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Sports Jam (Dreamcast) artwork

Sports Jam (Dreamcast) review

"Sports Jam's host needs to be in the next Super Smash Bros. game. Make it so, Nintendo."

While there are some exceptions, whenever I come across a #-in-One title, the first thing that rarely enters my mind when walking away is, "Man, that was amazing." It's hard enough for a dev team to pour time and effort into making one game, so I can imagine the nightmare that ensues when a staff has to come up with completely different mechanics and other junk when they're tasked with a compilation. That's why, when I think about a title such as Sports Jam and its collection of various events spanning the sports spectrum, all I could envision at first was a cluster. But, being the optimistic, I thought this one might be different; images of the game, showing events from soccer and cycling, to basketball, golf, and hockey, actually make the game seem like a presentable product. It helps, too, that the staff involved, WOW Entertainment, is the very same team that created The House of the Dead franchise. Maybe this one could work some magic.

Interestingly, though, you won't be able to play through all 12 events in one sitting. Instead, Sports Jam's Arcade mode only allows the completion of four events of your choosing, with the difficulty mounting between events. On a goofy note, your choices and actions are narrated by an announcer who's best described as a combination of Max Headroom's character design and the enthusiasm of Smash TV's host, except with a southern accent....-ish. Even better, since it's very obvious a Japanese person wrote the dialogue, you'll often hear unusual lines like "A GOAL!" when you score in basketball, or "RUNNING! RUNNING AWAY! A CLEAR GETAWAY!" when speeding down a football stadium. I know this is a relatively unknown game, but I'm surprised I haven't heard anything about this bizarre, surprisingly detailed character in magazines or websites, big or small.

If you're weirded out by what appears to be an odd fascination with a hyperbolic fictional person, it's only because he's the best thing about Sports Jam. When you start a playthrough and, say, once you begin the second stage, you suddenly grasp that this is actually a collection of mini-games. Like, if you pick the basketball stage, it's just an event where you have to make a specific number of shots from the three point line before the timer runs out; select the first football stage, and you just mash the A button to tackle a bag, then automatically catch a ball; choosing the first hockey stage puts you in a closed barrier within the ice rink, where you play pong. It's as ridiculously simplistic as it sounds, and before you know it, the four stages are over, and you're left with the staff credits.

Now, at this point in the review, I was going to make a snide remark about Sports Jam being Wii Sports sans the motion controls, but then I realized how stupid I was to even have such an "insightful" thought. Whereas Sports Jam's stages barely represent miniature versions of their sports, the Wii Sports/Resort renditions of the same sports, even though simplistic, still function as real games! In Wii Sports/Resort, you get to fight actual opponents in a tennis doubles match, go through three innings in baseball, and play golf on fully-realized courses. In Sports Jam, you're only allowed to hit targets in tennis on a 60 second timer, do home run hitters in baseball on a 80 second timer, and hit balls as close to the hole as possible in golf on 10 second timed shots.

But, wait! Sports Jam has an Original mode... where you do the same four-event pattern. Well, to be fair, there's an edit option (Your Original) where you can play all the games in one go. There's a catch in the main Original mode, though, and it involves winning medals at the end of each playthrough depending on whether you had to use a continue and/or acquired a set number of points. You'll get rewards based on how many medals you have in total, but they're mostly cosmetic, like changing the default stage character to an athletic woman or the announcer. It's replay value for those who want them, sure, but it's a busted system; the repetitive method for getting the most medals in each playthrough pretty much force gamers to pick stages that they're either really good at or stages that hand over chunks of points compared to others. Basically, you're pretty much going to select the same four stages over and over again for those medals.

I should stress that I don't think this being a disappointing product is purely the fault of the actual game. Hear me out. Sports Jam was originally an arcade release, and its mechanics clearly display that it was meant as a quick, entertaining experience with friends in a place of, well, disposable amusement. The fault lies in the quality of the port, as the conversion team should have known better that console gamers need something more than a 15 minute romp at full price. Unless they were under some kind of time or budget restraint, the team should've went a little further in enhancing the home version other than a slightly-modified "Original" mode. I mean, I thought Top Skater was a cool arcade machine to play on with its board controller, but if a straight-forward home port was released, I'd give that sucker a 2/10 in a heartbeat.

With better, higher quality sports games available for the Sega Dreamcast, there's honestly no reason to pick Sports Jam over them, unless you're some kind of collector or found it cheap. For all the decisions SoA made during the DC era, passing this up was one of the smarter ones... if only they'd done the same with 18 Wheeler. That just makes it even stranger that Agetec wanted to publish this in the US. Shoot, if they were willing to release KoF Evolution, The Last Blade 2, and Garou, then they should have aimed for a Sega fighter, like Fighting Vipers 2. I know FV2 isn't the greatest fighter ever, but I would take a kid beating up opponents with a skateboard over an abstract announcer in a lame port any day.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (September 24, 2014)


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