Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NBA Jam Review (Xbox 360)

Does EA’s resurrection of NBA Jam fill the void left by the cancellation of NBA Elite 11? Was EA Justified in taking a game that was supposed to ship free with Elite 11 and turning it into a $50 stand alone retail game? Does the old school game play hold up on today’s consoles? I’ll answer all these questions after the break.

I grew up on NBA Jam. The year was 1993, the console Sega Genesis I was just starting middle school, my friends and I would always head back to the house after school to throw down on some NBA Jam. For its time the game was brilliant. Simple controls and hours of fun yet repetitive game play. The games controls were simplistic enough that no one ever really dominated which is a good thing in a versus mode game. The “Career mode” in the original console version was very simple. Play each team and until you’ve beaten them all then. Game Over! So 17 years later I find a new version of NBA Jam in my console. A console generation where arcade basketball games have lost their appeal. When I heard EA had purchased the NBA Jam rights from the company formerly known as Midway I instantly had a smile on my face. I was filled with hopes for the best. When it arrived I got a true to its roots updated version of the arcade classic I’d loved in the past.

The game play is exactly what it should be NBA Jam at its purest, something that hadn’t been achieved in an arcade basketball game since NBA Hangtime on the N64. This is a wonderful game for nostalgia but I’m not sure how well it will be received by the younger crowd who have little knowledge NBA Jam ever existed. I’d like to tell you I feel a little burnt by the fact the game went from a free pack in to a full $50 retail title but, honestly, I would have bought NBA Elite 11 just to get my hands on Jam.

Jam features the classic career mode with a slight twist, Legend Teams. I was pretty excited when I got to challenge the late 90’s New York Knicks featuring John Starks and Patrick Ewing in game 6 of the career. These legend teams add 6 extra games to the length of the career but, the career still only consists of beating everyone once. There is also a remix career where it introduces different rule variations and power ups. Remix mode also features a 200 point achievement for defeating the Beastie Boys. This is just one of the surprise teams the game is full of them. I’ll let you find the rest of them.

Graphically the game looks pretty good though it still has a bit of an XBLA feel to it. It may just be the static images of the player’s faces that are bothering me. They remind me of the heads in the XBLA title Wits and Wagers. The sound is what you should expect from Jam, over the top catch phrases and yelling. Still it brings me back to a simpler time.
Multi player is where this game get’s is shine on. Especially in couch co-op though, you don’t lose much when playing over Xbox Live.


One thing they did do right in moving Jam from a digital title to retail is they raised the gamerscore from 200 to 1000 and, these ones could take you a little while. From what I can tell you need 6 play troughs of classic career and at least one of Remix mode. Add in 10 ranked wins and some luck achievements I’d say this one could take a while to finish.


Not a ton of depth here it will get repetitive pretty quickly. Steal the ball dunk the ball rinse and repeat. That being said it’s basketball if there was much more too it, it wouldn’t be basketball. Though it is as pure and true to its roots as NBA Jam can be I can’t help but to feel burnt by the transition from digital download to disc. The multiplayer is the strong point. If you don’t have some friends to play this with on a fairly regular basis it would be hard to justify as a purchase. I wish EA would have packed in free copies of NBA Elite 11 with Jam but, you can’t win them all. Rent it before you buy it.


  1. I think originally when NBA Jam was going to be a free pack in, it was only a limited version and not the final game that was exclusive at the time to the Wii. But now we get the full version :D

  2. Run on over to gamingforglory.blogspot.com

  3. Glad you did a review on this my best memories on any basketball games were NBA Jam and NBA Hangtime. Me and my friends played the hell out of them games. I can't bring myself to pay 50 for it though. Booomshakalaka!!!