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Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness!!!

It's that time of year again. Spring is in the air, the temperatures are getting warmer, and college basketball fans are all a-buzz with anticipation in the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament. Weather you refer to it as The Big Dance or March Madness, it's a big time of year for sports fans. Who will be this year's Cinderella team, beating incredible odds and making it in to the coveted Sweet 16? What team will win it all? Who will be the first #1 seed to fall....yes it's a fun time of year. For most of America it's a chance to fill out brackets, and predict the winners in each game. I used to fill them out and closely follow the games, updating scores and teams in my bracket. The opening weekend has 4 straight days of college basketball from all over the country. I have fond memories of this annual tournament.

Normally I am not a fan of sports games. I see them littering my favorite used game stores for cheap prices, occupying valuable space that would be better served with good games. But alas, they exist, and are still popular with most gamers, generally speaking. As such, the only two basketball games I ever played growing up were Dr. J vs Bird (Atari), Double Dribble (NES), and NBA Jam (SNES). None of these games are college basketball games, but they were the only basketball themed video games that I knew of at the time. It wasn't until years later that I found out about NCAA Final Four Basketball or NCAA Basketball on the SNES, so I never had a chance to play them.

So what about the three games that I did play? Well, here is a brief rundown:

Magic vs Bird:

The first basketball game I remember playing in the basement of my childhood home. It was on the Atari system my brother had. It was a half-court, one-on-one style game. The graphics were not all that impressive by today's standards, but they worked. The players moved slow, and overall the game felt slow and stiff, much like the Atari joystick that was used to play it.

NBA Jam:

Wow, NBA Jam. Here is a game that really takes me back. I remember first playing this game in the 7-11 near my Jr. High School. Kids would gather around the arcade machine and challenge each other for bragging rights. This game was so popular that kids would often quote the games quirky announcer in everyday life. "Boom Shak-a-laka" "He's on fire!" were phrases often heard during the school day, and amidst kids playing a little real life driveway basketball. In fact, "Boom Shak-a-laka" can still occasionally be heard to this very day. That's how much this game impacted popular culture, at least on a local level.

The SNES port of this game was not much different. Sure the graphics were scaled down a little bit, but the experience of using bobble-head like players in a game of 2 on 2 to humiliate your friends was still there. It was as fun as the arcade cabinet version was, at least when played on a larger screen.

Double-Dribble (NES):

The only other game I played that related to basketball was Double-Dribble on the NES. Who knew that Konami made a sports game? I sure didn't until I saw it on the title screen. Hmmm.... Of the three games mentioned in today's blog, this one was the one I played the least.The graphics fall somewhere between Dr. J vs Larry Bird and NBA Jam.
The controls were not great, and there was little content to it. It was not easy to figure out what player you were on defense, and you could only pick from three teams. The sound effects were decent, and they captured the 8-bit experience quite well. Not a bad game, but one that got old fast.

So weather or not you are a basketball junkie, March Madness can provide even the casual fan with some fun and excitement. Maybe you will find a Cinderella team, and follow them deep in to the tournament, or if basketball is really not your thing, you can try popping in one of these games, and having a few minutes worth of fun.