Category Archives: Video Games
When it comes to engaging in sports, what could be better than good old fashioned basketball? The rules are fairly simple, and you can play it any time of year. When the sun is out and the days are long, you can go for a little outdoor street basketball. When the snow is flying and the nights are long, you can hit the gym. If you’re good enough, you might even make it to the pros, earning massive paychecks. It’s also a great spectator sport (that’s where the money comes from to inflate those massive paychecks).
But what if you want to play b-ball without actually expending any physical energy? That’s why they invented video games, and that’s why they invented games to pander to the sports enthusiast in all of us—hence the title NBA Jam. No, not the more recent one available on the Nintendo Wii, I’m talking about the original (1993). There aren’t any create-your-own-player options, no drafting guys out of college, and nothing else to distract you from the reason you turned on the game in the first place. Just good, clean arcade fun.
Although the game features NBA teams (as the title indicates), the rules differ noticeably from those of the real-life game. For starters, an NBA game consists of five-on-five action, but in NBA Jam, it’s two-on-two. When you select a team, you’ll be playing with that team’s two best players from the 1993-’94 season. Chicago Bulls fans will be dismayed to learn that M.J. is not in this game (he was retired at the time). But there are loads of other big name players of that past era, from Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns) to Dikembe Mutombo (Denver Nuggets).
The game consists of four 3 minute quarters. Sure, it doesn’t seem like much, but if you’re hungry for more when the game ends, you know what to do. For all you zebra haters you only see the ref once, when he tosses the ball into the air for the tip-off to start the game. From then on, you can take as many cheap shots at the other guys as you want. When you’re on offense, you can floor defenders by throwing elbows; when you’re on defense, you can shove opponents down (this action will cost you energy, unless your player is “on fire”). There are no fouls, no free throws and no ejections. Just be careful when you’re getting rowdy, because you might end up smacking your own teammate. If your player makes three baskets in a row, he’s “on fire”, and can go as crazy as he wants to without tiring out. The “on fire” phase will end if the other team manages to score a basket.
The most attractive feature, however, is the incredible slam dunks players are capable of. When you charge the basket and shoot, you might just see your man take off like a jet to deliver the jam. Sometimes, you can even destroy the backboard. Debris flies, and the announcer yells “BOOMSHAKALAKA!!” Win or lose, your game isn’t complete until you litter the floor with shards of fiberglass. So the next time you want to hit the court without climbing off the couch, maybe it’s time to turn on some NBA Jam.
If you enjoy playing video games, then you must at least tolerate the music that accompanies your fictitious little adventurer on his daring pursuits. The fact is, video game soundtracks are similar to movie soundtracks in that they are sometimes available on CD. If you can’t hunt down a particular soundtrack (they can be frustratingly rare, and therefore frustratingly expensive), you’ll just have to break out the ol’ Xbox, or whatever it is you own, and jam along as you play the game.
But which games have the best musical score? It would all depend on one’s particular musical tastes. If orchestral music is your thing, the Mario Galaxy line of games should prove rather enjoyable. Even Sega’s Sonic Colors drifts away from the usual rock ‘n’ roll genre that accompanies that particular line, and (sometimes) dabbles in the classical. Of course, if it is the electric guitars you favor, then you can get a good dose of that from some of the other Sonic the Hedgehog games (unless they’re the ones that date back to the early ‘90s).
You probably wouldn’t expect to get much of a musical experience out of an 8-bit video game, but if you like a heavy drum beat, and you don’t mind how tinny it sounds, you’re gonna really go for Konami’s 1988 release, Castlevania: Simon’s Quest. Just try it. You’ll know what I mean. But don’t expect to ever find the official soundtrack (I could be wrong). Another Castlevania game worth mentioning for its musical score is 1993’s Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. This game was previously unavailable here in North America, but has since been added to the Nintendo Wii Shopping Channel. The game’s music is described as being CD quality, and they’re really not kidding. Who would’ve thought a game that was originally designed for a handheld system in the early ‘90s could put out its tunes with such clarity?
Okay, moving into the field of first-person-shooters. Having rarely played these sorts of games myself (I prefer the old fashioned side-scrolling run-and-gun genre), my knowledge of these particular soundtracks is rather limited. I have gotten in a number of hours playing Rare’s 1997 video game rendition of Goldeneye, for the Nintendo 64. I find the music in this game to be okay, but sometimes it reminds me of the soundtrack of Banjo-Kazooie, released by Rare in 1998. It’s strange to keep thinking about cartoon characters hunting for magic puzzle pieces when you’re trying to gun down whole armies of bad guys who can’t aim.
There was a time when you could send away for the official soundtracks of several Nintendo 64 games for ten bucks apiece, but apparently there weren’t many takers, because these once affordable prices have now ballooned dramatically. I can only assume it’s because they’re so rare, unlike their movie counterparts, which can be nabbed for dirt cheap at any Wal-Mart. The soundtrack for Mario Galaxy 2 goes for around $135 brand new on Amazon last I checked! Seeing as how the game itself goes for less than half of that, you might very well be satisfied to simply listen while you play (and ignore all the accompanying sound effects).