Publisher: Midway (1996)
In case you ever wondered whatever happened to the old NBA Jam, it apparently degenerated into a mess called NBA Hang Time. The box description sounds good, promising five-man rosters, new moves, create-a-player, and codes galore. Sure enough, you get the same arcade-style, turbo-charged, above-the-rim brand of arcade basketball. As in NBA Jam, chaos and razzle-dazzle reign supreme. Expect plenty of acrobatic slam-dunks but don't expect any foul calls. New moves include an alley-oop, a spin move, and a very unnecessary "double dunk". Following on the heels of a great-looking game like NBA Jam, who would have suspected NBA Hang Time would suffer from such shoddy
graphics!? The players are poorly proportioned and their heads look stretched out! All players look the same size, and that's no good because you usually want your small guard to take the three-point shots and have your big guy guard the rim. Worse yet, players suffer from unsightly pixelation, especially when crowded together. At times it's hard to tell if the ball passed through the net, and I've witnessed shots counted as threes that were clearly inside the arc. The player pictures only bear a passing resemblance to the actual players. That's too bad because Hang Time contains a lot of old favorites like Tim Hardaway, Dennis Rodman, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, and Vlade Divac. The audio is limited to generic beats and a repetitive commentator. Even the controls
are hard to get used to! When playing with the CPU, you only control one of your two players (no swap mode). I guess the lone highlight of the game is the rooftop court which includes a fantastic night time city skyline. Sadly, you need to enter a code
to enable that. Apparently Hang Time was released when "secret codes" were all the rage. I really wish the developers had focused their attention on the game
instead! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1993)
When my friend Eric and I saw the first screen shots of NBA Jam in a magazine back in 1993, we thought it was the dumbest game ever. The players were soaring ten feet over the rim and performing preposterous slam-dunks. After reading several enthusiastic reviews however, I broke down and bought the game anyway. That turned out to be a major milestone in my game-playing career, because NBA Jam quickly became the premiere sports game of its time. On the very first day I bought this my friends Eric and Tuan played it for six hours straight
. This SNES version is an impressive translation of the popular arcade game, with the same crisp graphics, fluid animation, responsive controls, catchy music, and clear sound effects. Jam offered a degree of speed and non-stop action you didn't often see in sports games of the time. At its core, NBA Jam is a two-on-two dunk-fest with no rules. On offense you can shoot, throw elbows to keep defenders at bay, execute bullet passes. and easily perform death-defying dunks. On defense you can steal and block, but the gameplay definitely favors the offense. It's so easy to score that games tend to be back-and-forth affairs, although executing a key steal or block can really effectively turn the tide. One effective maneuver is to fake a jumper to draw in the defense, and then pass the ball to the open man under the basket at the last second. Each player has a certain amount of "turbo power" that adds speed and enhances the dunks. Players that sink three shots in a row become "on fire" and are nearly unstoppable until the opposing team scores again. NBA Jam does have a few minor flaws. The turbo is so plentiful that you can practically use it during the entire game, and blocking shots is nearly impossible. Non-dunking players such as John Stockton can slam, destroying what little realism there is. Lastly, the computer has the annoying habit of making full court, last second shots at the end of each half. Two marquee players represent each NBA team, and since the game was made during NBA's "golden age", you get many all-time greats like David Robinson, Karl Malone, Scotty Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and Clyde Drexler (sorry, no Michael Jordan). Records are saved using a password system. NBA Jam enjoyed a string of sequels, and its frantic, smash-mouth style of play singlehandedly created a new genre of "extreme" sports games. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
Capitalizing on the unbridled success of the first NBA Jam, Acclaim's Tournament Edition retains the fast-paced gameplay of the original while spicing things up with interesting new options. Each team now has three players to choose from instead of two, and you can substitute between quarters. The gameplay places more emphasis on defense, so you can expect to see more steals, blocked shots, and "boings" off the rim. The expanded options menu lets you customize more aspects of the game, as well as enabling power-ups and "hot spots" on the floor that are worth extra points. The new "juice mode" speeds up the action and sends things into overdrive. But the most valuable new addition is the inclusion of a much-need four-player mode. Statistics are now saved via battery backup instead of a long password. NBA Jam Tournament Edition retains the magic of the original game but offers more options, more unpredictability, and more fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
The NBA Live series got its start on the Genesis, but the SNES edition of NBA Live 96 is clearly better, thanks to sharper graphics and clear sound effects. In addition, holding in the shoulder buttons to initiate turbo is much more convenient than the awkward Genesis controller scheme. In terms of gameplay, NBA Live 96 offers nonstop action and realistic gameplay. It's a huge
step up from NBA Showdown. With the five-player multitap, you and four friends can even control an entire team! The only thing I don't like about the game are its terribly pixelated hardwood floors. Otherwise NBA Live 96 is a slam dunk. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
NBA Showdown is a step up from Bulls vs. Blazers (EA's previous basketball game), with smooth graphics and more realistic gameplay. Unfortunately, it still uses the same slow
engine, which bogs down the action. With no turbo button, the pace is slow and deliberate with no possibility for fast breaks. There are less unstoppable dunks, and it's more difficult to penetrate on the dribble. On a positive note, the court looks terrific, and I love how the coaches pace back and forth in front of their benches on the sidelines. The crowd sounds are muffled, but occasionally a fan will yell like "put it up!". Showdown is interesting to look back on, but this basketball series has seen better days. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
This one took me by surprise. The first time I laid eyes on its rotating court and choppy graphics, I thought for sure it would be a dog, but the more I played, the more I appreciated the game. NCAA Basketball features all the big-name college teams, but no actual players. Its scaling, rotating courts provide a good view of the action, but it doesn't allow for a sideline or a crowd, so the court appears to be floating in space. The players scale nicely, but sometimes become pixelated and hard to tell apart. The camera follows the ball closely, making three point bombs look awesome. Simple controls make it easy to pass, steal, and shoot. Unfortunately, there's no turbo button, and you can't pass on the run, killing any fast break opportunities. Special low-post moves and thundering dunks bring a feeling of satisfaction, and I love how the players automatically crash the boards. The game is well balanced and the CPU provides a worthy challenge. Occasionally its non-aggressive style can lull you into a false sense of security just before it finds an open man under the hoop. NCAA Basketball's sound effects are sparse, limited to marching band music and the occasional referee call like "Foul on point guard!" It's not realistic like NBA Live or flashy like NBA Jam, but if you're looking for college hoops on your SNES, this isn't half bad. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
NCAA Final Four Basketball
Publisher: Mindscape (1995)
This is the weirdest [expletive] basketball game I've ever played. I was willing to give NCAA Final Four Basketball the benefit of the doubt. I mean, there's something to be said for taking a fresh, new approach. In terms of graphics, this is a good-looking game. The players are very small but their animation is silky smooth
. The court is looks expansive with its colorful crowd and scorers' table, but where are the benches? The main problem with NCAA Final Four is that it's too hard to play! The control scheme is bizarre. Why would you assign turbo to B when you have two shoulder buttons to work with? You're supposed to press B and A to dunk, but I couldn't get that to work. Likewise for the overhead pass (B+Y) and hands up (B+Y). Part of the problem is that the controls are so unresponsive. You'll hold the shoot button to execute a jump shot, and I swear it'll be two seconds before your player even reacts. I do kind of like the passing controls, where you point to a receiver and an icon appears over their head. Unfortunately the passes travel so slowly that by the time the ball gets there the player has already moved on. The action unfolds in slow motion except for short bursts when the game inexplicably moves faster. The most impressive aspect of the game is the foul shooting. The amazing over-the-shoulder graphics really put you in the action, but the meter moves so fast that making shots feels like a matter of luck. NCAA Final Four is a marginal game, but if you're a basketball fan this is definitely something different. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
When you hear people discuss the classic NHL hockey games of the past, they're probably talking specifically about NHL '94. If not they should
be. The series really hit its stride with NHL '94, offering perfectly-balanced arcade-style hockey action. That opening theme song gets you totally pumped (dant da-nant da-ant...
)! The match-up screen features Ron Barr at a desk (with a little EA mug) and digitized photos of player match-ups. Extra bells and whistles like this give the game personality, something notably absent in modern NHL titles. The playability of NHL '94 is unrivaled thanks to its pinpoint controls. The new one-timer move makes all the difference in the world. Few things in life are as satisfying as executing a perfect centering pass to a teammate who slaps the puck into the net. NHL '94 addresses all of the shortcomings that plagued NHLPA Hockey '93
(SNES, 1992). The framerate is smoother, the controls are crisp, and the audio is clear. Ferocious body checks knock guys head-over-heels, and sometimes send them flying into the bench! The graphics are clean and so razor sharp you may notice little details you couldn't make out on the Genesis. The audio is a bit understated at times, to the point where you can literally hear a puck
drop. The goalie looks awesome and I love how he'll cover up the puck if a member of the other team is nearby. NHL '94 is a masterpiece. I lean slightly towards the Genesis version (it's a bit more fluid), but this edition is still pretty sensational. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
After producing what is arguably the greatest hockey game of all time, EA Sports seemed to lose their way. NHL 95 is more uptempo but lacks the realism and playability of its predecessor. On one hand I want to give the developers credit for putting a lot of effort into this and not settling for updated rosters. The rink seems larger, the ice is shinier, and you can knock the goals off their moors. The players are rendered in a different style than last year, but I wouldn't say they look any better. The packaging boasts of faster gameplay, and that's an understatement. NHL 95 is turbo-charged!
I like how hard you can fire the puck at the goal, but it's really hard to move the puck up the ice. Completing passes is like pulling teeth, and you can pretty much forget about orchestrating one-timers. The contests are so random and haphazard, you sometimes lose track of the puck!
When players are knocked out on the ice they see "stars", but this is far less satisfying than watching their heads bleed as in NHLPA Hockey '93
(Genesis, 1992). Some of the sound effects leave much to be desired. When you check an opponent it sounds like they are shouting "boo!" When bodies collide, all you hear is boo boo boo!
The game does offer a battery backed-up full-season mode, along with the ability to trade players. I'll give NHL 95 credit for pushing the envelope, but in this case tinkering with a winning formula had mostly negative consequences. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults 6+
After the ill-advised debacle that was NHL '95
(SNES, 1994), NHL '96 tried to get the series back on track. The pacing is still fast and furious, but at least there's some semblance of control. When you fire up the cartridge you're greeted with that annoying "Yall' Ready For This" song. I wonder how much money EA spent to license that? The biggest selling point for NHL '96 is probably its new moves assigned to the shoulder buttons. Now you can stop on a dime, perform a nifty "spin-o-rama" maneuver, or lay down to block a shot on defense. These can be useful - if you can remember you have them! I rarely do. The new fighting system looks pretty cool until the winner starts jumping up and down like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum. NHL 96's player models are much improved and the checking animations are satisfying. It's quite fun to lay out several unsuspecting players on the opposing team - especially after
the buzzer sounds. When a player gets injured he looks like a twitching bug sprawled out on the ice. The action unfolds quickly, and it's easier to transport the puck up the ice by yourself as opposed to passing it. Executing a centering pass is no problem, but there's never anybody there to receive it! Scoring is tough, unless you are the CPU, who seems to score at will. The season mode contains a pretty elaborate Stanley Cup red carpet ceremony if you make it that far. Excellent audio effects include realistic player grunts and a scraping sound when you change directions with your skates. I'm not crazy about the voice that announces the teams and intermissions though; he sounds more like a dull programmer than a commentator. Arcade fans will enjoy the pacing of NHL 96, but it's not in the same league as NHL '94
(SNES, 1993). © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Rating: Kid to Adults (animated violence)
As the 16-bit era entered its twilight years, EA predictably put its NHL franchise on autopilot, only tweaking it slightly to milk every last penny it could out of the series. The claim on the box of "improved gameplay" is debatable. The players are fluid and fast but hard to control. For some reason EA felt obligated to ratchet up the defense and goalie AI. As a result it's easy to dislodge the puck and perform bone-crunching checks, but hard to do much on offense! While trying to move the puck up the ice, your player sometimes inexplicably passes the puck backward
. Good luck trying to thread the needle or locate a trailer on a fast break. Shots on goal tend to be rather weak. It seems like the bulk of the scoring is done by running into the goalie (cheap), or worse yet, scoring on yourself!
The game does incorporate a few new moves like drop shots and dumping the puck. I always love the cool bells and whistles like the zamboni during intermissions, penalized players who hack the glass with their sticks, and hats tossed onto the ice after a hat trick. The crowd noise is really subdued in this edition - it feels like 90% of the game is played in complete silence! NHL 97 is a respectable hockey game but it was clearly produced with a minimum amount of effort. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)
When a hockey game lists "updated team rosters" and "more intelligent crowd" as selling points, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm. The new "hot and cold streak" feature is clearly a case of developers looking for something they could add with the least amount of effort. The main menu is sparse but it does contain new skill challenge and shootout modes. These mini-games are good for practice, and they'd be even better if they recorded high scores. Like last year, NHL '97 is an arcade-minded hockey title with slick visuals and crisp, digitized sounds. It's hard to play offense, but I'm sure some sports fans will relish the challenge. At least shots on goal have some mustard on them. Leafing through the manual I found it interesting to see how the moves have accumulated over the years. You can do all kinds of stuff like dump the puck, fake a shot, or hit the ice to block a shot. You can perform a drop pass, sudden stop, or spin-o-rama move. There's clearly a lot of depth, and I think this game has a little more balance than NHL '97. Then again, most gamers didn't even notice since they had already moved onto the next generation of hockey titles - rendered in disappointing 3D! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
Playing this hockey game today is a nauseating experience, and I can't imagine it was much better in 1993. Stanley Cup utilizes the Super Nintendo's trademark "mode 7" rotation and scaling effects to create a constantly shifting view of the action. It looks like the entire rink is spinning in outer space. The effect worked well in Nintendo's NCAA basketball game (1992), but it's not a good fit with hockey. Why? It has a lot to do with hockey's breakneck pace and constant possession changes. At least in basketball you can control the tempo to some degree and play at a more deliberate pace. In Stanley Cup, the stilted animation, pixelated sprites, and constant rotation make it hard to find the puck, much less execute a crisp pass or target the corner of the goal. You can only pass to the player with the icon over his head, and switching players on defense is maddening. The special moves look horrific, and when you perform a "hip check" it looks like you're trying to rub your butt on an opponent! That really stinks! Stanley Cup's sound effects are equally weak, with the same constipated "grunt" sounds over and over again. The lone highlight of the game is the intro, which shows an over-the-shoulder cinematic of a player approaching the goal on a fast break. Too bad you won't see anything that impressive in the actual game. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
NHLPA Hockey '93
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
EA's NHL series had full year head start on the Genesis, which may explain the deficiencies of this inaugural SNES edition. NHLPA Hockey '93 opens with twangy intro music that sounds like it's being played by the Country Bears Jamboree. Once you hit the ice, the action doesn't feel quite right. Players move from point A to B just as fast as they do on the Genesis, but they don't move as smoothly and the controls feel less responsive. Granted, the difference is subtle and it might be hard to tell the difference unless you played both versions two back-to-back (like I did). NHLPA '93 does deliver a nice arcade-style hockey experience with an overhead view. Whether you're playing against the CPU or a friend, the competition is white-knuckle all the way. Since one-timer plays are not supported, taking advantage of second-chance opportunities is crucial. The sound of the puck hitting the boards has an amazing resonating quality, but too often the sound effects cut out completely (most notably when the organ plays). An option screen lets you customize your game, and I'd recommend using the automatic goalie with no penalties. NHLPA '93 is competitive fun but it's missing one key feature from the Genesis: You can't knock an opponent onto his back and make his head bleed all over the ice. Is this really a major selling point for a hockey game? You better believe it! There's nothing more satisfying than making your opponent's head bleed and follow it up with relentless trash talk. Sadly, this version precludes this simple joy. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1994)
It was largely overlooked in its time of release, but Ninja Warriors is like a slice of 16-bit heaven in 2013. This side-scrolling brawler offers three playable cyborgs, each of which has its own attack style, providing a unique experience. The first character, "Ninja", uses brute force to throw enemies around like rag dolls. Kunoichi is a babe decked out in red who specializes in quick, agile attacks. Kamaitachi is a warrior with metal blades for hands who prefers a slice-and-dice approach. The stages mainly consist of city ruins and industrial facilities, but later stages offer some colorful skylines. The scenery isn't very memorable but the degree of detail is commendable. I just wish certain stages didn't rain bombs, because that got on my nerves. Unlike Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991) or Final Fight
(SNES, 1991), the action takes place on a single plane, saving you the trouble of "lining up" with enemies. You'll face soldiers, robots, martial artists, and monkeys that look extra creepy because they're decked out in little uniforms. As is often the case in games like this, enemies have a tendency to linger off the edge of the screen. I like how you can throw large objects like computers, safes, and even motorcycles. Hazards include giant fans that turn on and off at timed intervals, but since the violence is minimal you don't have the pleasure of watching enemy soldiers getting splattered. Hidden moves add some depth to the repetitive fighting action, and a "blaster" meter lets you charge up smart bombs. Ninja Warriors has the look and feel of an arcade game, complete with the high score displayed on the top of the title screen. The music has a Street of Rage flavor, and that's quite a complement. Ninja Warriors may follow the typical fighting formula, but sometimes that's exactly what you want. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 191,210
Publisher: Seta (1995)
Nosferatu tries to mimic the gameplay of a Castlevania title, but lacks style and seems generic in comparison. The word "Nosferatu" means vampire, and this platform adventure challenges you to save your girlfriend from the original bloodsucker himself, Vlad the Impaler (the real
Dracula). Most levels are a maze of castle ledges and walkways, but bosses are fought outside where there's more room. Your vampire hunter has plenty of fighting moves at his disposal, including a flying round-house, upper cut, and charge. There's a nice variety of monsters to beat up, ranging from the traditional movie monsters (Frankenstein, Mummy, etc) to some truly bizarre original creations. Inexplicably, the second boss is pair of gorillas
! The game lacks tension, although there are occassional surprises like falling corpses and hands that grab you from under the floor. Too many traps litter the later levels, and if you don't fall into a spiked pit on your own, you're likely to be pushed into one. In terms of graphics, the creatures look great but the castle walls start to get boring after a few levels. The controls are less than responsive, making it difficult to enter certain doorways or get off a punch in time. The audio is weak, with sparse sound effects and music that's uneven in quality. A few of the tunes have an edgy Nine Inch Nails flavor, but others just sound goofy. Nosferatu not a terrible game, but it fails to distinguish itself in any way, making it a thoroughly forgettable experience. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.