Published on July 9th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
NBA JAM: On Fire Edition Hands-on Impressions
Release Date: October 2011
Platform: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN)
Last year, NBA Jam brought us back to a simpler time. When over the top budgets and DLC were not detrimental to a games survival. This was a time where the NBA ruled and Jordan was king. Fast forward to the modern age where the NBA is still filled with underdog stories, but still hosting notorious players. With the NBA being as strong as ever, it’s still got enough razzle-dazzle to keep games like NBA Jam on fire.
The game itself has made lists and lists of smaller improvements in order to solidify the overall ‘JAM’ experience that we know. We sat down with Trey Smith, Creative Director for the series, to discuss all things JAM, and I don’t mean jelly. The On Fire Edition will see improvements on areas such as AI, which is the same AI that is used in the Fight Night series, five different player archetypes, down to the crowd silhouette animations in the foreground of the screen. If last years edition was heating up, this year they’re looking to blow smoke rings around its predecessor.
One of the most promising and respective thing a franchise can do to improve gameplay is simply to listen to its fans. This was one area where Trey emphasized not only the improvements, but the smaller aspects to the game that shaped its entirety. It was great to see the return of NBA Jam to the console, but with every game and franchise, there was room for improvement.
“I think, with the last version, our game was kind of chopped in half,” Trey said. “It was the classic 2-on-2 and then the Remix Mode. Which Remix was all the half court games and the boss battles and stuff. And people dug that, and we were proud of what we did. But really, what it came down to was that, people wanted that ‘meat and potatoes’ classic 2-on-2 authentic ‘Jam’ experience, and what that allowed us to do by pushing the Remix stuff off to the side, was really kind of, double-down and kind of focus on cleaning up and enhancing it.”
With the game being relocated to only Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles for the time being, there were however a few things that didn’t make it into the newest release. The prior year brought us a few new modes to the game that were never before seen, such as boss battles and variations of the campaign. While the secret teams are still a huge factor, and unlockables a must, the boss battles have been nixed, and JAM Bucks will take the place of beating the game multiple times in order to attain these unlockables and rewards of that matter.
“[T]weaking little things and there were a couple of little holes in the game, and I think we got away with it because we were being true to the original to a game that came out in 1993,” Trey said. “But this time, we brought it into the modern day. Hopefully when you played it, it felt smoother, it felt tighter, and more responsive.”
One thing that you will never see get chopped from the series is announcer Tim Kitzrow. He has once again lent his voice to the trash talkin’ and name callin’ that we have gone to know over the course of the game’s history. Sitting down and playing the game in its early build also allowed for a glimpse of some new phrases, some of which that will be sadly hitting the cutting room floor. Abrasive and offensive is surprising, which is hard to do this day and age not only for gamers, but for anyone. It was tough to hear it over the noise of the event, but it went something like to the effect of “Like a girl going on vacation, that one was all waxed off!” Surprise!
Although some of these not so family friendly phrases will be chopped from the game, there are some other cuts, swipes, and just down right dirty moves to add to your experience. Razzle-dazzle moves bring players to thoroughly enjoy their online experience. These moves emphasize the in your face aspect to the game. Whether its throwing the ball from behind your back and through your legs, or if it’s doing a hand stand and throwing up a two point shot with your feet, these are moves that will definitely cause some trash talkin’ or an angry DM or seven.
Other moves to be included are similar to taunts that we would see in other games. These are yet another way to anger your opponent, causing them to misguide their player leaving them open for a nice shove, or pump fake. While Trey was showing us the ropes on the new moves, my player at the time, Kobe Bryant, was caught off guard by a nice poke in the shoulder. Turning to him on the couch, the only words that came to mind were “What a jerk!” Only kidding, we laughed and he then began to tell us of how these smaller “pokes and prods” were introduced to give players yet another aspect and depth to the game.
Looking back on this past year, NBA Jam was one of the most memorable games played. Playing the the Wii version was hands down the most fun. Regardless of online play, or the HD graphics that were seen on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the Wii version brought fluid and fun controls. The other versions still brought on a great authentic, nostalgic feel. The NBA JAM: On Fire Edition looks to provide us with a sharper, more refined version of the game, which has already got a space ready for it on my HDD.
For anyone wondering if they can get into it without playing a basketball game before, it’s possible. If you don’t believe me, ask Ryan Taljonick from the PlayStation: The Official Magazine who helped me wipe the floor with some respective opponents after admitting that he’s not to keen on the b-ball scene in video games.