Review by Retro
"It doesn't fly as high as its predecessors, but there's still a lot of enjoyment to be had!"
By the time of NBA Hangtime's release, the NBA Jam series had proved to the world that it deserves a place among the best sports games of all time. Even many non-sports video game fans (such as myself) loved NBA Jam and NBA Jam T.E. Both titles deemed themselves worthy of the Video Game Hall of Fame; it's unfortunate that there's no such thing.
Players love the NBA Jam series so much because it's like no other. It provided us with a break from the everyday action of 5-on-5, by-the-rule plays. In NBA Jam there are no plays to follow, hardly any rules to obey, and it's only 2-on-2! You can do anything and everything except for goaltend the opposing team's shots. Don't think twice about mopping the floor with your opponent's ass by literally shoving them across the court as many times as you want! A referee is there to toss the ball up at the beginning of the game, and then he disappears, never to be seen again! Most memorable of all, perhaps, are the gravity-defying slam jams. Take off near the free throw line and spin around at least five complete times before slamming it through; shake off your opponent on the baseline and fly high out of the screen before coming down with the tomahawk; make gymnasts jealous as you flip three times on your way up before showing the rim what an earthquake feels like. And those are just a chosen few examples; there are legions of other dunks for you to discover.
Yep, it's just more of the same, baby. But then again it's not. The most noticeable difference is that NBA Hangtime allows you to perform more moves than ever before. You're running down the court, ready to pull up for a jumper, but you think the enemy in the other jersey would block your shot. Take a fade away. They'll never be able to block that. If you're headed straight into the grips of an opposing player that's really good at stealing the ball, such as John Stockton, quickly press turbo a few times to do a spin move. You can also perform baseline leaners, lean-in jump shots, and even release the ball in midair when gliding toward the rim for a dunk.
But there are even better new abilities. If a player scores three times in a row without anybody else (including their teammate) scoring, they'll be on fire for a certain number of shots or until the other team scores. Being 'on fire' makes the basketball literally come aflame when it's in the hands of the player with the hot hand, and it has a much better shot of going in each time they shoot the rock. Now, in NBA Hangtime, it's possible to get team fire! How is this possible though? By aid of something called alley oops! Your teammate has control of the ball and you just reached the paint with a running start. You jump through the air, hoping your friend sees you; he does, and he passes you the ball, allowing you to slam it through for two points. Do this three times and both you and your teammate will be on fire! And here's the kicker: For a number of seconds, even if the other team scores, both of you will stay on fire, making you feel like you can't be touched!
No matter what day of the year it is, you can choose to start a tournament in which you take on all the teams of the NBA in a one-player game, trying to become the world champion. For once, there's actually a reason to do this apart from gaining bragging rights and to see your initials on the various high score lists. In NBA Hangtime, there's an excellent option called ''Create Player.'' At first, you choose one of several heads that range from those of popular NBA players, to a green alien, a cow, a werewolf, scary and pretty faces of normal human beings, and more. Then you get to choose how big and how tall your player is, and finally how good they are in certain areas (blocks, power, shooting, dunks, etc.), but there's a catch! You're only given a certain number of pegs to fill up the attributes. You could opt to have a 7+ footer who's the best shooter in the world and pretty good in all other areas. Then you want to make him the best dunker, but you don't have enough pegs to fill up the dunk container! You must play the one-player game and win games and correctly answer trivia questions about the NBA in order to earn more pegs. The only thing that sucks about all of this is that you have to have a memory card to save your progress.
Creating your own player is just optional, though. You can choose from any and all of the 29 available team rosters (updated as of late 1996), each of which has five players available for use. Unfortunately, as they were in past titles, a few of the league's biggest stars are once again absent, such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Shaq. But like NBA Jam and NBA Jam T.E. are well known for, you have a legion of hidden players that are available, along with several other secrets, such as huge heads and a rooftop court, which propels the replay value out of the roof!
So we see now that NBA Hangtime brings along the classic feel of past titles in the series, but what matters the most in the enjoyability of a video game is how it plays. Like its predecessors, NBA Hangtime is a joy to play whether the NBA season is going or not. With all the new dunks to discover and the list of new moves (especially the fade aways and alley oops!), there are more things to do than ever before. And it's still fun doing it! Pushing down your friend so many times in a row that they wonder if they'll ever be able to get up again is still hilarious, and it's more fun than ever to shoot from behind the arc, especially with the perfect sound of a swish and the new movements of the net. Every time I meet up with my brothers, we play video games. Of the Nintendo 64 games I own, only Diddy Kong Racing rivals this one (you can play with up to 4 players at a time!) in terms of minutes played. Whether we just play with NBA players, access hidden characters, or take the time to create our own athlete, it just never gets old.
But even with all of the new tricks thrown into the mix, NBA Hangtime isn't the best of the series. It's certainly not anything that has to do with the graphics or sounds. If you're familiar with the NBA players, you'll recognize their realistic faces during both selection and gameplay. On the court, you can look at the floors and see the players' reflections, and the audience and goals look fairly realistic in a pseudo 3D-ish sort of way. The sound effects are pretty nice as well, especially with the perfect sound of getting a nothing but net, the soft murmur of the fans, and the announcer's fitting style and commentary. Musically, I'm not quite as impressed. M-Doc (who?) is here to do some rapping in between scenes, and the music that plays during a game is cool, but not nearly as memorable as the themes of the two previous classics.
The main complaint I have with NBA Hangtime is that it's not half as fun to be on fire as it is in NBA Jam and NBA Jam T.E. After playing NBA Jam T.E. for the Super Nintendo for years, I still yearn to get on fire as much as I can. There's nothing like standing under your opponent's rim waiting for them to try and get the ball past your smoldering hands while on fire. Whether they dunk, shoot a three, or do a layup, you know that if you time it correctly, you're getting the ball back, and you'll still be on fire. It's almost impossible to block an opposing player's dunk even when you're on fire in NBA Hangtime, making it feel useless. Another thing that I'll always remember about NBA Jam's greatness is how 50% or more of the shots taken from the other side of the court seemed to fall in, and how entertaining it was doing it. That's not the case with NBA Hangtime! Finally, there's not a ''juice mode'' (for making the game MUCH faster) included this time around, which is very unfortunate, especially given the fact that the action seems to be a bit slower in NBA Hangtime than you're probably used to seeing.
Apart from those quibbles, NBA Hangtime proves to be a game that never seems to run out of fun, especially when playing against a sibling, friend, or anybody else you like playing video games with. If you're an NBA Jam purist like myself, you may find yourself complaining about certain attributes of NBA Hangtime, but if you choose this one to introduce yourself to the series, you won't notice anything. But one thing remains the same: Whether you're a newcomer or seasoned NBA Jammer, you won't be entirely disappointed with NBA Hangtime.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 05/12/01, Updated 01/20/04
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