Midway is one of those third-party publishers that will put every game on every platform possible. As such, NBA Showtime, the company's latest arcade basketball game, is coming to the Dreamcast, the Nintendo 64, the PlayStation, and, yes, the Game Boy. The PlayStation version manages to feature most of the options and gameplay of the arcade version, but the sound and graphics have taken a rather large hit.
NBA Showtime is essentially the latest iteration of the arcade basketball classic, NBA Jam. The most obvious upgrade from Jam to Showtime is graphical. The game is now in full 3D, as opposed to NBA Jam's 2D looks. The arcade version of Showtime featured extremely nice player models. The player heads looked outstanding. While the arcade version had players that looked real (to the point of being downright frightening at times), the PlayStation just can't push the required number of polygons to deliver that arcade look. As such, the characters look blocky, the crowd doesn't move, the ball leaves an ugly motion trail. But graphical tweaks have been made so that the game runs at a playable speed.
Unlike Jam, Showtime actually calls fouls. After one human player (computer players are allowed to be as nasty as they want to be) commits five fouls in one quarter, a player from the opposing team is sent to the line for a free throw, worth three points. Now, at first, the concept of fouls in a no-rules arcade basketball game may seem like a horrible idea, but it actually balances the game out fairly well and keeps it from degenerating into huge shove fests. The game features a lot of speech, including the calling out of every player name.
The gameplay is vintage NBA Jam. It's two-on-two basketball at its finest, complete with huge dunks, alley-oops, shoves, swats, and lots and lots of goaltending. The ball never goes out of bounds, and aside from goaltending and the occasional foul call, the only other rule is the shot clock. You've got a turbo button, a pass/steal button, and a shoot/jump button at your disposal. You'll control the same player throughout the game, so if you don't have a human teammate, you'll have to issue commands to your teammate when he's carrying the ball. You can call for a pass or command the computer player to shoot the ball. Double tapping turbo executes a quick evasive spin or dodge move that you can use to get past pesky defenders.
The game features a create-a-player mode, which lets you pick a head for your player, as well as customize several stats, such as height, weight, dunking ability, and power. You can pick a jersey number and what name the announcer will call you by. As you win games with a created player, you'll earn new points to distribute in the various stat categories.
Aside from the aforementioned gameplay bugs, the game controls reasonably well. You use the analog controller to simulate the arcade game's 49-way joysticks. Because the player models look a little funky, it's occasionally hard to tell which way you're pointed when all four players crowd together. This makes accurate shoves and steals tough.
It's not perfect, but NBA Showtime is still a fun four-player game, and it's worlds better than any other arcade basketball game on the PlayStation. Give it a three-day rental and see if you're left hungry for more.