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NBA Showtime NBA on NBC
(DC) Review

Publisher: Midway
Release Date: Fall 1999

Background Info

DC Screeens(3)
In 1993 Bally-Midway released NBA Jam to the public via the arcade platform and from that time it was ported to just about every console that has existed since. NBA Jam rivaled Street Fighter 2 as one of the very first arcade games to let the winner stay on via the challenger's dime. This coupled with the fast and furious arcade style of gameplay NBA Jam presented shot the game straight to the top of the charts becoming one of the nation's top quarter munchers. After seven years and roughly 25 ports across every platform including PC, NBA Jam has changed its name to NBA Showtime.

Midway (being the first to port over arcade titles to the Dreamcast) felt a need to take advantage of Dreamcast's Naomi engine which can easily support the graphics and frame rate of Midways' arcade engine (the Model Three). Deciding to capitalize on the success of their arcade titles, it wasn't long after Hydro Thunder was ported over to the Naomi engine that Midway decided to release NBA Showtime to the Dreamcast owning public. Now with licensing from NBC and the NBA, Midway is able to bring us all the music and hype that comes along with a nationally televised game.

Presentation/Graphics : 84
Part of the reason this franchise has succeeded in the past, aside from its gameplay, was its presentation. Graphically, NBA Jam has always been a half step ahead of its competition and this year's version entitled NBA Showtime is no different. Although the two-on two cartoon style graphics can only go so far, and in today's era seem a bit outdated, the attention to detail is immense. The smooth look of the court and backgrounds coupled with the shine of the rim offer eye candy to those who witness the game being played.

The only area that the game suffers in terms of detail is its players. At the introduction screen when the players take the court there is a slight mechanical look to the design of the players. Each player is represented with a digitized face that bears an incredible likeness to his or her real-life counterpart, though the actual bodies of these players possess an uncanny resemblance to HE-MAN action figures. The players, even the most slim, are adorned with body parts that are more suited to a contestant in the Mister Universe competition than a participant in an NBA game. Once action is underway the mechanical look of the players subsides and the more appealing aspects of the game's graphics take precedence.

From opening intro and title screen to in-game action the game's graphical presentation is top notch. The frame rate is superb, as is the speed of play, with no sign whatsoever of slowdown. When in the air, the ball travels smoothly and reacts in a proper, albeit exaggerated, physical manner. This as well as the players' animation during jumps, blocked shots, and dunks is smooth as silk and is appealing to even the most critical gamers.

The actual look of the courts is superb and they include two fantasy courts as well as each NBA team's home court. The look and feel of both the street course and the jungle island course is both colorful and refreshing.

Presentation/Audio : 82
NBA Jam has always counted on its highly excitable commentary to get players going. Most will be happy to hear that the game's original announcer is still there calling the shots in the latest Jam style game, NBA Showtime. Though most would figure that there would be many more cliches and phrases spurted from the announcer's mouth, the fact remains that there are only a few more sayings, not quite satisfying the public's need for improvement. This being said, the NBA Jam loyalists will not be disappointed since there is still the original flare for dramatics in terms of both sound and voice-overs.

The ball bouncing off the rim, the sound of a steal, and the actual dribbling of the ball all come across clean and precise. The sound effects are very similar to past Jam titles though there is a new sense of flair within them due to the power of the 128-bit Dreamcast.

Interface/Options : 65
If there is an area that arcade ports typically fall short in it's in their playable options and actual game setup. NBA Showtime is no different in that in being ported from the arcade there was little time spent in creating extra modes of play other than the create a player mode, which is actually quite good.

At the start of the game there are three options: Start game, controller configure, and options. Controller configure, being exactly as it sounds, allows you to adjust the buttons on your gamepad. Game settings allow for adjustment of background music, speech volume, crowd volume, quarter length and difficulty level. Most will notice that there is no option here to toggle computer assistance as that is done with a code not offered in the game's manual (I will never understand why this is the case). There is also no option to turn off the replays, which can be very annoying. The final and most selected option will be to actually start the game.

Once underway you will notice the traditional initials entry screen with pin # so as to keep a record of your wins and losses. When creating a character you must use that character's initials and pin number in order to obtain more points for the purpose of maximizing your character's attributes. At the start of the created character's journey he or she will have a set amount of points to work with. These points can be distributed to various player attributes such as speed, dribbling, or dunking, as well as many other aspects of his or her game. Points will be awarded for winning games as well as properly answering the NBA trivia question that is put forth at the conclusion of each game. The more points you receive, the better your character's performance. These characters can be saved on the VMU and taken to a friend's house, making for quite an interesting competition when four players are involved.

A nice touch is the fact that Midway offers us tons of new faces to use when creating a character. Not only that but even team mascots, just about all of them, are available to use. Don't be surprised to see a horse, bear, or gorilla dunking on you in this slamfest. Also there is the ability to choose a hotspot, hide your turbo meter from other players, choose your court, uniform, or have a big head. You will have to decide on two of these special characteristics when creating your character.

Gameplay : 84
Smooth play and tight control are a trademark of Midway's Jam series. NBA Showtime offers nearly identical gameplay to all past versions. Showtime is very arcade-like in that when moving a character in one direction, you are able to stop on a dime and travel in the other direction. This style of movement dates all the way back to the first sports titles ever to appear on a console (the original one-on-one basketball for the Atari 2600 and the original four-on-four football for the Atari as well).

A few new touches have been added to NBA Showtime as well and they include a foul meter, free throws and double dunks. All of these aspects add an extra bit of fun factor to the game.

Traditionally in NBA Jam games, a player was able to foul an infinite number of times while never being penalized. In NBA Showtime a foul meter will keep track of your fouls. After five fouls, the opposing team will be given a single free throw attempt worth three points, OUCH! Once the free throw is attempted the foul meter is reset back to zero. The foul meter not only forces you to play legitimate defense at times but also adds a sense of strategy toward the end of a game. Saving up all five fouls for the last minute of play can be quite rewarding, as well as frustrating for your opponent!

There is also a new twist to dunking the ball. Now more than ever, players sky from the furthest reaches of the court only to do a triple 360 and bring it down for the slam. Not only are the heights more exaggerated, but you can easily hit a player for an alley-oop with a little practice. It is now possible to stand under the rim, turbo and fly high in the sky only to receive a pass from your teammate on your way back down to the rim. Not only this but if timed properly your teammate can follow you into the air after he passes the ball, and receive your pass right before you slam it home. He will then follow you to the rim and slam it home. This double ally-oop or double dunk can be quite effective as well as visually impressive.

There are also subtle differences in the games' feel in terms of stealing and blocking the ball. It seems more difficult to properly time a block than in past versions and when it comes to making a steal, more often than not you sill simply knock the opposing player on the floor rather then jar the ball loose. It can be a bit frustrating to fans of the series but newcomers won't be hampered a bit. The game, like always, is easy to pick up and play and has only a slight learning curve.

Replay Value : 70
As with the majority of arcade ports, NBA Showtime falls short in the replay department due to its limited options. After creating a player and maximizing his potential, beating all of the NBA teams and playing the computer over and over there is little reason to come back for more. This being said, with four players, the game's replay value shoots off the charts. I can imagine this being quite the perfect game for a college dorm or a house shared by friends.

It would be nice if Midway decided to implement a tournament mode and perhaps a season mode as well, in which several players could journey through a season together striving to make the playoffs; then, the game would be a bit more enticing in terms of replay value. As it stands now, only with four players will NBA Showtime warrant any sort of replay value, though keep in mind, WITH four players the game might possibly remain fun for an entire year.

Overall : 82
Rating this game on an overall scale was tough due to the fact that it can be very fun with four players and extremely bad with just one. We can safely assume that everyone knows what to expect from NBA Showtime and that there is no simulation style gameplay to be found here. Showtime offers us a high budgeted, well presented game that is nothing more or less than most would expect. When it comes right down to it the game hasn't changed much from its port over to the SNES. It's still just as fun and looks a lot better. Other than that there are very few differences. For this reason NBA Showtime may not be the best purchase unless you are a true NBA Jam fanatic or simply plan on playing with three friends the majority of the time. As far as four-player games go, this title is one of Dreamcast's best.

By: Jon Licata 2/7/00

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