Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NCAA Basketball (SNES) Review

AKA World League Basketball [EU] and Super Dunk Shot [JP]
1992 Sculptured Software/HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

Reviewed: April 10th-11th, 2012
The SNES sported a variety of games during its heyday; from platformers to RPGs, to shoot'em ups to beat'em ups, among others, including sports. Years ago when I first looked up this game online, the premise behind the game was very fascinating. While video games based on basketball are nothing new, the fact there was one made for a 16-bit console that was viewed in 3D had me real intrigued. In fact, from what I looked up, this was the first ever 3D basketball game that was made. Every once in awhile I play some basketball, and each really have fun playing it. Sometime before Christmas '11, right after having watched a movie, my family and I were on our way out of the mall, and on the way a video game store had caught my eye. In that store there weren't just games released for the current consoles, but also games released for the retro consoles, too! Not since GameCrazy (before it kicked the bucket) have I seen retro titles being sold at a video game store, and it was all so amazing to me. In it were games available for various consoles, and that store's name was 3D Games. I couldn't wait to purchase some games from that store, and it was exciting because I enjoy retro gaming, plus it meant that I had another way of purchasing retro video games, besides eBay. It was two days before 2012, and for my first two purchases, I chose two games from the "Buy One Get One Free" bin, and this was one of the two games, making it the first time I bought an SNES game from a retro store. When I got to experience NCAA Basketball at home, my mind was blown.

This game plays like a regular basketball game, in that both teams have five team members playing on the court, and the goal is to score as many baskets as you can before the game ends. Each team has two men on defense (the back), two men on offense (the front), and the middle man (in the middle), and there'll be moments when you have to prevent the other team from making a basket; unfortunately, they'll do the same exact thing to you, so you'll have to pass your ball to a member who's open. If one scores while inside the arch, then they'll earn two points, but should one manage to shoot the ball to the basket from the outside, then they'll earn three points. In NCAA Basketball, you can choose how long each half of the game will last (6, 10, or 20 minutes) as well as how much difficulty the matches will present (Easy, Normal, Hard). There are two game modes here: Exhibition and Full Season (the first one where you play for awhile and the latter where you play for competition). In this game there are teams from five major conferences of the NCAA I-A Division, each with different players and different color schemes. The controls are simple, but because I haven't played the game before 2011, I had to blindly figure out which button did what function; luckily it didn't take so long. The A and Y buttons cycle the arrow above the member you take control as should the oposing team have the ball, and you can jump with the B button. If you have the ball in your stead, you can choose which team member to pass the ball to by facing them with any of the upper arrow buttons. The catch is that you have to make sure that team member is in a clear space, otherwise you'll risk an interception from the other team, where one steals the ball; fortunately, you can do the same vice versa. Another thing to be careful about is not accidentally throwing the ball out of bounds, and also to avoid is making a back court violation by moving forward then back to the center of the court. Dribbling the ball around the court is very fun, and what's neat the way the game looks. In a way, NCAA Basketball is a visual demo of sorts, and I've got to say that the visuals are absolutely spectacular!! I'll bet many gamers were enthralled and impressed when this game debuted in '92. Throughout the game the court will rotate and scale in and out thanks to the SNES console's famous Mode 7 effects. The camera centers on the basketball, and wherever the basketball goes, the camera will stay on it. It truly creates a 3D atmosphere, and the visuals have aged well, I feel; and that's just the icing on the cake. The court is incredibly detailed, and the players are equally detailed. They animate quite smoothly, and I like how scale in and out depending on how far or near they are. There are also a few moments, before the game starts and if you win the game, where you'll see two cheerleaders (each one representing a team) who look somewhat photographically rendered and cheer with fluid animation. There's no visible audience in the sidelines, but considering the rotating court and the depth the whole game exhibits, it doesn't really matter. I looked up that this game was released with 32-Megabits of power, and I'm like, "Uh, what??" I could understand if it was a mid- or late-released SNES title, but one made in 1992? That seems unlikely. Though it would explain the overall lack of graphic slowdown and very smooth pace the game runs in despite how many players are on screen, which I've got to admit is very impressive. Much of what you'll hear during each match is silence, but from time to time depending on what happens a voiceover from the announcer, with such phrases as "Steal!", "Rejected!", and "Foul by [insert player's last name here]!". You'll also hear the occasional sneaker squeaking and ball dribbling sounds, too. The only times you'll hear music is when you're in the title and options screens, which is very rare. In NCAA Basketball, you can save your matches and even enable some options in the game (allowing/disallowing fastbreaking, for example) after the first half of the match or if you press Select; and the best thing is, if you do the latter, your game will not start over (you can just resume it from where you left off). The one issue I have when it comes to playing the game is the baskets themselves. While baskets are easily approachable, the 3D angles make it hard to judge your basket throws properly, not to mention make it hard to score three-pointers unless you get lucky; so, because of that, I mostly end up dunking the ball to make a score. And if a ball bounces off the basket, a player then has to catch the ball as it rebounds to the ground. But besides that, NCAA Basketball is a remarkable game, and it's left a huge impression on me. It's nice to play every now and then, and it's a fun video game adaptation of basketball, from Sculptured Software of all companies! If you find it for a good price, then give it a shot. I recommend it wholeheartedly! Truly, I think it's the best fun you'll have in a sports title, and this is coming from someone who's mostly into platformers and RPGs.

9.5/10

1 comment:

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