A good arcade style game can provide great entertainment value and act as a much needed change of pace. In the past few years games such as The BIGS, Blitz: The League, NBA Street, and Madden Arcade have found their way into the end of year lists. 2010 however was a down year for the arcade game, and almost by default NBA Jam claims the #10 spot in the countdown.
The ranking of games in the best of 2010 list is based on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take on the games and not a recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.
From a huge level of excitement to almost total indifference, NBA Jam has taken a tumultuous ride since its announcement early in the year. From “Wii exclusive”, to free pack-in with NBA Elite 11, to its eventual retail release, EA Sports has botched the handling of the brand which has resulted in sluggish sales and a cloudy future.
Beyond that though the game, which delivered in many accounts, also made some changes that weren’t well received and didn’t provide the complete online play experience that was necessary. Removal of “Tag Mode” is a big one, especially considering how terrible the CPU teammate AI is, and not having custom controller configurations is inexcusable. A lack of comment regarding even just a simple roster update is telling…post-release support appears to be completely lacking.
NBA Jam was an achievement in the sense that the game succeeded in upgrading a classic while still keeping the feel of why it became a part of gaming culture. The graphics and audio in particular were handled really well. The new “Remix” modes added some variety, though they act mostly as a brief diversion.
Overall though NBA Jam still is quite fun it just didn’t avoid some of the frustrations it could have. The game provides enough content to warrant a retail release but the level of value will vary from person to person. NBA Jam lands in #10 as the only true enjoyable arcade game in a year that was notable for its lack of them.