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Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs (SNES) artwork

Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs (SNES) review

"Bulls vs. Blazers sucked, sucks and will suck. "

Bulls vs. Blazers sucked, sucks and will suck.

When it was originally released in December of 1992, Bulls vs. Blazers was the freshest basketball game in town. The other alternative for the basketball-starved Super Nintendo was Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball, which was more shoddy action game than basketball simulation. Tecmo Super NBA Basketball also came out in December of 1992, but was merely a roster and graphical upgrade of a NES game. The NBA Live series was still about three years away, unfortunately, and NBA Jam did not debut in arcades until 1993.

However, this Socialist lack of competition did little to secure the success of Bulls vs. Blazers because of the severe limitations of the game itself. Lack of depth, sloppy control and illogical computer intelligence doomed Bulls vs. Blazers. Even today, the game lacks the “cheesy bad” and nostalgia factor seen in other Electronic Arts games like NHLPA 93. Bulls vs. Blazers was obviously meant to be a ringing endorsement of capitalism, as it bravely forced other game companies to create basketball games that actually adhered to physics.

The lack of depth is immediately apparent once you get past the bad title screen. (Which, for the curious, is a whirling noise and faded, multi-color graphical display. Think 1980s sports highlight reel show, yet lamer.) The only game modes available are exhibition and tournament. You might say to yourself, “How odd, the NBA doesn't have a tournament!” That is correct – For some reason, “tournament mode” is synonymous with “NBA championship mode.” Other options include changing the difficulty level, the quarter time, and... That's it.

Right, no season mode, despite its presence in NES games. Then again, who cares about a season mode with stat tracking when only 16 teams are present? Like another early Electronic Arts basketball game, Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs for the Genesis, the company did not feel the need to incorporate all 27 team rosters. The wonders of Rolando Blackman's Mavericks, Tony Campbell's Timberwolves and “Nervous” Pervis Ellison's Bullets are completely absent, along with the 11 other teams that did not make the playoffs. This seems like a curious decision by Electronic Arts, unless they were planning on selling the game to just 16/27ths of the country. Later games made by Electronic Arts would be more successful by 1) including all the teams in a specific league and 2) not sucking.

Such a lack of options and depth could have been overlooked if the rest of the game was solid. NBA Jam managed to succeed despite a lack of stat tracking or traditional season mode because of fast-paced two on two hooping. Bulls vs. Blazers takes the opposite approach, as it sludges like a brontosaurus through quicksand. Fast breaks are impossible because of this pace, and it's hard to develop any sort of dramatic tension when it takes teams so long to bring the ball up. It also doesn't help that the court is a sandy color, the ball is brown, and most of the uniforms are faded. Simply discerning your teammates from the background of the court can be confusing.

But wait, there's more! Like most other early basketball games, the ball (represented by a small, brown lump, which looks like a skeeball) can pass directly through other players. Also, defense is a silly fantasy. Steals attempts result in fouls half the time, regardless of the player involved, and unless you have uncanny timing, it's impossible to block shots. Conversely though, the computer has no problem blocking shots. The best defense strategy is to simply stand in front of your opponent, which forces them to stop and either shoot or pass. Everyone does their best Stephon Marbury impersonation – I've seen Robert Parish launching threes.

Other illogical plays by the computer include falling for any head fake, including ones underneath your own basket, and running up to the three point line while the player they are defending is dunking. Substitutions are allowed, but the computer makes no attempt to match up to your team; you can play five guards at no penalty, since there are no post moves. The shot clock also resets to 24 anytime the ball goes out of bounds or a foul is committed, instead of staying at the time when the ball goes out of bounds. Other rules, such as those for fouling in the last two minutes of a quarter, are ignored.

Even these flaws pale in comparison to one bug in the game – three point shooting. Any guard can take about three to four steps past half court, launch a three, and have it go in. This bug also works to a lesser extent with forwards and centers, showing some sort of shooting ability scaled by position, but it doesn't matter if the guard is Michael Jordan or Sherman Douglas. I've scored 90 points in a game with John Bagley shooting nothing but 3s. Not that you would need the help against the aforementioned artificial intelligence, but this bug ruins any chance of using Bulls vs. Blazers as cheesy fun.

The best aspect of Bulls vs. Blazers is a single sound effect – the ball hitting the court. I mean, it's only so noticeable because there is no background crowd noise or musical theme, but it still sounds neat. ooooo, Leather against court, neat! For that, I give this game one point.

sgreenwell's avatar
Community review by sgreenwell (June 30, 2006)

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