Last year, when it came to deciding on a basketball game to own, there was clearly no contest. EA Sports, worried about the critical backlash it would receive, canned NBA Elite 11 days before it was set to ship, leaving 2K Sports' NBA 2K11 wide open to dominate the market. This year, however, EA Sports has an interesting new competitor to take on NBA 2K12, even though it's made for a different kind of audience than those who played Elite.
The same time that NBA 2K12 hits stores, EA Sports will be releasing NBA Jam: On Fire Edition for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. (It's set to arrive on the 4th on PSN and the 5th on XBLA.) Now, you may recall that last year, EA Sports released a retail edition of NBA Jam that was well received, but left some people wondering if $50 was too high a price for it at the time. Apparently, EA agreed, and now it's taken all the fun of the original game, tweaked a few options, and is re-releasing it for a much more budgetable price.
That said, we now have a competition again, even though NBA Jam is catered more towards the arcade crowd, while NBA 2K12 is made to please fans of simulation games, and casual players as well. Which one should you buy? Well, there are many factors to consider.
First, there's price. There's no question the economy has an effect on gaming these days, though that's not stopping the likes of Dead Island or Gears of War 3 from being best-sellers. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition goes for a meager $15, a steep drop from the $50 it sold at before, while NBA 2K12 goes for $59.99. Now, before you go yelling "Rip-off!", keep in mind that NBA 2K12 is STACKED with features. We're talking classic teams, My Player, online options, terrific gameplay advancemenets and the best visual engine basketball money can buy these days. NBA Jam simply repeats most of the stuff that made last year's game work so well, along with a few refinements such as balancing, the ability to switch between your players on the court (a welcome addition) and new modes. And yes, the online play is back.
Secondly, there's gameplay. If you're looking for something deep and worthwhile, sadly, NBA Jam isn't your game. EA Sports' product is built for fast, frenetic dunking thrills, and even though you can develop strategies, like calling on your opponent to set up an alley oop or strategically stealing the ball in the closing seconds of a game, it's all fast paced. With NBA 2K12, chemistry is important with your team, as you don't want to try and build an ego that gets out of hand, as much as it will advance your skills. Also, the gameplay is much slower, and far more realistic, with five-on-five teams and the ability to call out strategies or take it to the hole.
Production values also come into this argument. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is a polished game in itself, but it's designed to resemble the classic arcade game, obviously. That doesn't mean it's lazy design, as the side-scrolling action up and down the court can't be beat and the reaction of the big headed players is priceless. That said, NBA 2K12 is a far greater looking game, with its more realistic players, its beautiful courts (check out the reflection of the lights!), the awesome replays and the other little things that make it true to the sport. And where NBA Jam only has one announcer, the energetic Tim Kitzrow, NBA 2K12 has a detailed team that breaks down each play and which player is on a hot -- or cold -- streak.
As for longevity, both games have it. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition may be built for quick play, but that means you can drop in at any time with up to three of your friends and just go at it in a race to the basket. Likewise, you can challenge others in NBA 2K12 for basketball superiority, showing your stuff in My Player and even going at it in league play to see who stands a chance of winning a championship.
To be quite honest, NBA 2K12 outshines Jam when it comes to authenticity and features. But you know what? In the long run, it's really unfair to compare them both. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, thus far, sets out to do exactly what EA Sports wanted, delivering quick arcade action without overgouging its players on price. And NBA 2K12 will, no doubt, give basketball players their money's worth -- and a healthy alternative to the sport that'll sorely be missing in real life this year. To be honest, your best bet is to get both. For $75, you get plenty of dunking madness, in two different styles. Classic and sim...you can't go wrong.