EA Sports / NBA

NBA Jam Says Hello to Sonics, Online Gaming

The ’94-’95 Seattle Sonics being included in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is one of the single greatest announcements ever made in NBA video game history.

Yes, you read that right. Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf will making a grand return to the two-on-two arcade sensation. This is just another step in the right direction for NBA games.

The Sonics will be their own option. They won’t be some secret team hidden underneath the Oklahoma City Thunder. They won’t be stuck in Sonics jerseys running around on a court full of blue and orange (remember NBA Live 10?). Isn’t that exciting?

For those of you who remember playing NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, you remember one thing: The Sonics were the best team in the game. This isn’t the homer in me coming out (it usually does when it comes to the Sonics), it’s a fact. The Bulls didn’t have Jordan — who only appeared in limited arcade versions of NBA Jam. Payton was as fast as any other guard in the league, and Kemp was the best dunker in the game. The Reign Man was even a block monster. Oh, and did I mention both players could hit the 3?

In an interview from ESPN The Gamer with NBA Jam’s creative director Trey Smith, Smith mentioned that the team received quite a bit of feedback from fans about the Sonics missing in the most recent version of Jam. Apparently the problem was due to licensing issues, but that has been taken care of as bringing basketball back to Seattle was at the top of EA’s list.

“This is something the fans were screaming for. This was at the top of their list, and that’s a big deal to us,” said Smith. “(The Sonics) are the quintessential one-two punch in ‘Jam,’ and if I’m playing hyper-competitively, this is how I roll.”

The Sonics being added to the rapidly growing team roster is not the only exciting new addition to NBA Jam. Some new online modes have been added to the upcoming downloadable title.

Jam Now

Four-player game mode allows you to grab three of your friends and sit down on the sofa, or online, and play some classic 2-on-2 tag team.

This is the standard game mode (think of it as the “play now” mode). It has party game written all over it, which is something Jam struggled with a bit last time around. You can rock out with “big heads” or other customizable options in these unranked matches. And the best part, in my humble opinion, is that this mode opens up that old rusty closest in the basement full of long-needed trash talk.

Road Trip

Co-op challenge mode (either local or online) where you battle all 30 teams on the road until you and your teammate are crowned champions.

This mode has been done already to some extent. It was in the last Jam, it just wasn’t online supported. It might be better if you can find a solid gamer to run with online. However, there is one thing that makes this challenge interesting. There will be four different levels of difficulty in the mode: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

For example if you’re playing the Bronze version of the Jazz, Derrick Favors and Paul Milsap could be trying to run you off the court. But in the Platinum challenge, John Stockton and Karl Malone will be running around you with the pick-and-roll all night long. In addition, certain settings and AI tweaks will be modified throughout the mode to keep things fresh.

Arena

You have seven days to win as many games as you possibly can. The more you win, the harder it gets. If you’re good enough, you enter the diamond ring and play the best. Good luck! The leaderboard resets every single week.

Ladies and gentlemen, I gladly introduce to you the NBA Jam leaderboard. Games these days are starting to revolve around online play. Games such as Halo and Call of Duty would be nothing without their online lobbies and matchmaking systems. Online career modes are starting to become a must for sports gamers. (After all, people have already talked about boycotting Madden for not upgrading the Online Franchise mode.) But the developers working on NBA Jam: On Fire Edition are doing their best to keep up with everyone else. The Arena will welcome competitive gamers with open arms every single week for a grueling, around the clock, nonstop tournament. I might just have to try it.

The nice part about the Arena is that while the leaderboard resets every week, it actually seems to be part of the appeal. Those who reach the top rung and win enough games to be considered a “diamond” level champion will be rewarded with special “bling” and other elements that will be included on your Jam card (see: your online identity in the game) that will keep people aware of your accomplishments. So even though things reset, you can still constantly unlock stuff, progress and upgrade your online persona no matter what happens with the leaderboard. Plus, it’s nice to know that if you don’t play the game for a couple weeks, you can still return and hop right back into the thick of things and climb the ladder at the start of a new week.

Final Thoughts

These additions should help separate NBA Jam: On Fire Edition from the stale, yet fun, NBA Jam current-gen remake that was released last year. My main purchasing factor will be the Sonics being added at long last, but these online modes will give me — and gamers across the globe — a chance to show off their skills.

But now you have to excuse me, Sonics fans everywhere must go and prepare for the return of the Sonics. I know it’s only in the virtual world, but hey, it’s better than what we’ve got now.

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