After many years on hiatus and numerous false rumors, the king of the courts, NBA Jam, finally makes its triumphant return. With a new look, new controls, and ostensibly a new roster, NBA Jam is poised to make the biggest comeback of its lifetime. But is it too late for a retro title to reclaim a new audience in today's market?
Short answer: no. NBA Jam is just as great as it ever was, if not better. The artwork and presentation for NBA Jam is nothing short of exceptional. The 3D models play up the nostalgia factor, reminding us why we fell in love with a cartoonish basketball game in the first place; for the sheer ridiculousness of seeing the photo cut-outs of real life players imposed on gravity-defying super players. The blend of photo-accurate detail and silly, over-the-top animations creates a surreal experience that can't be explained until you play it. Make no mistake, this is NBA Jam through and through. While it isn't in HD on the Nintendo Wii, it still looks great and I challenge anyone to find anything wrong with the delightful visual style that makes NBA Jam so charming.
The soundtrack is much more hip-hop flavored this time around, which makes sense considering it was trying to compliment an NBA Elite sized hole in the holiday line-up. (For those that don't know, NBA Jam was supposed to be the fun party alternative on the Wii, while the 360 and PS3 were supposed to get a free downloadable voucher with their copies of the proper basketball simulator, NBA Elite. Well, Elite got put on hold and Jam is now coming out for each platform.)
All of the classic sounds that made the original arcade (and console) NBA Jam games memorable are present. The buzzers, power-ups, even the dunk sound effects bring me back to a time when I was fighting over an arcade cabinet trying to put my quarter down. Tim Kitzrow, the famous announcer, has even returned to lend his wonderful voice talent to the commentary and repeat such famous lines as "From down town!" or "Jams it in!" or "Oh my! He's on fire!" It is simply marvelous to know that so much care and effort was put into reclaiming and reliving the glory days of a weary franchise.