NBA Live '96


Review by Matt Paprocki

EA Sports


Graphics: 8

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

It's frustrating that the NBA Live series came out so late into the 16-bit era. Before that, basketball fans were stuck with the ridiculously slow Vs. series that hardly captured the feel of the sport. Live changed everything we knew about basketball video games, introducing a new viewpoint, faster pace, and more realistic gameplay. The problem is it only really lasted for two year until focus was shifted to the newer 32-bit systems, and development of the 16-bit entries was left to the lesser-talented Nu-FX.

NBA Live '96 was the final real game in the series before the switch and as it stands, it's the most complete game of basketball we'll ever see from this hardware. Everything from '95 has been boosted, including the ability to update rosters, create players, and take classic players onto court. Season and playoffs are available, the rules are fully customizable, and there's hardly any way you can't match your style of play with this feature set.

On the court is where it becomes obvious that this series just needed a few more years to come full circle. The main problem is the AI. It's far too easy to beat a defender, which has as much to do with the games rather loose (but somewhat realistic) controls as it does with the defenders thought process. They'll double-team every time you enter the paint, leaving someone wide open on the other side. They never make a switch and making the quick pass is all it takes.

On the offensive side, once down by ten, the opposition just launches three-pointers, praying they can make a comeback. All it does it put them deeper into the hole. They also have the tendency to shoot from behind the backboard, run out of bounds, and walk back and forth on the top of the key.

Still, when the game works as it should, it's one of the best you'll ever play. The way the flow of the game has been captured is unmatched and finding the open man is a great feeling. You can set up offenses, defenses, and substitutions, making it seem like a little strategy is necessary. In a game against a human opponent, it is. Against the AI, you can run plays used in grade school and beat it.

The new perspective opens the game up, also making it look better. These are the same sprites from '95, still animated as they should be. It's the little touches here, like taunting after a spectacular dunk, backing down the center, pivoting, and reaching in for the steal that make this one so special. All the courts match up with their real life counterpart, complete with any unique court designs.

This edition adds in some stadium music for atmosphere, even if it sounds grainy and unidentifiable. The crowd is dead, picking up for a few seconds after a big play. The menu music is nothing short of terrible, aggravating you when creating players or subbing them into the game during a time out.

Between the Super NES and Genesis versions, it's business as usual. The Genesis suffers from fewer bouts of slowdown and the lower color palette actually gives the game a more realistic look. With its bright, almost pastel, colors, the SNES iteration looks more like a cartoon. Both have the same AI issues, but that doesn't mean this isn't the best 16-bit basketball game ever made.


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Last updated: Sunday, July 03, 2005 07:56 AM