Platform: Nintendo NES
Controller: Default for Nintendo NES
One sign of the spring’s ending is the NBA’s playoffs, the main basketball league in the United States of America, and if you want to play a quick match in this sport during the 80s, one of the most popular games was Double Dribble from Konami, particularly for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The name of the game comes from a basketball play, considered illegal, where a player dribbles the ball, then come to rest in one or both hands and then dribbles it again.
The game was known in Japan as Exciting Basketball.
This game features two teams of five virtual athletes each, just like it happens in a real basketball match. Also features some attractive details from basketball, like a 3 points shot and animations of slam dunks when these are executed.
Just like another videogame from the same company that we have written about, it allows the videogamer to choose between 4 teams, with differences between all of them, although at first you can think only the uniform or mascot in the halftime show change from team to team. Apparently it was not possible to get the license to use the team’s names fromthe NBA, but it was possible to use the cities from popular teams at the time of the game’s release. However, the uniforms match as possible their counterparts in real life. The teams of the game are:
|New York Eagles||New York Knicks||The slowest team, however they shine at stealing the ball from their opponents.|
|Los Angeles Breakers||Los Angeles Lakers||The quickest team of the 4, also the one with the worst accuracy.|
|Chicago Ox||Chicago Bulls||The team with the best accuracy, specially 3-point shots, but with the worst defense.|
|Boston Frogs||Boston Celtics||The most balanced team, only available in 2-player matches.|
Of the most innovating features is the use of animations when the virtual athlete is about to make a slam dunk. BEWARE: Not because you see the slam dunk animation, they are sure points, it can be difficult to score points this way at first, so we recommend to start scoring from a distance. Curiously, there are “hot-spots” in the arena, where shooting from there is 99% sure points, either if the shooter is the videogamer or the AI. The frentic pace of the game allows to play a full-length game really quickly.
It’s possible to select the AI level within 1-player games, along with the time duration of a quearter. If it’s the first time you play, we recommend testing your skill with the easiest level. Every match is at 4 quearters where at the end of the match, the team which scores more is declared winner. The videogame makes a clever use of the two buttons of the NES controller, with the A button to pass the ball to a teammate, or change the player to the one closest to the ball and the B Button to shot. It can be a bit hard to score during your first games, specially from afar, or defending, but once you get the rhytm, is fair simple to play. Just like other games of the time, playing against the AI is fun, but is better to play competitive against other human player.
It’s also worth mentioning the halftime show, something I can not recall from other game at the time of writing this entry, and where cheerleaders and mascots of the team participate. I have to mention that sometimes the “mascot” can be a bit… confusing, given the tech limitations of the time.
Example: the mascot of Los Angeles is a surf table, but looks more like a giant blue hot-dog, meanwhile the one from Chicago looks like an inhabitant of the underworld, or a descendant of the minotaur instead of a bull.
Finally, when the player builds a considerable advantage over the AI, this one can tie the game without missing a shot, with an incredible accuracy. This was a tendency in later basketball videogames, like NBA Jam.
The original game appeared as an arcade in 1986, and was the second basketball videogame made by Konami.
It had three buttons, one is used to shoot, other one to pass the ball to a teammate and the final one for stealing the ball from the rival, instead of just positioning besides the virtual player with the ball like other ports of the game.
In this game, it’s not possible to choose a team, and to avoid that a match extends too much, in a way we have written before about in other entries, when a period ends, and the videogamer is losing the match, the game is over. The videogamer can continue if inserting a new credit at the right time.
Famicom Disk System
Besides a different title screen, the videogame is essentialy th same.
For 1990, there were ports to many computers, specially for the ones more popular in Europe. The Commodore 64 had a port in a time when the popularity of the 8bit computers dwindled giving room to 16bit consoles.
Even when it was one of the last titles for the computer, it’s notorious the game had modifications to run properly in the computer, not only graphically, but also in the controller. This was because the Commodore 64 used a one-button joystick, and adapting all the actions to use only one button was not as hard as you can think.
Stealing a ball is automatically made when the virtual player controlled by the videogamer touches the one with the ball. If the button is pressed without moving the joystick, a shot to the basket is made; otherwise it goes to the closest player in the direction of the joystick. I admire that ingenuity. Finally I felt this game slower than the NES port with the same amount of difficulty.
The other computer popular from Commodore, which was getting the newer games, also had its port of this game. Being a more powerful technologically device than the NES, one could think the port would get better graphics, playability or an improved AI.
Effectively, the graphics were better… than the ones from the Commodore 64, instead of being better than the NES port. The Amiga computer, just like the Commodore 64, used a one-button joystick, so it had the same controls. The difficulty was higher, with the pace being slower (maybe due to the emulator used). Particulary I felt a bit disappointed that this port did not have a significant improvement over the original arcade or the NES port.
The port for the PC computer, which would end dominating the realm of personal computing: the one powered by the DOS operating system. For me it was a surprise learning of the existence of the port.
Just like the Commodore computers, everything was adapted to the use of one-button joystick. But in this case, I felt the pace of the game similar to the NES ones, although the graphics looks more like the Commodore 64 port.
After playing, a lot, other basketball game for this platform, I felt disappointed because I was waiting more from this port, particulary because it was sold after the aforementioned game. Also, if the PC did not have a good video card, the colors were funny-looking because only 4 were used, press here if you are curious of how it looked in 4 colors only.
There was a sequel for the Sega Genesis console called Double Dribble: PlayOff Edition (Hyperdunk in Japan and Europe) which was not as popular as this game, even when was not panned.
There was a version for the Nintendo Game Boy called Double Dribble 5-on-5. It has more teams, and just like the NES port, they are analogs from NBA teams. For each team there are more skills to determine how to play at court. The playability is just like the same, but I think it’s more difficult due probably for the monochromatic screen of the handheld. I don’t consider it more of a sequel than a direct port.
This game brings me a lot of good memories, specially of friendly competition with my buddies, or funny times at the local “arcade”. In those years, the popularity of the NBA was rising very quickly, so I think that helped to boost this game. Very recommended playing against other human player.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.