Controller: Joystick with 3 buttons.
During 90s, the National Basketball Association, with a myriad of star players (being the most remarkable one, his aero-majesty Michael Jordan) reaches popularity levels unseen before (and probably after). Some people call these years, the league’s Golden Age, and the company Midway uses the chance to developer a great basketball videogame adding up the already over-the-hill attitude of the time.
However, in this game we start to see glimpses of the really complicated maze that is the sports licensing to use in videogames. We already mentioned something about that in previous entries, but in this game was very notorious. Remember that exists the license from the league, but also from the teams, for the players as a group, and as we learned with this game, an individual license from a player.
Midway uses as foundation for this game, a previous basketball one developed by them: Arch Rivals, which had features eventually implemented in NBA Jam, like the horizontal view, using only two players per team. And the best of all: the non-existence of called fouls, so the videoplayer has total freedom to pummel the rivals hoping for them to not score. Consider that it also applies the other way around.
Having access to digitalized photos of the players’ photos brings excitement to the videogame. You can see the hair style, skin color, height, and you really get the fell of playing with the chosen team. This also applies to the overall play style of the basketball team, with pros and cons. If you use a traditional team of the bottom like Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Clippers, expect to suffer (although it’s possible to win with them) instead of using a middle-tier team like New York Knicks. Or, playing with a powerhouse like Chicago Bulls or Utah Jazz, you can demolish the weakest teams.
The 27 basketball teams playing in the League at the time were available to use, and in the console versions, the challenge to defeat all of them. The rosters only have two players per team.
Finally, the use of an anouncer brings hype and emotion to certain plays. In this case, the announcer was Tim Kitzrow whose legacy include phrases used, up to this day, by many of us who played the game. Those announces bring emotion to the game.
I was forgetting: if you want to play with some star basketball players of the time, think twice, because you won’t be able to do it. You see, some players managed themselves their licensing situation, like Michael Jordan. And the cost of buying those particular licenses would have made non-buyable the videogame because a really high cost. It was a bit disapointing not finding his aero-majesty with the Bulls, but forced the videoplayer to instead, chose other teams. It would have been really monotous everyone and their fourth-grade uncle use the Bulls because they had Jordan.
The control scheme is really simple: with the stick you move the virtual basketball player controlled by the videoplayer. With a button, whoever in the videoplayer’s team who has the ball shoot to the basket. With other button, executes a pass. And the third button is the turbo, when pressed it executes a really fast pass, or the highly exagerated slam dunks trademark of the videogame.
Because the already mentioned non-existing fouls, the physic laws do not apply in this game, because it’s possible to see some virtual basketball player perform otherwise impossible slam dunks. It’s funny to see some players which in real life could not perform them, do it in this videogame. Also, when scoring 3 times in a row, the player enters an On Fire mode, which makes them score every shot to the basket, until other player scores.
Up until four human videoplayers can participate in a match, where one could control a virtual basketball player in the screen. When a team wins, those players remain in the game. It was very common that only one player used the videogame while the teammate was controlled by the AI. To avoid a videoplayer to stay forever in the machine, when a quarter finishes, credits had to be inserted to allow play the next quarter. Repeat until finish the match.
This was the reason, the videogame ask the player if he wants to enter initials and birthday to keep their scores. When finishing a match, a password is given to enter the next time the videoplayer enters the game. Starting with the weakest team, the videoplayer has to work the way facing every time stronger opponents. The first one is Dallas Mavericks, being the fearful Chicago Bulls the final one.