The word "boomshakalaka" will soon be reverberating through the game industry once again. Obviously, this is because the NBA Jam series is being resurrected by EA Sports and being released on the Nintendo Wii this coming fall.
I had a chance to get a hands-on preview with the upcoming hoops title behind closed doors at the EA Sports Season Opener at the Press Club in downtown San Francisco in March. But before I talk about the game in more detail, I simply have to say that, whether you prefer arcade or simulation sports titles, NBA Jam is just fun.
The game was a blast. I played the old-school two-on-two hoops title with my media peers from Official Xbox Magazine. The Lakers and Cavaliers were the two teams getting some run on the Nintendo Wii.
I played a full game with the Lakers while using both Pau Gasol and Kobe. The players had a different feel to them in terms of speed and skill sets. (I must have had over 10 blocks with Gasol on LeBron's high-flying dunk attempts -- apparently my thumbs still think it is 1993.)
The controls are similar to the ones you might remember from the old Genesis version of NBA Jam. You have your two face buttons, which are used for passes and crossovers, then a turbo button on the back trigger of the Nunchuk and lastly the added motion controls.
In the game, you shoot the ball by flicking the Wii remote like you would a normal jumper in real life. Players will jump into the air with one flick, and then you need to flick your wrists and complete the jump shot to get that good ball rotation.
In addition, even when you go in for the high-flying dunks, you want to flick the Wii remote while holding turbo so you can prepare to jump before throwing it down.
Beyond shooting, I was swatting people left and right with Pau by literally jumping and swatting the air in the room.
There is also a crossover and spin move in the game. You can cross up defenders and maneuver around steals and pushes from oncoming defenders with these movies. If you catch a guy with an especially good crossover, he will fall backwards on occasion.
After a high-rising dunk, the rims rattle and rock like they were being hit by a hurricane. However, I did not see any glass shatter -- perhaps that is reserved for the most powerful dunkers in the game. I hope to see some glass shatter in the final version.
The commentary will also take you back in time. It is funny to hear terms like "kaboom" and "he’s on fire" after a good 15 years of video games filled with some bland commentary.
Player models each have a variety of digitally scanned faces. These varying faces give the game a cartoon-like appeal that is still mixed with actual realism. The expressions are also greatly exaggerated and amusing to say the least.
Plus, giant pearly white smiles, looks of confusion, and jaw-clenching nose-grinding expressions all pop up during gameplay.
As you can see in the screenshots, the arenas are also well detailed -- all the way down to court-specific hardwood and custom candy paint. There is a nice gloss and shine to the courts that works well with the squeaks you hear during gameplay.
As far as game modes are concerned, EA Sports is planning for a classic campaign mode similar to the original NBA Jam. There will also be boss battles with NBA legends like Bird and Magic, and also a Remix Tour gameplay mode. But, for now, more details about those modes are still on the horizon.
This is a quick pick-up and play game that I had a great time with. Players had a bit of signature style to them that I am sure you all will appreciate. Look for more details in the coming weeks at Operation Sports.