaka”, “he’s on fire!” etc.). The players bodies no longer scale larger as they run towards the screen and the players heads are not quite the unique, digitized heads from the arcade game. Still, these things don’t really hinder the home version of Jam as people didn’t really demand a perfect arcade port of anything back in 1994 and the graphics were more than acceptable.
The Super Nintendo version of NBA Jam was able to capture the spirit and fun of its arcade counterpart and that’s where it counts. It plays like it should, and thanks to Midway’s infamous “catch-up logic” A.I. almost every game is close. There were also a ton of special hidden characters to find and play as, like President Clinton, “P. Funk” George Clinton, and even The Fresh Prince of Bel Air! The game will track your progress and statistics, but unlike in the arcade you don’t simply enter your initials and birthdate. Instead you get a long password. Lame for sure, but its better than nothing.
Back in the day people were nuts for this game and even with the Super Nintendo port its not hard to see why. Even though Acclaim would follow this up with the improved “NBA Jam Tournament Edition” not long after they released the first one, “NBA Jam” for Super NES was still a very fun game, a good arcade port, and a true testament to pure arcade fun brought home.
Four out of Five Hot Pink Stars. A starter on the Super Nintendo’s ‘Sports game all-star team” and a true classic. It isn’t the shoes.
The Nostalgia glows brightly in the Hot Pink Nation. For the people, for the good, for mankind brotherhood.