NBA Jam First Look

This remake of an arcade classic is proof that time travel doesn't always have to be frightening.

Nostalgia, wrapped in loving memories, covered in a layer of wistful longing. Few sports games can inspire those types of emotions in people, but the original NBA Jam certainly makes the list. Its dead-simple controls and bombastic presentation made it a fan favorite back when the arcade version was released in 1993, and subsequent releases on home consoles all but solidified its place as one of the most iconic sports games of all time. Now that EA has announced it has both acquired the rights to the franchise and tasked its Burnaby, BC, studio with developing a new version for the Wii, the question on everyone's mind is what exactly a revisited NBA Jam will feel like in 2010.

Familiar in a good way--that's how we'd describe it after having played about four full games at a recent EA Sports event. It was only a few seconds after tip-off in a game pitting the Lakers against the Cavaliers that we had one of those riding-a-bicycle moments, that feeling that we were instantly back in the world of NBA Jam. The biggest reason for this is that EA Canada has preserved the simplicity of the controls: Hold Z for turbo, hit A to pass, and flick the remote up in the air to shoot, dunk, block, or do anything that requires jumping into the air. And, of course, there's everyone's favorite: the shove. You can rest easy knowing that violently pushing people to the ground is just as easy--and funny--as ever.

But it's not all the same, because EA Canada has layered in a few new abilities over that core control scheme. Holding Z and pressing B will do an ankle-breaker crossover, holding B after grabbing a rebound will throw a flurry of elbows, and holding C and flicking the remote will perform a pump fake. However, all you really need to win are those core run-pass-shoot controls--it seems like these new moves have been layered in as optional abilities to add some style and variety to your game. Moreover, there are also some new features that are so obvious that you'd think they were there all along, like the ability to pass from the ground after having been knocked over and a difference in movement between acrobatic 2-guards and lumbering centers.

The area where the new Jam feels, well, newest is in the art style. Rather than rendering characters with 2D sprites or 3D models, every frame of facial animation for the players is taken from a live game photo. So when you see Pau Gasol's sweaty caveman beard or his awkward mid-dunk grimace, you know those images were taken from real game shots. The result is a game that has a very charming homemade collage look to it. Beyond that, the lovably ridiculous announcer is back, with plenty of new material and nods to old catchphrases like "boom-shaka-laka" and "from downtown!"

He’s heating up!

All told, we enjoyed our trip down memory lane with NBA Jam. The combination of new and old definitely has a balance that's more heavily weighted on the "old" side, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The biggest flaw we could find in the game is its format: a retro experience like this seems tailor-made for the downloadable game space, but NBA Jam is retail-only. We'll see if EA reveals any more release plans further down the road, but in the meantime you can expect NBA Jam to arrive for the Wii later this year.

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Discussion

73 comments
wiifan001
wiifan001

The Wii. That's right, the Wii. The developers made the correct decision. It doesn't matter the outcome of the other consoles, and it's on the Wii. It's the best decision, the correct decision.

Shub-Niggurath
Shub-Niggurath

Gotta give this an enthusiastic thumbs up. I used to play the hell outta the original NBA Jam when it was released on the SNES. I hope they add some more of the old stuff like On Fire and the cheat codes like Big Head, always on fire, and secret characters to be unlocked.

KaifeiRed
KaifeiRed

This is gonna be sweet. Wii exclusive? I can see this ending with thousands of POed Playstation and Xbox owners....I pity them.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

looks really cool. love oldskool nba jam.

tremor33
tremor33

@ rkane34 I agree. I will call foul if this new version doesn't have Obama hidden in it

rkane34
rkane34

Another reason NBA Jam was awesome was all the hidden characters, and the "cheats".... big head. classic.

jeuri69
jeuri69

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

lozvil
lozvil

I own all systems, so I don't really have to worry, but I would say they're just so dumb if they'll only release this for Wii. They could make more money if they'll make it multi-system...

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

nice to see it return, but i am more of a arcade blitz fan, i don't like the recent blitz games... i know blitz is a midway game, but it's in the same style...

RGDT021
RGDT021

Don't they realize that most of the people who played this way back in the day did so in something called an "Arcade". And that these people have now grown up (own a PS3/XBOX)... making this a Wii exclusive is moronic.

Backlash24
Backlash24

Wish they put it on PSN ... looks great!

Drummersteve
Drummersteve

Why is this only on Wii? No PSN of Live? What are they thinking?

InfinityMugen
InfinityMugen

lol. I thought Wii had no games but apparently people get all hot and bothered when they cant play a Wii title on their console of choice.

slyfox_28
slyfox_28

Some of you people on here really need to do your research before you make unfounded comments. I've known about this game for months now and wiimote and nunchuck option is just that...an option. You're still able to use classic controller and I think GC controller too. Think of it as a test run on the wii due to it's install base and nostalgia factor and if somewhat successful, we'll probably also see it on other platforms. Bottom line: Stop the Hate.

mitsmirage
mitsmirage

Can't wait, I loved NBA Hangtime for Nintendo 64, one of the best game on the N64.

buft
buft

we need other versions on the other consoles , one of my favourite games of all time for pure pick up and play action. an XBLA release would be great

Petercairns
Petercairns

Come ON!!....where's PSN and XBLA versions..??

x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

Retail-only? WTF EA? This is obviously more suited to a WiiWare release. It better have online multi-player, too.

shaunn191
shaunn191

NBA hang time N64 , still rocks, but motion controls to shoot il probably pass, unless its released on the ps3

Boogieman808
Boogieman808

The game so fare looks cool but there's been one thing that hasn't been nailed and that is the Shattering of the backboard. I know that glass back boards are no longer in pro basket ball "Shaq Proof" but that was the icing on the cake . There was nothing more satisfying than doing a front flip fire cannon ball in the forth quarter on and leaving the opposing team on there backs . Without that , every NBA JAM game has fell short and EA will too if a shattered backboard is not included .

fleetmenace
fleetmenace

only 3 buttons are needed to play the game so why is the nunchuck used? motion controls arent needed or wanted in the game so why put them in? just the game is on wii does not mean you have to tack on motion controls. all you need is to hold the wiimote sideways and use the dpad to move, b is turbo. 1 is to shoot, and 2 is to pass. perfect control scheme

maaly81
maaly81

tell me why this looks better than the last ten years of live?

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

Ummm I take it you didn't realize this game had been announced for months, darthplush?

DarthPlush
DarthPlush

Wow... there really are some gullible people out there :) Loved the original NBA Jam though!

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

motion controls to shoot the ball? LOL APRIL FOOLS!!! seriously though if that's the only way to shoot than screw this game AND EA

IAPrino
IAPrino

Please don't bag on the Wii. If you don't like it, that is fine. But just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it is not any good.

IAPrino
IAPrino

This is great! How can you not play this and smile like an 8yr old on Christmas morning? I can't wait for this!

ProggleRock
ProggleRock

They'll definitely come out with 360 and PS3 versions later on. EA isn't that dumb.

nick_manthe
nick_manthe

I thought this was an april fools joke when i first saw this

ahpuck
ahpuck

For once i'm jealous of Wii owners. NBA Jam was a riot back in the day. hope they don't mess it up for you Wii players, enjoy.

Anime_Fan1986
Anime_Fan1986

@JP1620: ok, i didn't hear about it for some reason until today which is why i was little skeptical. I'm looking forward to this. I loved NBA Jam back in the day.

RGDT021
RGDT021

Not bringing this to proper gaming systems (and by proper I mean good... and by good I mean PS/XB) would be a crime to humanity!

JOKER677
JOKER677

OH MY HE'S ON FIRE they need to remake HANGTIME too where you could do double dunks and get the team on fire.

AirBizkit89
AirBizkit89

i wonder if they will have bill clinton again ha!

elozl
elozl

brings back memories of the SNES! Wii's on fire!!

BigDaveyDogz
BigDaveyDogz

I will wait patiently for it to come out on the 360.

JP1620
JP1620

Anime_Fan1986 its legit, this game was announce a few months ago and screenshots have been posted prior to today. as for the game it looks like a ton of fun and looks to be following the formula that made the originals so great.

Anime_Fan1986
Anime_Fan1986

I love nba jam but im hesitant to be excited about this until i find out its not an april fools joke lol

Xions-Fursy
Xions-Fursy

I thought they we're making NBA Jam for XBL and PSN?

gamecubepad
gamecubepad

Loved NBA Jam as a kid. It's easily one of the best sports games ever created. I remember my bro and I playing co-op and going undefeated for some ludicrous amount of games, like over 100, and then getting beat by the Suns on a cheap end of the game shot. Good times.

moyetee2
moyetee2

just wii that sucks but wat can i say i own one but they should have one 4 xbox 360 & ps3 for better online play