If you played video games in the mid-1990s, you probably played "NBA Jam." It was one of those games that seemed to be in every bowling alley, pizza parlor and rec room and, invariably, it was surrounded by a handful of friends screaming at one another. Boom-shaka-laka took on new meaning, and people were finally able to experience the magic of George Clinton performing a slam dunk over Bill Clinton.
There have been several attempts to revive the franchise over the years, and they've all been failures. The issue, it seems, is that developers have tried to bring modern gaming sensibilities into "NBA Jam," and that simply doesn't work. EA's new "NBA Jam" reboot, coming to the Wii later this year, is trying something else. According to the game's creative director, Trey Smith, "the number-one rule since day one was: Be true to 'Jam.' "
Upon seeing the game in action, it's clear EA has followed through on this goal. This new "NBA Jam" looks a heck of a lot like the game that came out in 1993, complete with 2-D player heads, 2-on-2 basketball, outlandish dunks and turbo meters. There's nothing that seems to be missing from the core "Jam" gameplay, and fans will undoubtedly feel right at home.
On staying faithful to the franchise, Smith left no stone unturned. "It's across the board," he said. "We had a checklist of over 35 things, with everything from graphics to players to secret characters to ball on fire to 'boom-shaka-laka.' The list goes on and on because it's such an iconic game and there are so many little pieces that when it's all brought together, that's what makes 'NBA Jam,' and we're making sure we tick every one of those boxes."
Thankfully, it's not just the visuals that feel like a throwback. Playing the game feels just like it did in the '90s, even though you're playing with Shaq and LeBron on the Cavs instead of Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. The simple pass-and-shoot controls, modified by the turbo button, allow you to slam, dish and block shots with relative ease. Some added motion controls on the Wii allow you to literally slam your controller down to activate a dunk, though classic fans can turn off this option for a more faithful experience.
Smith also mentioned that a lot of focus will be placed on the classic teams of the original "Jam." He knows that most of the fans of the game don't necessarily follow today's NBA, so expect throwback squads and veteran players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
And what about those unbelievable secret characters? Given Bill Clinton's appearance in the original "NBA Jam," we couldn't help but ask if we'll be seeing President Obama on the court. Smith could only reply with a chuckle, saying that he'll "talk to people and see what's going on with that."
With or without the sitting president on the court, it's clear "NBA Jam" should be one to watch for fans of the franchise.
For more on "NBA Jam" and other video game news, check out Multiplayer.MTV.com.