A Return To Roots; NBA JAM: On Fire Edition

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.

Mortal Kombat 9

Last Tuesday I downloaded the Mortal Kombat 9 demo for PS3. I was a fan of the first to Mortal Kombat fighting games, but since then it seemed with every of the game got further and further away from what made the game so popular when it first game out.

With Mortal Kombat 9, which is being called just Mortal Kombat, the people behind the game are finally going back to what made the game so popular when it originally came out. The over the top blood and violence.

The trailer above does not include actual game play but shows off the fact that Kratos from Gods of War is a playable character in the new game.

The demo comes with four playable characters. Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Mileena, and Sub-Zero. I have beaten the demo using all the characters. I have to say that this game really has restored my faith in the Mortal Kombat franchise. I would say this version of Mortal Kombat is one of my all time favorit fighting games second only to Dead or Alive.

I collected the fatality codes for the for playable characters below.

Scorpion – Forward, Down, Forward, Triangle

Johnny Cage – Forward, Forward, Back, Down, X

Mileena – Back, Forward, Back, Forward, Triangle

Sub-Zero – Back, Forward, Down, Forward, Circle

Mac Mini Media Center Project (Part 1)

My TV and DVDs Before Starting the Mac Mini Media Center Project

I own a lot of DVDs. We are talking nearly 500 at last count. It’s sick, I know. Sifting through them all to find the one movie I want to watch has become such a chore that I would rather just fire up my Playstation 3 (PS3) to access my Netflix account and stream something then dig for a DVD of a movie I actually want to watch. So, I have decided that the solution to my conundrum is to setup a Media Center PC. More specifically a Mac Mini media center attached to my T.V. with an interface that even my mother could use.


  • An uncluttered home theater.
  • A small computer hooked up to my T.V.
  • Access to all my media and the internet.
  • The ability to back up all my computers
  • A new storage solution for my physical media.
  • An interface so easy my mother can use it.


Like any project you should do research into it first. Which is what I did. With google as my guide I sought out other peoples experience with setting up a Mac Media Center. Here are a list of some sites I found that where helpful to me.

I also spoke with friends of mine who had done similar projects. It always helps to read, write, and talk to people about ideas you have. It helps flush out the details of what is trying to be accomplish.

All of these sites listed above where very helpful to me, but none where setup quite the way I wanted. Most of these talked about just using the Mac Mini or the Mac Mini with an external hard drive attached and honestly that probably is the solution for 90% of you out there. But I was looking for a setup with a little bit more free hard drive space for me to use. Particularly because I have several computers in my house and I want them all to be able to back up wirelessly to on location. I also enjoy editing home movies and having a place to store the massive video files I work with is important to me. I think I have come up with a solution that works as you will see.


One pressing question I had from the get go is; How much hard drive space am I going to need? 500 DVDs is a lot of movies and T.V. shows. So how can I get an idea of how much hard drive space I am going to need?

Most people building a Media Center PC are doing so to encode their DVDs onto a hard drive. If you where just to copy the DVD over to your hard drive your looking at something that takes up anywhere from 2 to 8 gigs of hard drive space. When you encode a DVD onto your hard drive you have the option of removing all the special features, menus, audio commentary, subtitles, and non-english audio tracks leaving you with just the movie. What this means is no more waiting through previews, FBI Warnings or other types of bullshit that is preventing you from watching the movie you want to watch. You just get the movie and your left with a much more manageable file size.

Handbrake Application Icon

One free peace of software I read about and that everyone pretty much agreed is the best DVD encoding tool is called HandBrake. Before dropping a single penny on my media center I could preform tests to make sure the video is going to look great and be a manageable file size. I downloaded Handbrake and picked a DVD off my shelf at random and encoded it. Using only HandBrake’s presets I found that encoding under the “High Profile” preset rendered out a 1.5 GB file. Playback of the DVD and the encoded movie showed hardly any noticeable difference. It certainly looked a lot better then any Netflix movie I had streamed in the past. If I take the 1.5 GB as an average and multiply that by 500 (the number of DVDs I own) The end result is 750 GB. A very manageable figure.

It’s a very manageable figure till you miss calculate TV shows like I did.

At the time of this post I have encoded several movies and TV shows using Handbrake. Something I over looked is that the average movie is anywhere from 1 and a half to 2 hours, give or take per DVD. Now lets take E.R. on DVD. The DVD for E.R. holds 4 episodes at about 1 hour each. You have 24 episodes a season and that is roughly 24 hours of video which ends up being a little under 1 gig an episode. It adds up! It was something I over looked when I did my initial estimation of how much hard drive space I would need. Don’t let that catch you off guard like it did me. Do the math right so you know how much hard drive space you are going to need to hold your DVD collection.

To Be Continued…

Reliving The Best Parts of 1986

I gotta do something here, I still can’t believe it. I gotta give you your dream shot! I’m gonna send you up against the best. You two characters are going to Top Gun.

My brother came home from fishing. He barely got inside and put his things down when he asked, “Did you get a new game?”

“Yeah! Two actually. I got Top Gun and Mortal Kombat II.”

“Rarely in life has anything cooler ever been said.”

How true his statement is. Top Gun is was on the best movies ever made. It was one of the best things to ever come out of 1986.  Growing up Top Gun was the movie to watch. Hell, it’s still the movie to watch. Especially when you don’t know what you want to watch. You can always toss in Top Gun and instantly feel good.

Earlier that day I head learned that a Top Gun video game was being released for download on the PlayStation 3. It was a high priority for me to try this game out when I got home from work. My brother walked in on me just as I had booted it up. Together we spent the next few hours, and then days, flying our way through the tutorials and starting our missions.

The game follows the original Top Gun movie pretty well. Several lines are reused from the movie throughout the entire game which does nothing but make my brother and I smile and remind us how cool the Top Gun movie is. From what I have read on-line the producers of this game got help from the original screenwriter of the movie to created fresh action at flight school and they added more combat against the Soviets over the Indian Ocean. This game is just all kinds of awesome! Having music from the original movie does nothing but make me believe I can pull off a 4G inverted dive.

My brother and I have been playing through the story mode together. One day I was walking out the door and Abe asked me “You want to play Top Gun?”

“No I can’t, I got to go”

“Can I play?”

“Yes, Just not story mode”

Abe fired up the PS3 and loaded Top Gun just as I was getting ready to leave.

“What is horde mode?” he asked.

“I don’t know”

Abe started up horde mode, the screen loaded and a voice came on and said “It’s just you, the sky, and an endless supply of enemies.”

“Alright!” he exclaimed, “I bet you wish you could stay.”

“Yeah I do. This sucks”