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Wayback Wednesday

Wayback Wednesday: NBA 2K9 on PC Retrospective

Kevin Garnett Dunking in NBA 2K9

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at NBA 2K9 on PC.

The fact that LeBron James is appearing in his eighth consecutive NBA Finals series hasn’t just sparked fierce debate among basketball fans in the endless Greatest of All-Time debate. It’s also a sign of how quickly the last few years have flown by, with LeBron’s tenure with the Miami Heat already becoming a distant memory. Another fact that may leave you wondering where the time has gone is the number of NBA 2K games that have come out on PC, which now stands at ten. It feels like only yesterday that the series was a newcomer to the platform, but it has indeed been a decade.

Currently the only sim-oriented title that’s still being released on PC, NBA 2K has kept basketball gaming alive on the platform. When it was announced that NBA 2K9 would be coming out on PC, it came as tremendous news for a community that had felt abandoned by EA Sports. Since we’ve had a decade of NBA 2K gaming on PC at this point, I feel it’s worth reflecting upon the game that brought the series to a new audience of basketball gamers. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Three-Point Shootout in NBA Live 98

Steve Kerr in the Three-Point Shootout (NBA Live 98)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the three-point shootout in NBA Live 98.

I’ve already talked a little about the three-point shootout in my Wayback Wednesday feature on All-Star Weekend Mode, as well as my retrospectives of NBA Live 98 and NBA Live 2005. However, it occurred to me that I’ve yet to dedicate a feature solely to the contest, which made its debut in NBA Live 98. Although a three-point shootout had been featured in other basketball video games, the mode found in NBA Live 98 was, at the time, the best representation of the event on the virtual hardwood. As an item on the Wishlist, its addition was warmly welcomed by basketball gamers.

Despite lacking in some of the presentation and flair seen in later games, NBA Live 98’s version of the three-point shootout was still thoroughly enjoyable. A fun change of pace, the mode was certainly missed when it was removed in later games. It’s a mode that’s worthy of its own retrospective, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: X-Factor Players in NBA Live 07

X-Factor Shane Battier in NBA Live 07

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at X-Factor players in NBA Live 07.

It’s fair to say that NBA Live 07 is a standout release in the NBA Live series, albeit for the wrong reasons. The Xbox 360 version of the game is widely considered to be one of the worst basketball games ever, and the PC/PlayStation 2/Xbox version’s reputation isn’t much better. It notably experimented with three different shooting buttons, an idea that was interesting, but proved to be overkill. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t the best way of implementing advanced shooting controls. Despite the game’s struggles, however, it was trying new ideas that at least had good intentions.

An example of that would be the X-Factor players in the prior gen version of NBA Live 07. A Freestyle Superstars mechanic that tried to expand upon the concept of player differentiation, it didn’t quite catch on, though traces of the idea have been reworked more successfully in subsequent games. As such, it’s a significant step in developing more sophisticated gameplay, and one that deserves credit for paving the way to future progress. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: CustomArt in NBA Live

Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1996 Mod (NBA Live 2004)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at CustomArt in the PC versions of NBA Live.

As I mentioned in my retrospective of NBA Live on PC, modding was a big part of what made those releases the definitive versions of the game through to around the mid 2000s. The modding scene was able to become as large and successful as it did due to EA Sports’ willingness to make the game files easier to modify. While we were never provided any official tools, changes such as the adoption of DBF files, as well as the organisation and relative consistency of the art file formats, kept the modding community productive and our Downloads database filled with great updates.

One of the most significant developments in modding was CustomArt, introduced in NBA Live 2003 PC. The feature simplified the process of installing mods, while also providing in-depth customisation options. Should NBA Live return to the PC at some point, it’s definitely a feature that it needs to have, and it would also be great to have it natively supported in NBA 2K PC as well. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live on PC Retrospective

Gilbert Arenas in NBA Live 08

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the history of NBA Live on PC.

It’s been over ten years since a PC version of NBA Live was released. For a long time, the series was the only NBA game that was consistently released on PC as well as the consoles, but beginning with NBA Live 09, it’s been a console exclusive. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall as the last couple of PC releases were problematic, not to mention ports of the previous console generation. Although the NBA 2K series would make its way to PC – the very year NBA Live left it, in fact – there is still interest in seeing EA’s game return to the platform. Unfortunately, so far our Wishlist requests and petitions have not yet yielded the desired outcome.

Hopefully, as the NBA Live series continues to rebuild and re-establish itself, we’ll see a PC release again one day. After all, through to around 2006, the PC version of NBA Live was arguably the definitive version of the game. It certainly helped put us on the map, and carve out a niche in the basketball gaming community with all of the work we put into modding the games. This week, I thought I’d reflect on the history of NBA Live on PC, in the hopes that its legacy will continue with a new release some day. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Arcade Modes in NBA Live

Arcade Mode in NBA Live 2000 featuring Shaq

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the Arcade mode settings that were once available in NBA Live.

By definition, NBA Live has always been a sim title. Granted, the level of realism hasn’t always been satisfactory, and in the case of certain releases – NBA Live 2003 in particular – the style of gameplay has skewed a little towards being arcade. However, there are several distinct features and concepts that define the arcade basketball game genre, such as exaggerated dunks, a lack of rules, and a more casual, “video game” approach to the setting and gameplay. Whatever shortcomings any NBA Live or NBA 2K title may have, they are – by design and concept – sim titles. Games like NBA Jam, NBA Street, and NBA Playgrounds, on the other hand, are arcade games.

With that being said, there have been a couple of times over the years that NBA Live has tried to cater to the desire for an arcade experience. This was achieved through the Arcade mode gameplay setting in NBA Live 99 and NBA Live 2000. The experience was still far more sim-oriented than games like NBA Jam or NBA Street, but it was still noticeably wackier and less realistic than usual. It was an interesting attempt to cater to varied tastes among basketball games, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Michael Jordan in 1-on-1

Michael Jordan in 1-on-1 (NBA Live 2000)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at NBA Live 2000’s Michael Jordan in 1-on-1 mode.

Today is Tim Duncan’s 42nd birthday. Not only is the future Hall of Famer one of the greatest players in NBA history, he also graced the cover of one of the best games in the NBA Live series: NBA Live 2000. Of course, he shared the cover with an insert of Michael Jordan, who made his first official appearance in the series as a member of the newly added roster of Legends. April 25th also marked a milestone in Michael Jordan’s career, as on this date twenty-five years ago he captured his seventh straight scoring title, tying a record set by Wilt Chamberlain.

With those themes in mind, it seems logical to take another look back at NBA Live 2000. I’ve already posted an in-depth retrospective of the game, but I thought that I’d take a closer look at one of its featured attractions: Michael Jordan in 1-on-1. Making its debut in NBA Live 2000, it made sense to brand the mode with Michael Jordan’s name in order to help it stand out to gamers. It certainly did just that, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Arch Rivals Retrospective

Arch Rivals Title Screen

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Arch Rivals.

When you think of arcade basketball video games by Midway, the titles that will most likely spring to mind are the original NBA Jam, its follow-up NBA Jam Tournament Edition, and NBA Hangtime. That stands to reason as they are some of the best games of their genre, but NBA Jam wasn’t actually Midway’s first attempt at making a foray onto the virtual hardwood. In 1989, four years before the debut of the original NBA Jam, Midway released Arch Rivals: a two-on-two basketball game with up-tempo gameplay, and a very casual approach to the rules of the sport.

Although not an official part of the NBA Jam lineage, Arch Rivals can certainly be considered a forerunner to Midway’s more famous hoops game. Indeed, while NBA Jam is usually (and rightfully) credited as defining many of the aspects which we’ve come to associate with the genre of arcade basketball games, Arch Rivals is arguably the game that pioneered them. After all, while relatively subdued compared to the games that followed, Arch Rivals stands as their obvious inspiration. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The NBA Live 96 Editor

NBA Live 96 Editor

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the NBA Live 96 Editor for Windows, also known as WNBA-Ed.

Although obviously far surpassed by its successors, NBA Live 96 is still one of my all-time favourite games in the NBA Live series. It was the first NBA Live title that I owned on PC, having played NBA Live 95 on the Super Nintendo (although I would later pick up the PC version of NBA Live 95 as well). It’s also the game that led me to discover the NLSC when my family finally got connected to the Internet, and in turn, the hobby of modding (usually called patching at the time). As such, in addition to the fun I had with the game, it’s a sentimental favourite because of its connection to my history in discovering and joining the online basketball gaming community.

The hard work of Tim, Lutz, and Brien had made it possible to mod NBA Live 95, but as I discussed in a previous article, the process could be quite fiddly, even with the tools that they created. When it came time to develop tools for NBA Live 96, they made some advances that greatly simplified the process, which delighted my teenage self and set me on a path to join the original NLSC trio and many others in the hobby of patching. One of the key tools that I soon became very familiar with was Tim’s NBA Live 96 Editor. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003’s Three-Point Exploit

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at another topic related to NBA Live 2003, namely its step-back three-point exploit.

Ensuring that a basketball video game is completely free of cheesy moves and other exploits is much easier said than done. As such, even today gamers will find tricks that aren’t realistic basketball strategy, but certainly effective against the CPU and other users alike. In older basketball video games, with their far more primitive AI and mechanics, simple strategies and reliable exploits tended to be the most effective means of picking up win after win. From the corner three in Double Dribble to the Outside Scorer moves in NBA Live 06, most games had at least one exploitable tactic.

As I noted in my retrospective of NBA Live 2003, the game strayed rather noticeably from the usual sim approach in most areas, and the overpowering nature of the new Freestyle Control turned gameplay into a wild shootout. One of the most powerful exploits allowed gamers to knock down three after three following a step-back, a trick that was effective even on higher difficulty levels. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003’s Settings Myth

Allen Iverson dribbles the basketball in NBA Live 2003

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at a popular myth regarding a gameplay setting in NBA Live 2003.

As I noted in my retrospective of NBA Live 2003, while the game was a landmark title in terms of introducing right stick dribbling controls, it came up short as far as the level of realism was concerned. Needless to say, despite our disappointment with that aspect of the gameplay, we did our best as a community to find ways of enhancing the experience. The most common was making mass tweaks to the ratings in order to alter the gameplay, but this had undesirable side effects in Franchise mode, especially when it came time for the game to generate a new class of fictional rookies.

Not long after NBA Live 2003’s release, a claim was made that a bug in the game’s settings was responsible for the lack of realism in the gameplay. This naturally led to a lot of excitement, with gamers enthusiastically trying out the suggested workaround, hoping that it would lead to a more desirable sim-oriented experience. Although the suggestion was quickly proven to be a myth, that didn’t stop gamers from insisting otherwise. It’s an interesting situation to reflect upon after all these years, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Jordan vs Bird: One on One Retrospective

Jordan vs Bird Title Screen

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the PC version of Jordan vs Bird: One on One by Electronic Arts.

In my retrospective of Lakers vs Celtics last year, I took a look back at one of the most famous forerunners to EA Sports’ NBA Live series. Although it was the first game in the NBA Playoffs series, and the oldest game in EA’s lineage of five-on-five titles, Lakers vs Celtics was not the developer’s first foray onto the virtual hardwood. That distinction belongs to the 1983 Apple II release commonly referred to as One on One, and alternatively as One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, or Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One. Featuring Julius Erving and Larry Bird going head to head in a one-on-one match-up, it was one of Electronic Arts’ early successes.

The game would pave the way for a 1988 release titled Jordan vs Bird: One on One. This time, Larry Bird was pitted against Dr. J’s heir apparent, Michael Jordan. Not only did it build on the success of its predecessor by featuring more modes of play, it also enjoyed a wider release, coming out on the PC, Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, Commodore 64, and Game Boy. We’ll be focusing on the PC version for MS-DOS today, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Slam ‘N Jam PC Retrospective

Slam 'N Jam: Hook Shot

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the PC version of Slam ‘N Jam.

Back in the 90s, there were quite a few basketball video games that only licensed the name and likeness of a lone NBA star. Games like Michael Jordan in Flight, Barkley Shut Up & Jam, and David Robinson’s Supreme Court, all featured their namesake player alongside fictional teammates and opponents. In 1995, Crystal Dynamics (the developer responsible for Gex and Tomb Raider) and Left Field Productions (makers of Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside) released a couple of games with the name Slam ‘N Jam. The first game, Slam ‘N Jam ’95, featured only fictional players. It was followed by a sequel in 1996, titled Slam ‘N’ Jam ’96 Featuring Magic & Kareem.

As the title would imply, the sequel licensed the names and likenesses of both Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While the original game had been exclusive to the 3DO, the sequel was released for the original PlayStation and SEGA Saturn. It was also ported to the PC, simply under the title of Slam ‘N Jam. That’s the version I’m focusing on today, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Investigating NBA Jam TE’s Ratings

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the ratings in classic NBA Jam games, specifically the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition.

While playing College Slam for last week’s Wayback Wednesday feature, I noticed something interesting about the individual player ratings. Since the generic players can be edited, there is a cap on their ratings to prevent you from maxing them out at nine in each category. Interestingly, the cap varies from player to player, which basically ensures that at least one player stands out as the star of the team with better all around ratings or high ratings in a few categories, while other players are capped at a lower amount of ratings points, establishing a hierarchy and balancing the squads.

Thinking back to some of the unusual ratings that I’ve noticed in the original NBA Jam games, I began to wonder if a similar approach had been taken in those titles, and whether it could account for some of the ratings that seemed too high or too low. I fired up the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition to make a few calculations and comparisons, and what I discovered was quite interesting. There does seem to be a method to the ratings, and I’m not sure if it’s ever really been explored, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: College Slam

College Slam Title Screen

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at College Slam.

College Slam is a 1996 title that a lot of basketball gamers may not remember, if indeed they’ve ever heard of it. I personally wasn’t aware of it until years later, since as is the case with all college basketball video games, it wasn’t available in PAL regions. Essentially an NCAA version of NBA Jam, it was developed by Iguana Entertainment and published by Acclaim, the companies who brought NBA Jam to home consoles and PC. Unlike NBA Jam, it wasn’t released in arcades, and never achieved the same level of popularity, largely due to its more limited release.

In many ways, College Slam is a re-skin of NBA Jam with NCAA licensing, but that is selling the game a little short. It did introduce a few new features that set it apart from its NBA licensed predecessor, and make it an interesting game to revisit. If the 2003 release from Acclaim is the forgotten NBA Jam, then College Slam is surely the forgotten spin-off. It’s another game worth remembering however, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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