For NBA gamers, this is the biggest day in NBA Gaming history. And I'm not even kidding.
Today is the day that both NBA JAM and NBA 2K11 will be coming out. What makes these games significant? Well, for starters, this is the first iteration of NBA Jam to come out in 7 years. And, on top of that, it will be (or is supposed to be, at least) the first good Arcade-Styled NBA Game in about 11 years. The more resent editions of NBA Jam have had a hard time transitioning to 3D. In addition to that, the control scheme got more and more complicated, leading to a button-mashing, hardly controllable mess. There have been attempts at NBA Arcade games, from recent NBA Jams to NBA Hoopz to NBA Courtside to NBA Street to NBA Ballers. And while all of them have had varying degrees of success, it is unarguable that any of them have come even close to the popularity of the original NBA Jam and its' immediate successor, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the last truly good NBA Arcade game was NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, a early 3D arcade game that wowed everyone with simplistic controls, high flying dunks, and true to life NBC TV graphics.
But I digress. It's pretty clear that NBA Arcade gaming needs a shot in the arm. The most recent NBA Arcade game to come out (NBA Ballers: Phenom) was a ratings and sales flop, while the NBA Street Franchise was discontinued at the end of the last console generation. And there's no better way to return to the success of the early NBA arcade games than going back to it's roots. The new NBA Jam will be a spiritual successor to it's early 90s counterpart in every sense of the word. The controls will be simplistic, made especially so by the Wii Controller, which has few buttons. The faces will be digitized photographs of the actual players, rather than 3D models. Some of the original NBA JAM development team is involved with the game. The original voice announcer will be back, and there will be many unlockable celebrity characters to use in the game. (Here's hoping for the Fresh Prince!) Obviously, nothing about the game can be determined until people get their hands on it, but the hopes are high for this one. NBA Jam will be a Wii only release until Christmas, when it will be on the 360 and PS3 with online capabilities and less single-player features.
Below: Why NBA 2K11 is Significant, The Lack of Elite on the Market.
Also coming out today is a historic release in another sense. NBA 2K11 will feature who some consider to be the greatest player of all time....Michael Jordan. The last time Michael Jordan was featured in an NBA Game, he was an old shell of himself playing for the Wizards in the 2K and Live Titles in the early 2000s. To get the old, awesome version of Jordan when he played for the Bulls, you'd have to go all the way back to NBA Live 2000, where Jordan was featured as a player that you could use on a 90s NBA All-Star squad or in a 1 on 1 street mode. Obviously, today, the game feels clonky and outdated, but even back then the street mode left a lot to be desired, and you could only get so much enjoyment out of playing games as an All-Star squad. And if you want to step back into the 90s, you won't find any more Jordan. He wasn't on any of the NBA Lives, and wasn't on NBA Jam. In fact, the only game I remember as having Michael Jordan was a really bad one called, "Michael Jordan, Chaos in the Windy City". The game had nothing to do with basketball. In the other NBA games of the time, he would just appear as Roster Player, or not appear at all. This was due to Michael Jordan actually not being a part of the NBA players union, resulting in him charging huge fees in order for smaller time companies to use his likeness in the game. Due to NBA game publishers being much smaller at the time, it was financially unsound to shell out that amount of money.
Thus, just having his likeness in NBA 2K11 is huge. But, not only will you be able to play as Michael Jordan. You will also be able to play him through the greatest moments of his career, against authentically created opponents. So not only is this huge for Bulls fans, this is also huge for anybody who wants to play as Drexler's Trail Blazers, Stockton and Malone's Jazz, or even Bird's Celtics. And even for non-NBA History aficionados, this will be the only Sim NBA game released until 2011. Where is NBA Live/Elite? Well, EA Sports decided to give Live a complete revamping and turn it into NBA Elite for the 2011 edition. Unfortunately, the re-vamping took so much work that they didn't have time to test it out and get rid of all of the bugs. This led to the game being a mess, as evidenced by Andrew Bynum going into "Test Mode" in the middle of the demo. So, EA called a punt and decided to withhold releasing NBA Elite 11 until 2011, while offering those with NBA Live 10 a free roster update.
In the end, most every NBA fan will find themselves picking up at least one of these games. And, who knows? They could both be all that we expect them to be, and we will find ourselves in gaming bliss. Of course, they could both flop....but I don't even want to think about that.
Much of the information explained here was discovered on Screwattack.com. It's an excellent gaming site for those of you into that type of thing.
If you have any first thoughts about either game, feel free to post them in the comments below! Also be sure to vote in the poll!
Full reviews of both games are coming!