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NBA Jam '99

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Reviewed by Raymond Almeda If you're a hard-core basketball fan, you are probably experiencing some pretty wicked withdrawal symptoms right now. With the NBA just now working out its differences, the only "b-ball" action lately has been on your favorite gaming console. Not to worry, since Acclaim has faithfully dished up some of the finest basketball action this side of the windy city in NBA Jam '99. Don't be deceived by the fact that this game is titled "NBA Jam." It's nothing like its high flying, rim rocking, "he's on fire" predecessors. For this year's Jam installment, Acclaim has taken the series where it has never been before, that is, into the world of simulations. NBA Jam '99 offers all the features of a traditional sports sim, offering a franchise mode, a season mode, full season stats, a three point contest, trades, the NBA draft, and full control over your team's playbook and roster. Who does Acclaim they think they are, EA Sports? While NBA Jam '99 does offer a "Jam Mode," it simply is not the main attraction to NBA Jam '99. NBA Jam's past life tries to re-incarnate in a Five-on-Five form, with some spectacular (read: unrealistic) dunks and no- holds-barred fouling. It simply wasn't meant to be. "Jam Mode" is completely overshadowed by the new simulation modes. The new simulation features, especially the franchise mode, are done surprisingly well, with commendable attention paid to detail. For example, in most sports games, if you tried to trade for, say, Kobe Bryant, the LA Lakers' AI would say no way. In most games that would be the end of it. Not in NBA Jam '99, however. NBA Jam '99 offers you the option of trading your draft picks, and something called "trade points" to make your offer more appealing. Therefore it is easy to build a dominating team. The problem with getting a bunch of players at high prices is that when those players start to get old their trade value drops. You could end up with a team full of has-beens down the road! NBA Jam's simulation gameplay certainly make you think. NBA Jam 99's graphics are beautiful, with full polygonal players, glorious backgrounds, and all of the official arenas. The game's framerate is certainly acceptable, with slowdown only occurring when one of the players goes into one of the many dunk animations. This may, in fact, be a built in "slow motion" feature, but if it is then there really should be a way to turn it off. At any rate, the slowdown does not get in the way of gameplay, so it isn't really that noticeable. Speaking of player animations, this game has plenty of them, although they aren't as spectacular as the dunks in past NBA Jam's. They do go along perfectly with the "new" NBA Jam, however, so the old dunks aren't even missed! These realistic dunks will have you leaping off your couch screaming! The audio in NBA Jam '99 may be the most impressive (and hilarious) sports commentary ever to grace the N64. Featuring TNT's Kevin Harlan and NBC's Bill Walton, NBA Jam's commentary will knock you out of your chair, and then have you rolling on the floor laughing. The sheer amount of audio in this game is impressive enough, but the way it's done is even more impressive. My personal favorite quote is, "He's on fire! He's gone mad, He's...He's...He's got mad cow disease!" Bill and Kevin are hardly ever behind the action, because Acclaim used some pretty impressive "Improv" routines to keep the guys up to speed. For example, let's say Shaq starts to dunk the ball. Kevin Harlan will immediately start with, "The big guy·" If Shaq just happens to finish his dunk; Kevin will finish with "throws one down." (Or some other snappy quote). In the unlikely event that Shaq gets blocked however, Kevin would finish with, "sends it into the crowd." Pretty innovative stuff! Although NBA Jam '99 is great, it does have some nagging flaws. One is a "feature" that is built into the game. Whenever your computer controlled opponent sets up to shoot a three pointer, he's gonna drain it if no one leaps in his face. Even if your guy is standing right in front of him, if he doesn't jump the guy is gonna make that "J." Doesn't sound that bad? Well, it wouldn't be except for the fact that your computer-controlled teammates wouldn't jump if there were a lit match up their butt! So, unless you change control to the player guarding the man about to shoot the three-pointer and jump in his face, it's going in. No questions asked. Needless to say, this gets pretty dang annoying! Still, this is just a minor flaw. On the other hand, the other nagging problem is not so minor. The other nagging flaw is the game's tendency to lockup. There is no excuse for this. With video game companies making billions of dollars selling us entertainment, the damn games should at least work right. Instead the damn game locks up every other game one plays. With Turok 2: Seeds of Evil experiencing the same problems, this casts a dark shadow on Acclaim, one that it must do its best to erase. I have heard talk about faulty RAM Expansion Paks, but that excuse is not gonna fly with NBA Jam '99, as this game doesn't use the Expansion Pak. This is a big, dirty mark on an otherwise great game. Since there is some question about whether the game or the RAM expansion causes the lockup, this flaw did not profoundly affect NBA Jam 99's ANT rating. However, we have incorporated it into the overall score. NBA Jam '99 is a winner, despite its flaws. I can personally guarantee that you will have fun playing this game. With the NBA Jam franchise going simulation, other gaming companies are going to have to double their efforts to compete! NBA Jam '99 has definitely established itself as a front runner for best N64 basketball sim of 1999, and from the looks of things it's gonna be hard for any other company to crank out a game that tops it. Unless of course, they make one that doesn't crash every other game.

Overall 8.75 out of 10

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