NBA Live 98
a game by EA Sports
Although I'm not known to be a big sports fan around the offices of EGM, I must admit sports titles are starting to grow on me. One of the games that has encouraged my newly found sports game open-mindedness is NBA Live. Live 98 is, for me, one of the most enjoyable b-ball games on the Saturn so far. Within five minutes of playing Live 98,1 got a firm handle of the gameplay and control layout, even though I never read the instructions (if that isn't a sign of an intuitive and playable game then I don't know what is). If anything, the computer Al is a little bit on the easy side in Live 98 (I mean, if a rookie like me can play competitively against the Sonics using Golden State, then something is a little out of whack), and it's also really easy to perform high-flying slam dunks. Don't get me wrong, it's real entertaining and all, but I don't think you'll see this much action in the NBA. As I said before, Live 98 is a fun and fast-paced basketball game, but the one thing that does get in the way are the slightly muddy polygonal graphics. The textures seem real low-res and are so blotchy that it's hard to see what's going on at times. Most of the time it's OK, but there are some instances (high traffic) where it's difficult to see who's doing what. If you're looking for a fun b-ball game, Live 98 is it. Just be sure to wear your glasses.
It's unfortunate that this game isn't as good as the PlayStation version. Obviously, this was a quick and easy port that was paid very little attention. The 3-D graphics are. Fuzzy and the frame rate is sporadic, making the on-eourt action sometimes difficult to control. The sound is static and unexciting, and the TNT broadcasting crew that calls the PS version didn't even bother to show up. EA could and should have done a better job.
I have yet to find a basketball game I can immerse myself into, but this comes very close. I'd like to see much more work done to the defensive portion of the game, since the offense is so in sync and natural that your defense isn't worth playing manually. The custom plays are a cool option, and overall, the game's animation is good. Be-careful how high you set penalties though, or you might spend the entire game at the line.
N BA Live 98 for the Saturn is definitely an above-average b-ball title, but aside from multiplayer play (which I still say is the only way to play NBA Live), the game doesn't do much for me. I don't like to make these kinds of comparisons, but in all honesty the PS version is a lot better, and graphical limitations aside, this just shouldn't be the case. Why the flawed gameplay? Why no play-by-play? Not bad, but not up-to EA-standards.
Another Year, Another Version of NBA. It's been quite a good year for EA, principally because the games that looked as if they had run their course last year have now been successfully reborn and relaunched, especially with the advent of 3D acceleration. NHL is a prime example, and now NBA can be added to the list. Like NHL, it looks so much better than last year's game. Players are now far bigger in the default view, and everything's so clear that, for the first time in any full-team basketball game, you don't lose track of the ball in the pixellated mob when things get crowded around the basket. Rodman's hair does change through the season. Sadly, you don't get to follow him home after the game and watch him shag Madonna while wearing a wedding dress (or whatever he's getting up to these days). Still, you can't have everything.
Everybody's talkin' at me
Again, as with NHL, EA seem to have made a bit of a leap in the commentary stakes, with an improved, more varied and flowing commentary which adds to the atmosphere. It doesn't quite reach the heights of that in NHL, but that's because it doesn't stoop to openly taking the piss out of the players with the colour commentary; nevertheless, it's certainly among the best. Presentation throughout is (as usual) excellent, with music that equals the output of many popular beat combos.
Each major NBA star likes to have his own individual dunking style with a fancy name (ideally with an apostrophe in it). Many of these are impossible to differentiate between, but who's going to argue with people who are eight feet tall?
Anyway, this year, for the first time, these individual moves are faithfully reproduced. And for those of you who never go out, and have thus progressed to a point where you found the previous highest difficulty level rather easy, a fourth one has been added. Oh, and if you don't fancy a full game, you can opt for a three-point competition, which I'm sure I've seen in previous console versions, but which claims to be all-new.
If merely playing basketball isn't enough for you and you want to get all anal and... well, American about it, you can set up and draft players into your own customised league comprised of anything between four and 32 teams. The general manager mode allows you to run a proper NBA Draft in all its multi-million dollar complexity, trade players, suffer injuries and work to a salary cap.
And finally, if you happen to be one of those people who need a couple of distractions from watching all the male players darting about the place, you'll probably be pleased to know that the ever-popular and crucial cheerleader movie sequences have been improved and expanded. Let there be singing and dancing in the streets (ideally with lots of high kicks and tan-coloured tights).
2016-09-06 NBA Live 98 game added.