An admission: I've never played NBA Jam before. In fact, I've never played a basketball game before. I couldn't name a single basketball player except for that Michael Jordan chap, who I only know due to his appearance in Space Jam. In short, I have no interest in the sport in any way, shape or form. There's no way I'd enjoy a remake of NBA Jam.
"Come on, you'll love it!" chirps Neon, interrupting my pessimistic ramblings as he goads me along to the NBA Jam pod at a recent Nintendo event. Furnished with a Wii Remote and Nunchuck, I pushed my preconceptions to one side, if only to humour my enthusiastic deputy editor. Scrolling through a seemingly infinite grid of basketball players, I had no idea how I was going to go about making a decision. In the end, I chose Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies, for no particular reason whatsoever, certainly nothing to do with their not-funny-whatsoever names. With our teams selected, we jumped into a competitive (we could have chose co-op, too) match.
The first thing to notice about the game is its distinct graphical style. At first I found the game to be gaudy and not in the least bit attractive, but the longer I spent with it the more it grew on me. The character models use 2D photographs for their faces, with quirky cel-shading bringing to life the rest of the models and environments. Each player has a slightly larger than average head, too, giving the visuals a humorous edge. It certainly has a lot of character, cementing the nostalgic vibe for those with a fondness of the original.
If, like me, you never played the original (arcade or otherwise), it might be worth quickly going over the basics. Unlike real basketball, which features five players per team (according to Wikipedia), NBA Jam only has two per side. This, as you can imagine, streamlines the experience somewhat. You only have one person you can pass to, and only need to worry about the position of two members of the opposing team. It's therefore a much faster game than 'real' basketball, and much higher scoring. It's also worth stressing that the game isn't too concerned with realism. Players will launch themselves to absurd heights above the basket, often slamming down a ball that's engulfed in flames. This works incredibly well with the game's goofy aesthetic, creating a sporting experience very much unlike anything else out there.