SummaryA fairly average basketball game, but a lot better than its prequel
The GoodBulls vs. Lakers is the sequel to Lakers vs. Celtics for the Genesis, a game I didn't like at all. That game played very slow and the animation was very jerky, moreover it was impossible to play defense. BvsL partially fixes some of these problems. The players move a little bit faster and the animation is somewhat smoother, however both are still not up to par (there really should have been a turbo button so you could make a fast-break, on offense the C-button has no function anyway so that one could have been used).
The gameplay itself is also a bit better, you can now stop an opposing player from simply going coast to coast and making a dunk by putting a man in front of him (unless he has already reached your paint). Thus this time the computer must also pass the ball around a bit (which it does reasonable well, although you can sometimes force it in to shooting an ill-advised long range shot). Blocking has also been made easier and you can now try to make a steal without receiving a foul for nearly every attempt. The referee isn't so harsh anymore; the number of charging calls is a lot lower. By holding down the pass button and toggling through the other players with the D-pad you can now decide to which teammate you want to pass.
BvsL includes all 16 1991 playoff teams and both the Eastern & Western All-Star teams, each with their logo on their home court and different home- & away-jerseys. Other welcome additions to the series include a two-player coop-mode, a replay mode (though I wish you could go back in time a little bit further then 5 seconds) and the, now well-known, T-meter to shoot free throws with. This must be one of the first game to have that feature. It's also easier to spot the player you're controlling thanks to large star that identifies him. This was one of the first games to add stats for all 12 players on both teams. Even though blocks, steals, assists and turnovers are not counted (only rebounds, points, minutes, fouls and the different shot percentages) it adds a lot to the game. Makes it a bit more real.
BvsL has large player sprites that, I guess, look as much as the original players as was possible in 1991. The graphics are a bit darker than those of the original, I don't think it's an improvement. There are new signature moves for several star players. Some of them look nice like Alvin Robertson's off-the-glass dunk and Chuck Person's above-the-rim dunk but others like Shawn Kemp's finger-roll don't. It looks silly instead of cool. The audio is nothing special, best thing about it is that you're now warned when the shot-clock runs out (someone yells "shoot-it"). New in the series are also the squeaking sneaker sounds that you'll hear in every basketball game nowadays. The crowd cheers for both teams, which is a bit strange.
The BadScores of games are still to high, I never managed to keep my opponent below 100 points when I played a tournament on the Showtime! difficulty level. On average, field goal percentages lie in the 52%-58% range (but I've played games in which the CPU shot 65% from the field). The problem is you're still unable to stop a player from scoring when he has reached the charity stripe. When you run to the free throw-line and press the A-button a dunk or lay-up animation starts that can not be stopped, regardless of the number of defenders between you and the basket. After playing the game for a while I found out there's one tactic which (almost) never fails: dribble along the bottom of the screen with one of your guards till you've run past the free-throw line, now move upwards. When your defender gets stuck between the two centers that hang around the paint, move away from the basket towards the middle of the free throw line and press A to start a dunk/lay-up. Since you seem to miss a lot less open dunks & lay-ups it's really easy to win the game that way.
The A.I. is the weakest part of BvsL. Your teammates are pretty bad at playing defense. They regularly refuse to jump to (try to) block a shot and often don't stay in front of their man, leaving him alone so he can score easily (sometimes they just run away when their man advances to the basket). The opposing team behaves just as weird. Players still refuse to defend a player that doesn't play on their position (so power forwards will never try to stop a small forward) and they sometimes pass off the ball to a player hanging around the 3-point line when they're wide open underneath the basket. The A.I. never calls a time-out to make a substitution, not even when it's players are very tired. The A.I. also has the habit of using very weird line-ups, like playing a 6,2 guard at the center position. Strangely, this doesn't seem to affect the number of rebounds the opposing team gets (which indicates that rebounding still isn't implemented very well; jumping doesn't seem to increase your chances of getting the rebound and it's hard to tell why a certain player ended up with the ball and others didn't). And when said guard is a bit faster than most centers it can even be advantageous for the A.I. team. I've also seen an A.I. team use two 7-footers at the backcourt positions. All this can result in some pretty weird situations, like 7,4 Mark Eaton of the Jazz throwing an alley-oop pass to John Stockton who slams it home :->
The Bottom LineBetter than it's prequel but not good enough. According to 1991 standards this is a rather complete basketball game and I enjoyed playing a few games, but Bulls vs. Lakers just has too many weird quirks and holes in both gameplay and A.I. for it to be something better than an average sports title. Was followed by the nearly identical Bulls vs. Blazers.