Very few bad things can be said about NFL Blitz, and the latest in that series, NFL Blitz ’99. These two games have single-handedly pulled they’re sub-genre, action sports, out of the gutter and into a penthouse suite. Of course, Blitz would’ve never come about had it not been for the very popular NBA Jam. Acclaim’s basketball game featured NBA teams pitted together in a two on two fashion. Other than that, it was just another sports game Except this particular title had no rules.
Jam came out with several more installments afterwards, most notably its immediate sequel, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. After that, the series steadily lost value. NBA Xtreme and NBA Hangtime survived, but barely. And even worse was the dreaded NCAA spin-off, College Slam. However, whatever Acclaim did wrong with the series, Midway was able to right with the newest game in the line, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC.
NBA Showtime is gorgeous. Simply beautiful. I’ve never seen a sports game (with the exception of Sega’s NBA 2000 and NFL 2000 due for Dreamcast releases.) Lights shine off the court. Fans in the background look like real people. All this, and to top it all off, each player’s face looks like that player! Midway did a fantastic, almost unsurpassed job when creating how the game would look. The graphics are easily as good as almost anything out in the arcade.
If you haven’t played any of the games listed at the beginning of this review, you’re in for a real treat. The announcer that did all the previous games is back, with plenty of new, classic, and reworked lines for your enjoyment. Also, the basketball sounds like someone is actually dribbling it! And to add to all of this, the NBA on NBC license means at the end of every quarter, you get to hear the catchy theme played during the live, televised games.
The game’s controls remain true to its predecessors. Showtime comes complete with the same three button setup as before, and it’s still perfect. And best of all, the players react to your commands quickly. When you tap that Turbo button, Tim Duncan is going to do a crossover right away. Your buddy taps Turbo and Shoot, Kobe Bryant is going to spin and shoot just before he crosses the three line. The game plays free and easy.
Showtime also features the same game modes found in the previous installments. Enter your initials for long term stat tracking, or jump right into a game. And the last of these, the Create a Player mode, is better than it ever was before. Hell, there’s TWO different kinds of horse! Add to this all that other good stuff, trivia, multi-player, and the All Star Challenge after you beat the NBA’s 29 teams (what, you thought you were done?), and you can bet your ass you’ll be pumping a lot of money into this coin-op.
Let’s face it: once this game is spent, it’s spent. How much you play is really going to be based on several things. You’re either going to play enough to beat the 29 teams, or you’re going to go full out, beat the 29 teams, beat the All Stars, and then beat ‘em all again. However, once you’ve gone through 58 opponents, there’s no real reason to play again, except maybe to try and go through a season without losing, which is one of the few things in the game that could prove difficult.
Because difficult is exactly what the game is not once you’ve got everything down. The game almost follows a pattern. As long as you’re not losing by more than twenty, the fourth quarter is the only one that matters. Once you’re there, it’s just a battle of time. Once you go up by five, you’re probably not going to make a shot until they’re even or ahead, and vise versa. This can prove frustrating, because a lot of key losses can ensue. However, fans and followers of the series know this is the way it’s done and there’s no way to get around that.
The game is excellent overall. It’s easily the best game in the series and, until Blitz 2000 arrives, the best sports game in arcades. Fans of the series will hop right on the game, and fans of the NBA will give it a try. It’s unlikely the game will interest anyone else, but there’s firsts for everything. If you like these games or are an avid follower of the NBA, this game could prove worth the bucks you spend. Or, you could always wait until it arrives on the Dreamcast.
Review By: C.J. Kulp