If you’re 30-ish and had even a base-level interest in basketball in the early 90’s, you probably, like me, spent a lot of time screaming at the top of your lungs 1 inch from your friend’s face after dunking on him in NBA Jam Tournament Edition. Good news for you and your sports aggression – NBA Jam is back, and although you’ve grown up, the game hasn’t…and that’s a good thing.
A great thing, actually, as NBA Jam on the Wii serves as a great game for you and your budding basketball fan to play together. It’s a – dare I say – “charming” mix of the old school Jam you loved, with a couple new things to keep your youngin engaged when you’re not there screaming “BOOMSHAKALAKA” 1 inch from his face.
One of the problems with cross-platform games is that they’re an afterthought on the Wii. Generally, a game is made for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and then dumbed-down for the Wii with lower-res graphics and a cobbled-together motion control scheme (that they then pass off with marketing words like “precise” or “true” motion). Not that this isn’t true for NBA Jam as well, but the old school aspect makes for a decent translation on the Wii, allowing for innovation in just the right places, while limiting unnecessary innovation in others.
The Wii is not capable of the highest level of HD graphics like the PS3 and Xbox 360, but that means nothing in a game that’s paying homage to the 90’s. The graphics are “perfectly flawed” in low-res; stadiums are still populated with a cardboard-cutout crowd, bench and cheerleaders. But in this venue, it looks charming. All of the NBA coaches are even represented, so along with your on-court team, you’ll see your favorite coach digitized on the sidelines. Home teams also have their mascot tucked into the corner of the court, and he celebrates whenever the home team scores.
Your actual players are big and bright – an awesome upgrade from NBA Jam:TE‘s smaller, muddier models. The players are immediately recognizable, not only from their faces, but from the accurately-created character models – no more standard bodies that applied to everyone. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard aren’t just palette-swapped versions of each other, as they would have been years ago. Characters’ heads have been photographed from only a couple of angles, which turns out to be more humorous than it is groaningly low-tech. All players seem to have no more than 3 facial expressions – a standard, one they make when they’re dunking (usually mouth open like they’re yelling), and one while they’re shoving someone. Again, it’s a pleasant simplicity.
Check out some screenshots: