NBA JAM / Midway / Sega Genesis

I don't like basketball. I hated being forced to play it in school, and I think it's incredibly tedious to watch on TV. NBA Jam seems to have been designed with people like me in mind. Not that basketball fans won't like it, but it simplifies the sport to basically two buttons - jump/shoot and smack/steal - takes away any complex rules, and boils the action down to 2-on-2.

In spite of not being a "sim" the game has an NBA team and player license, and the two major stars (as determined by Midway) from the time represent each NBA team (except Michael Jordan and Shaq for some reason.) You choose one to play as and the other is entirely computer controlled, but you can force them to pass at any time and they tend to play at least halfway competently. You play four quarters, but they are shortened to five fast-ticking minutes each. The only penalty that seems to be enforced is goaltending, but even that is taken away if a player becomes "on fire" by getting three baskets in a row without the opposition scoring.

The game naturally is high-scoring and focused on crazy over-the-top dunks. In spite of the quick quarters you'll likely have both teams well over 50 points by the end. The computer seems to adjust to your play level; if you get ten points up they seem to be the beneficiary of a lot of luck until the score pulls even, but if they get up ten points they seem to kinda give up on defense. Defense is also a matter of checking the hell out of the opposition like you're playing hockey.

The digitized voices were a major selling point but the phrases have become so cliched and hackneyed over time that it's really more of an annoyance now than anything else. The music is crap anyway, so feel free to just turn the sound off totally, I find it improves the experience. Other than that this is a fast, fun and well conceived game, good for even those who normally have no interest in basketball. Tons of goofy hidden characters adds to the fun too.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video