NBA Jam: On Fire Edition ReviewJosh Vanhorn
Up until 2010's release, the last true 2D NBA Jam to hit consoles was Tournament Edition on the Sega 32X in 1995, and I'm probably not wrong in assuming you missed that one. Well EA has recently released NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, an improved downloadable version of their 2010 disc-based remake, and you'll be happy to know it's well worth $15 of your hard-earned money.
Once on the court, the first thing you'll notice is how good the game looks: the hardwood shines, the animations are smooth, and the facial expressions are hilarious. EA Canada has really outdone themselves with not only the graphics, but the gameplay as well. I couldn't tell you how many times I thought "Just one more game," yet played three more. Tim Kitzrow, the announcer from the original NBA Jam, makes his return with a vast amount of classic and new catch phrases that deserve to be noted. Every now and again I'm still surprised when he shouts out a line I've yet to hear.
There is of course an exhibition mode properly named Jam Now, however you'll be putting most of your time into Road Trip and Online Arena. Here is where you'll do most of your leveling as you earn Jam Bucks to spend at the Jam Store. And if it's basketball and unlockables you're into, welcome to heaven. You'll be spending Bucks on NBA legends, new teams, different balls and game modes, as well as customizable titles and backgrounds for your profile.
Road Trip has you playing against every NBA team solo or with a friend. Each team holds a bronze, silver, and gold challenge for which you'll need to complete if you want to obtain every unlockable and ultimately finish the game. The bronze challenge is the same for all teams: a normal two-on-two hoops contest. The silver and gold medals is where the game will test your skills, requiring you to conquer cheap and merciless AI, and often with special rules instated such as three-point dunks and the ability to be "on fire" after making a single shot instead of the standard three in a row. While the game is certainly not impossible, the AI can score at will whenever it needs to, and no pass or spin move will help you to avoid the inevitable shove. Capture all gold medals in a division and you'll be able to the play the Jambots. Win all the Jambot matches and you'll be treated to a boss match against a special team, which I won't ruin for you here.
Sessions in the Online Arena are broken down into seven days of competition with five different medals to capture, each medal five victories from the next. For example, five wins will net (pun intended) you the bronze. Five more wins and you've got yourself a shiny silver. The following are gold, platinum, and diamond. And yes, you can bring a friend online with you to contest strangers around the world.
There is no doubt about it: you will take part in games hampered by lag in the Online Arena, but it does not make the game unplayable. About half of my online experience in the Arena contained lag, though after a minute of playing I was able to adjust my timing and compensate for this slight hitch.
Don't let the minor annoyances keep you from purchasing EA's latest downloadable game; NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is an exhilarating experience, especially with a full game of four. Key blocks will have you cheering out loud. Nailing a perfectly timed alley-oop will etch a smile on your face. Pulling out a last-second victory will induce you to jump off the couch and high-five your partner as you relish the taste of triumph. The only thing missing from this package are the varying-point hot spots from Tournament Edition, though there is so much packed into this title that that complaint is readily forgotten.
If there's a single word to describe the success of the latest NBA Jam, it's this: Boom-shaka-laka!
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.