“NBA Jam” brings back so many memories. In 1993, when video gaming was much more casual and console hardware was more limiting, “NBA Jam” fit right in. Fast-forward 17 years and EA Canada is picking up where Midway went bankrupt in 2009 and attempting to extend the franchise — a similar but not especially successful attempt was also made in 2003. It seems, though, that EA missed the ferry to contemporary gaming and produced this new “Jam” title from Midway’s island in the past.

“NBA Jam”

Playstion 3, Wii, Xbox 360
EA Sports

The main selling point of the game is the retention of its roots. And while this evokes nostalgia, how much can a game be true to its origins before it becomes redundant? All the humorous announcements from the original are included (“Boomshakalaka,” etc.), but is this really what EA should focus on? This commentary is sure to inspire a good laugh for the first few games, but after a while it seems like the staff at EA was just too lazy to find new ideas. Humor, especially meta-humor, can be a great attribute of video games, but the jokes in “Jam” quickly dissolve into self-parody.

The graphics are also very unimpressive, furthering the self-deprecation of this title. Each basketball player has a digitally rendered 2-D cutout of the real player’s face, making each of them look like celebrities in “South Park,” and yes, it gets old really fast. EA may again squeeze a few laughs out of gamers, but soon the realization that you have to look at these stupid faces every single game takes over and players feel duped. The more you have to look at these faces, the more they begin to resemble the programmers at EA who forced foolish gamers into staring at them.

Big-head mode compounds those problems, and the other extra additions to “Jam” don’t do much to help the matter. “Break the backboard” mode is basically a normal game, except it requires a dunk to win, and the others are equally insignificant. Thank goodness for the inclusion of online play, though, which is a necessity for the lonely gamers out there.

The controls are easy to learn, and they only take a little while to master. Flick up on the control stick, and at the peak of the jump, flick down on the control stick. If it’s timed right, it will swish. “Steal” is a flick to either the left or the right of the control stick, and a shove is performed with the same controls as a steal, but with turbo selected. The simplicity is nice, but after about an hour, the controls are mastered and there isn’t much room for improvement.

The throwback to simplicity isn’t a problem in itself, but that doesn’t mean EA should remake a Genesis game on the PS3 without opening it up a little bit. Resorting to some new controls and a couple new features does not meet the standards of a next-generation release. “NBA Jam” hardly brings anything new to the table and, though there are a few tasty morsels, the meat EA invites you to dine on is just 17-year-old gristle.

This isn’t “FIFA” and it does not deserve the status of a fleshed-out sports game. “Sonic” and “Street Fighter” revamps have been released on the Playstation Network at affordable prices, but EA goes and puts its “Jam” remake on Blu-ray at full price. This could have been a good downloadable title; a casual game here and there is a lot of fun, especially with a partner. But if you have a Genesis or a Nintendo 64, the old “Jams” will satisfy the desire for a little casual competition. And if you decide to buy this game, make sure you look up the codes to unlock the Democrats and Republicans. It’ll make the experience that much more enjoyable.

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