“My all time favorite basketball game has been NCAA Basketball for the SNES. I thought nothing would ever have a chance to displace the champ”
That is until I walked into Electronic Boutique in the mid 1990’s and purchased myself a copy of Slam ‘n Jam 95 for the 3DO.
From the graphics on the box, I was able to tell that this game had huge potential to blow away all the other basketball games at that time including heavy favorites like NBA Jam, NCAA Basketball and even -gasp!- Electronic Arts NBA Live series.
“How can a $50 game on a home system look and play better than a $10,000 arcade? It just didn’t make sense”
Once I got hone I quickly powered up the 3DO and loaded the disc. Right off the bat the amazing behind the court camera angle was highly reminiscent of Konami’s Run and Gun game which was the most played arcade game at that time. I had to do a double take to make sure I my eyes weren’t fooling me. How can a $50 game on a home system look and play better than a $10,000 arcade? It just didn’t make sense.
Once the game starts you’re treated to visuals that were nothing short of amazing. There was no choppiness in the gameplay and the almost zero pixelization on the graphics. In fact, the scrolling was as smooth as a baby’s butt and player animations were so incredible and fluid like. If there was ever a game to show off the power of the 3DO then this was the game to do it with.
“But graphics are meaningless without solid gameplay, right? Thank goodness that developer Crystal Dynamics took the ball and slammed the gameplay to perfection with a tomahawk jam!”
Steals, posting up, behind the back passes, treys, mid air put back, monster blocks and rim shattering alley-oops were all included in the game play with the end result being one of the best looking and playing games ever to grace my TV.
Along with the amazing graphics and spot on gameplay, the color commentary by Van Earl Wright added another element of excitement to the game. Squeaky sneaker effects, ball bounces and the cheering crowd rounded off the overall ambiance of the game.
“If there was a downsize to the game it would have to be the exclusion of the NBA license which meant no real teams and no real players were included in the game”
Crystal Dynamics however tried to remedy this by providing accurate colors to the uniforms and arena to offset some of the missing elements. Unfortunately, playing with generic teams and no-name players made it feel like a high school basketball game instead of a pro league one.
Still, for what is was Slam ‘n Jam 95 showed the gaming world what sports games can look like on a true 32 bit system. There was just no way any of the 16 bit consoles could ever produce graphics like this or gameplay this fluid.
What Crystal Dynamics did with Slam ‘n Jam 95 was introduce 32 bit graphics and gameplay to a growing audience who were already tired of the rehash of games from Electronic Arts and Sega. The message was clear to all the other gaming companies stuck in rut: start innovating or get left behind.