NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, is a return to the video game franchise’s roots. Drawing from the things that made the original games so great and what EA should have done from the start with last years release.
I was so excited last year when EA released an updated version of one of my favorite games of all time. NBA JAM was released for the current generation on consoles about this time last year. Like an eager gamer, I rushed out to the store to pick up my own copy on release day and jammed it into my Playstation 3 (PS3) so fast that I barely realized that I was missing work to play it.
As you can tell I was pretty excited to play this game. I have owned a PS3 for some time and have a dozen or so games, but there are only two I play on a regular basis. ‘Top Gun‘, and the latest ‘Mortal Kombat‘, which is a remake of the same game with the same title from the 90s, that focused a lot of bringing back all the elements of the original ‘Mortal Komabat’ game that fans like. So, you might say I am picky about the games I play.
I played NBA JAM for all of two hours after I got it. Since than it has sat quietly in the plastic box I bought in on the shelf next to my TV with my other video games. This new NBA JAM wonderfully maintained the arcade look the game has always had since it was released in the 90s, but that is the only good thing I can say about that game. The rest of my hopes and dreams for this game came crashing down like a bricked shot at the NBA finals.
NBA JAM lacked just about everything that made the original games so much fun to play. Things like the ability to control whoever on your team has the ball, fouling people in mid air just so you can steal the ball from them and an ‘On Fire’ mode that made you next to invincible on the court.
The programmers at EA made the mistake of spending their time creating “Half Court” games. Building an A.I. to play against that would leave Deep Blue scratching his brain, and mother fucking boss battles.
Really? Boss Battles, EA? What the hell are you thinking? This is a basketball game you morons, not fucking ‘Super Mario Brothers’. And to think I played fifty bucks for this damn “game”.
For the next few weeks while the game sat back on my shelf I was checking the message boards of EA, filing my complaints along with those others who also were outraged that the game missed its mark by so damn much. I found myself hoping that EA would provide a beacon of hope to all the thousands of fans by releasing an apology. Then release updates to the game so that it would be playable. But soon those weeks turned into months, which turned into, well fuck, this thing is never going to get played again.
Than this year while I was at PAX Prime, hope shined down on me when I saw the smallest booth on the show floor displaying ‘NBA JAM On Fire Edition’. It would be released on October 4th 2011. I eagerly went up to the kid manning the booth and asked “So did EA fix all the fuck ups of last years release”. The kid, having memorized the appropriate response to this question earlier in the day, responded with “I was not aware of any things needed to be fixed from last year’s game sir, but this on fire edition coming out in October will have over one thousand gameplay improvements.”
I didn’t get a chance to grill the kid manning the booth any longer because PAX being what PAX is, I was late for a PAX talk. I had to hurry away and did not get a chance to revisit the booth before PAX ended. I did find myself thinking a lot about if I should get this updated NBA JAM game or not.
Well like a gullible child taking free candy from a guy in a windowless van, I picked up NBA JAM On Fire Edition as a digital download for fifteen bucks. So, this time if I get screwed over by the same gaming company it wont hurt as much. I hope.
NBA JAM On Fire Edition clames among its one thousand game play improvements:
- Stripped out all boss battles
- Removed Half-court games
- Swap or tag play that allows the player to swap control of who they are controlling on their team during game play
To me, all of these “gameplay improvements” could have been addressed with a simple update to the original game of last year. Then at least I would not have felt like I just handed fifty bucks to EA supporting a shitty game. But no. This whole video and AE’s stance has been ‘implementing game improvements” and not “oh we fucked up, we are so sorry. We are going to make this better, we promise”. I don’t know why they have such a hard time admitting they screwed this up. There is nothing wrong with admitting you screwed up. It shows the fans that you care and that you can learn from your mistakes. But no. That is not what is happening here. They are playing it off like the game was perfect and now they are making it better.
Well, I have now had some time to actually play NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and here is what I think.
This game is pretty damn good. Once you get used to the controls the game play feels a lot like how it used to be back when I had it on the SNES. Complete with full control of both players (albeit, it can be sluggish switching players on defense), fouling people in mid air, and a strong ‘On Fire’ mode.
I see myself playing this game solid for a few months and inviting friends over to play it with me even though there is an online component to the game. I am not disappointed in this release, but if EA ever wants to apologies for the last one I bought, I will be waiting.