Review - Slam 'n Jam '95

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Trev
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Review - Slam 'n Jam '95

Post by Trev » Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:55 pm

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One of Crystal Dynamic's last 3DO releases, Slam 'n Jam demonstartes just how much they progressed in a relatively short period of time.

3DO was in need of a good basketball game ('ll save my thoughts on Jammit for another review) Electronic Arts had made much progress with their basketball titles, and it would show in NBA Live '95. The game was a critical success for the 16-bit consoles, and became the first in a long series of games. The 32-bit versions of Live, despite using the same 'virtual stadium' technology that games like Fifa, and later Virtual Stadium Baseball would use, did not appear on the 3DO. :( A shame as the Live games were the definitive simulation.

For those who prefered more of an arcade approach to basketball, NBA Jam and it's subsequent spinoffs like Tournament Edition were still fairly popular. An evolved version of the old Arch Rivals coin-ops, these were pure arcade bliss. They remained popular enough to not only ensure ports to the new 32-bit cd systems, Playstation and Saturn, but also inferior machines like the 32X and Jaguar. Sadly, 3DO owners were once again left in the cold.

With the arrival of Slam n' Jam though, 3DO owners could not only boast the best basketball game at the time (most critics agreed it was the benchmark for next-gen basketball games) but also a fabulous blend of both arcade and sim styles. Published by Crysal Dynamics, who had hired developer Left Field Productions, the game reflects a level of polish that few other 3DO games had touched.

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First, let me get my nitpicking out of the way ... the game has no real NBA teams or players*. While this would be unheard of today, back in '95 it wasn't that uncommon. Normally this would not bother me, especially for an arcade style game, but what is that point of having '95 in the title without the '95 teams and stats? (Don't argue Slam 'n Jam '96 either, since it only added Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul Jabar)

The game itself is very similar to Run 'n Gun, a fairly popular arcade game that I dumped more than a few quarters in back in the day. Both fearure 5 on 5 action (as opposed to NBA Jam's 2 on 2) yet both have an emphasis on arcade style play, though Slam offers options to tweak it more in the direction of a sim. It also offer exhibition, season, and playoff modes (all cuctomizable) This, coupled with many other factors make it the superior game.

Graphically, this game shines with bright larger than life characters (well larger than other b-ball games anyway). Each are easily recognizable with their own unique faces, and while these do repeat, it is nice to be able to tell the players apart. There is some slight pixelazation when the game zooms for a closeup, but it is not a distraction.

The crowd graphics are great! I thought they were awesome when I first played the game, and I still think they hold up well. Faces are clearly discernable, and while these repeat also, there is some nice variety. Other small graphical effects like rotating advertisement boards and broken glass backboards (no game is compete without one :P ) add nicely to the overall package. I think the choice to go with more cartoon like graphics was the correct one. While they may not initially wow you like some of EA's digitized titles, I think they offer much detail that cannot be done otherwise. They are perfect for this style of game and I think they hold their own against the competiton.

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Not much in the way of music really. Mostly generic tunes that play alonside full motion video clips during the menu screens. They liven things up a bit I guess, and are neither great nor bad. Sfx are solid too, with all that you would expect in a basketball game. The crowd is quite lively ... perhaps too lively, as they seem to cheer regardless of what is taking place on the court. Atleast the volume does pick up considerably during big plays. There are occasional brief pauses as the audio is loading, but you get used to them quickly.

One audio feature which is very nice is the commentary of Van Earl Wright. While his sound bites may not offer the variety that we see in sport game commentary today, they are consistent and most of all enjoyable. He sounds like he is having alot of fun, and his one-liners are very catchy and appropriate. One really needs to hear them to truly appreciate how good they are. :)

Control really shines on Slam 'n Jam. It is an easy game to pick up and play. I can't think of any moves that I found very complex, and after a couple games I felt like I was in the zone, performing gravity defying dunks with ease. Have you ever noticed how certain 3DO games seem to have that slight lag between controller presses and on screen action? Not so in this game. Everything is instant, and you feel like you are in complete control. Whenever I lose, I never feel like it was the fault of the controls, only that of my own.

Speaking of losing, while it does happen occasionaly, overall I think the computer AI is pretty solid. I never lose a game by very much, and my victories are (usually) fairly close. The computer is smart enough to up the agresiveness when they are behind by trying to steal constantly and attempting to block every shot. This competiveness really adds to the replay value. You will probably have to increase the challenge in time, but with a variety of difficulty settings players of all skills should find enjoyment in this game.

In fact the only way I can see someone not enjoying this game (other than just not liking basketball to begin with) would be if they came into it with the wrong expecatations. When reviewing this title, 3DO magazine said this "At it's heart it's a sim not an arcade game.." I wasn't sure if I agreed with this statement when I first read it ... Having played the heck out of this game for years though, I can safely say that I, in fact, disagree. Even if you set fouls, fatigue, and all the various other options in favor of a simulation, and despite the number of statistics availble, this game is simply too arcade in style. Perhaps my view reflects (in part) how far simulations have come in recent years. Nevertheless, I am convined that this game is an arcade game in spirit. Obviously this is open to interpretation, but If you come in expecting a sim I do honestly think you will be a bit dissapointed. However, if you are looking for arcade action, or a nice combination of the two with a light emphasis on sim, I think this game offers great fun. I am still playing it today, and not just for review purposes either (I have a season going)

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Overall, this was one of the showcase games for 3DO, especially for people weaned on 16-bit consoles and looking for more traditional styles of gameplay. It proved to be a critical success, and was also one of the more commercialy successful 3DO games too. Bottomline, although it might have lost a little at the hands of time (most sports games do), I still think it is quite a bit of fun, and arguably the most playable 3DO game ever. :D

-Trev

* - Real teams and palyers are in fact hidden in the game :wink:
Last edited by Trev on Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lemmi
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Post by Lemmi » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:41 pm

nice review


again my copy is still sealed :)
here is a box scan of the game, use them as you wish, take them resize it or whatever you want, maybe even edit your first post and put the box scans in

i scanned both sides

http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f105/ ... 5front.jpg

http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f105/ ... 86back.jpg
Ex-3DO collector extraordinaire , but i still have my collection
Villagephotos is dead, need to find my old pics and find another host

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Post by Dengar13 » Wed May 09, 2007 10:44 pm

I think this game was a sleeper for the 3DO. It was one of the funnest games out then. I thought Van Earl Wright's color commentary added more fun as well.

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Post by ATARI5200 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:35 am

Trev is definitely a sports gamer! Excellent review, still my quest continues... On to more reviews. Or not at this time at least as I didn't see a review for Return Fire, which has to be in contention as one of 3do's best games (IMO).

Game time ladies and gentleman. See you all on this flipside

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Trev
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Post by Trev » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:39 am

Thank you for the compliment. Slam n Jam is easily one of my favorite 3DO games ever!

You are quite correct on Return Fire. Even though I haven't reviewed it yet, it is excellent, and one of 3DO's best offerings.
Most wanted - Eye of Typhoon, 3DO Magazines issues #14 & #15, Pro Stadium, Defcon 5

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