NBA Jam E3 2010 Hands-On Impressions


NBA Jam is a game that has a distinct why-the-hell-haven’t-I-been-remade-yet quality about it. It was a smash hit in the arcade, and kind of redefined what a sports title could be. The announcer’s “boom-shakka-lakka!” antics, the on-fire mechanics, the absurd dunks–all of it solidified the game as one of the best sports games ever.

And while the SNES and Sega Genesis console versions saved you thousands of quarters as kid, they never really captured the arcade version’s flash and pop. Even the arcade version has aged rather poorly.

Enter: the Wii-exclusive remake of NBA Jam. Now, the Wii wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice of console for this remake, so I was excited, but a bit concerned. Does it live up to our nostalgia? I got a chance to school some fools on the EA showfloor at E3 to see for myself. Impressions after the jump.

I played a full game of NBA Jam against two Lakers bastards. Me and my teammate–I didn’t catch his name, so let us call him Claude–were the Miami Heat. The first thing I noticed right away about the game, is it looks fantastic. Waaaay, way better than the arcade version (more on that below). It’s a very bright, slick looking remake of the original.

We played the game using the Wii Mote/Nunchuk combination. Here are the controls:

Z – Turbo
B – push/steal
A – Pass
Wii mote flick up – jump, block
Wii mote flick down – dunk, shoot
Z + B – Crossover dribble

How did this work? It was easy to pick up and play, but challenging to master. Passing, dribbling and shooting is simple enough, and felt great. There’s also something extra satisfying about flicking the Wii Mote down to execute a brutal slam. The Z + B crossover dribble is a new addition to the game as well, which was pretty cool. Alley-oops also feel very, very good. Claude and I were able to execute some doozies. Just wait for your teammate to jump towards the basket, flick the Wii Mote up, and watch the show.

Everything else felt wonderfully familiar. Tim Kitzrow, the original announcer, is back and he rocks. The on-fire mechanics work the same as well: shut the other team out for 3 consecutive baskets, and you’re “on fire.” It’s just as exciting as it always was. It just looks way better.

Where I found the controls a bit tricky was playing defense. The reason is in order to block a shot, you have to flick the Wii Mote up, and do so at precisely the right time or you’ll be way off. It’s a twitch command that would probably be easier on a standard controller. I did get used to it by the third quarter or so, though. Still, personally I’ll probably make use of the game’s support of the Wii Classic Controller (yes, it supports that. Phew!).

Here’s the other thing. NBA Jam on the Wii might not have a full fledged multiplayer mode. In a recent interview, NBA Jam Producer Trey Smith said:

“That was one of the questions we asked ourselves, “Sixty frames or online? Which one will we really bet on?” and sixty frames absolutely improved the gameplay so that’s what we chose and that’s where we are at. I’m not giving up yet, but we are not there yet.”

Uh oh…Well, it will still be a blast to play, even if it’s with 4 people on your couch, right?

I need to put this in perspective. Here are two videos: the first is a “Best of NBA Jam (SNES)” video; the second is the debut trailer for the Wii remake. Isn’t it weird how you remember it looking sooooo much better?

NBA Jam First Trailer – Watch more Game Trailers

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