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Written by  :  Condemned (76)
Written on  :  Dec 27, 2009
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars

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Oldie but goodie

The Good

I'm not typically a fan of college sports titles, but this game came my way one Christmas alongside my brand new SNES console... I was about 10 or 11. I really appreciated its authenticity, especially in comparison to the arcade-style basketball titles that came after (NBA Jam series). The game features a load of real universities, with rosters consisting of fictitious players. Personally, I often find fictitious players more fun than real players, because you can then create your own stories and personalities for your team in your mind.

The gameplay is quite unique, most basketball video games tend to feature a scrolling side shot of the court during play... this game is based on a rotating camera angle that keeps the ball carrier's back to the camera at all times. This may possibly be confusing to the first time player, but adaptation comes quickly. I also really like that there are such features as player fatigue - it took other game designers a long time to incorporate nuances like that into later titles, so it's a neat bonus for this game to account for things like that.

Options for play include Exhibition (1 or 2 player) and Season. Game Options are available during play, and are very much appreciated! Within this area, you can set team strategies like "Crash the Boards" (on offense, all the offensive players will go for the rebound once a shot is taken) and "Fast Break" (defending guards will run down court when the opponent shoots). Also, there is the available option to "Switch Defender on Pass", which automatically switches the player controlled to the closest defender between the ball and the basket when the opponent passes. All of these are smart choices to select as soon as you begin a game!

Audio is kept at a minimal, and that's appreciated in a sports title. The sound of sneakers squeaking, net swishing, whistle blowing, and the occasional announcer's voice (" center"), make for a simple, yet unobtrusive background. So many later sports games try to do too much here, and sounds/commentary prove to be inaccurate or just plain monotonous. Simplicity really is better!

I still find the game really fun... I played it for the first time in years today, and was really reminded of how easy it is to get engrossed very quickly! The difficulty seems to amp up as the season progresses. Seasons are thankfully quite short - so before you know it, you're playing in the Championship game!

The Bad

One downside of these early games is that there is no option for team/roster customization, such as "Create/Edit a Team" or "Create/Edit a Player". There are no injuries, player morale, or recruiting/drafting of players. As well, starting lineups are preset and unchangeable. You'll have to call a timeout during the game to sub your players if you want to make a change... It's not really fair to judge an old game by modern standards, but these are areas that more recent games have addressed for the better... and which now seem lacking from older titles.

After just a few games, the astute player begins to pick up on some simple strategies that make victory easy. For instance, it's not hard at all to pressure your opponents into turnovers and penalties (10 second rule, Backcourt Violation). As soon as the ball is inbounded, you can set your player up in the path of the point guard and get in his way as he tries to dribble upcourt. Continue moving to block his path as 10 seconds counts off the clock, and bam - turnover, your ball! It's not tough to get a dozen or more 10 second calls each game... Similarly, if you use the same tactic just as the ballcarrier crosses the half-court line, you can often get him to cross or pass back over the line for a Backcourt Violation. These little tricks can be fun to employ to crush your opponent, but take away from the realism.

A game may turn out to be quite boring... Certain opponents seem to be programmed to run the shot clock down to almost zero before attempting a shot. With a 45 second shot clock, this makes for a very boring, slow-paced game. You find yourself pressing the "X" button trying to steal or intentionally fouling just to end your misery. You can give their players clear, unobstructed paths to the hoop and they'll still choose to pass the ball around from player to player, grinding out the clock - even when they're losing!

It's unfortunate that there isn't an option for a 2 player season... Would be quite fun to play with another person through this mode.

The Bottom Line

The game is a trip down memory lane, for those who owned SNES in its early days. It still holds up even all these years later...