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Tecmo NBA Basketball (NES) artwork

Tecmo NBA Basketball (NES) review


"Tecmo NBA Basketball hit stores not long after the 1991 smash debut of Tecmo Super Bowl, a game that succeeded because it stood as the most accurate NES representation of its sport. In terms of presentation and options, these releases exist as equals, but the newer of the two lacks an essential sports game characteristic. Even when mastered, TSB thrived because every down presented an uncertain challenge, be it navigating a broken blocking scheme or reading the oppon..."



Tecmo NBA Basketball hit stores not long after the 1991 smash debut of Tecmo Super Bowl, a game that succeeded because it stood as the most accurate NES representation of its sport. In terms of presentation and options, these releases exist as equals, but the newer of the two lacks an essential sports game characteristic. Even when mastered, TSB thrived because every down presented an uncertain challenge, be it navigating a broken blocking scheme or reading the opponent’s formation to sniff out a turnover opportunity. However, from opening tip to the final buzzer, Tecmo NBA Basketball suffers from repetitive motion disorder.

At first, there’s no way to know this. In fact, the options are overwhelmingly impressive compared to preceding roundball games. Go it alone, with a friend, or against a foe; all 27 professional teams from that time are at your disposal with complete ‘90-‘91 season rosters. No licensing issues crop up to ruin the fun; you can play through an entire 82 game schedule(shorter versions are available) with an 8-bit Jordan, Bird, Magic, or any other luminary presence belonging to the Player’s Association. Unfortunately, this title was released close enough to the draft that fans might long to see exciting rookies like Shaq, Alonzo Mourning, or... Christian Laettner, but they’re not included in this package.

Regardless of those present and missing, all the player graphics look the same, save for jersey and skin color. And since you don’t see numbers or logos on the uniforms either, there may be a feeling that all that every man is relatively equal. That’s not true at all. Individual stats are assigned to each competitor that accurately reflect real life abilities. The diminutive Spud Webb can no more block a shot that awkwardly lanky Manute Bol could lead the league in steals, and in the hands of any human player Jordan outstrips everybody. Also, borrowing another page from Tecmo Super Bowl, NBA Basketball allows marginal customization of a team through selection of a playbook. Pick and roll, double low, the give and go; choose any four halfcourt sets out of the eight overall to add a personal touch.

You just won’t need any of them to render those unique attributes irrelevant. Computer defenders constantly trail their man; whip around a few passes and one of them will be caught out of position, leaving an open lane to the rim. Almost every point you score will come off a dunk, lay-up, or baby hook from inside the blocks. That doesn’t include the wide open spread available after every computer basket, where your forwards race down court and one cut will take them straight to the hole. Play no defense at all, and you’ll still win by 10.

That margin assumes the opposing squad can match your ninety-plus field goal percentage. Thing is, they don’t take advantage of those plays, either. Instead, a couple of passes may be thrown before one guy takes over. He’ll start to penetrate, but rotate anyone into his predetermined path and he’ll settle for a midrange jumper, even if there’s a man or two wide open – maybe it resembles the real NBA too well. This shot can be rejected a fair amount of the time; a couple of your guys should always be amongst the league’s top shot-blockers. Play a little defense, and you’ll win by 40.

Even that number depends on the computer consistently moving the ball into the frontcourt. You can’t pull off steals with absolute impunity, as thankfully fouls are realistically enforced. Grind into any player, both on offense and defense, and he’ll go flying as the whistle sounds. However, if you lie in wait along his typical route, lay off the directional pad, and harass the point guard(just pound that ‘A’ button) from the moment he catches the ball, it’ll pop loose enough for even more easy points. Play stifling defense, and you’ll win by 80.

Then again, why let the other team touch the rock at all? Like many other NES sports titles, NBA Basketball has a weakness to mercilessly exploit. With the right timing, you can flash into the passing lane and intercept the inbounds following any score, leading to yet another easy bucket. You can’t quite manage a basket every second, but , barring injury, every member of your starting five should average well over fifty points for the season, especially since endurance plays no real factor and substitutions are never necessary – not even the computer bothers with them. Play Godlike defense, and you’ll win by 300.

At this point, Tecmo NBA Basketball is reduced to one reflex motion. No completely fair fight ever exists, it’s just a matter of determining the degree of CPU ineptitude. Multiply that mindless action by 82 regular season plus 15 playoff games. Forget the test of Time; this fails to meet a more important standard. It’s not worth your time.

Rating: 5/10

woodhouse's avatar
Community review by woodhouse (July 04, 2006)

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