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NBA Jam

We have to get the ball back.

It's been a tight game, lots of lead changes and traded baskets. LaMarcus Aldridge has made too many threes. And we can't get anything past Greg Oden on the inside.

Thirty seconds left. They're up by two. And they've got the ball.

I tell Andrei to guard the lane. I'm going for the flagrant foul.

Aldridge eyes me warily, burning clock. I've shoved him down for the steal too many times, and he doesn't want to get close. The shot clock winds down. He fakes right, goes left, but I anticipate it. Two hands to the chest and down he goes.

I snatch up the ball. Andrei races down the court, Oden at his heels. I pass Andrei the ball with five seconds left. He pulls up at the foul line, releases the shot, the buzzer sounds….

This actually happened, by the way. This is how my hands-on demo of the new NBA Jam ended when I played it at PAX this month. And aside from the current players mentioned in that description, I could just as easily have been talking about the classic arcade game. That's how similar they feel.

 

On the Wii, NBA Jam controls more or less as you'd expect, with the Nunchuck handling movement and the Wii emote buttons for passing and steals. But there's one major difference: to shoot, you bring the Wii remote up and flick your wrist down to let the ball go. (The motion is very similar to shooting in Wii Sports Resort's basketball game.) You block shots in the same way.

It might seem like a tacked-on bit of motion control, but in practice it's hugely satisfying, especially on dunks. It's one thing to press a button and watch a ridiculous, gravity-defying dunk animation. It's another to swing your arm down with completely unnecessary vigor as your player slams the ball.

NBA Jam

As for the rosters, they're mostly up-to-date, with a few exceptions. (As a Jazz fan, I was disappointed to see Al Jefferson still with the Timberwolves, but Carlos Boozer already wearing Bulls red.) ESPN's Marc Stein has broken down the East and West rosters from a sportswriter's perspective, including each team's "legend" players. As in real life, the Heat and Lakers look like they'll be tough to beat.

As you may have heard, NBA Jam will come in two flavors — a Wii title, and a downloadable version packed in with the PS3 and 360 copies of NBA Elite 11. You'll get extra game modes like the Remix Tour on the Wii, but you won't get online multiplayer; you'll have to buy NBA Elite for that. It might come down to which you prefer — motion controls and extra modes, or HD graphics and online play. And if you're still on the fence, this community post by Michael Edwards might help you make up your mind.

What I do know is that NBA Jam is still as simple as ever, and maybe even more fun. Standing in front of that kiosk, playing against two dudes I didn't know, was one of the most enjoyable things I did at PAX. Playing it against friends will only make it better.

(Oh, and if you're wondering — my buddy, playing as Andrei Kirilenko, nailed the buzzer-beater to send our game into overtime, where we won by 11. As usual, the Blazers can't handle my Jazz.)