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NBA In The Zobe '98 Review

Publisher - Konami
Developer - Konami
Platform - N64
Type - Sports
Score - 6/10

Riding off the success of NBA Jam, NBA Hangtime had a built-in audience and was a hit on the N64. This did not however satisfy the hunger for a good basketball sim. Those of you who don't want an arcade b-ball cart might want to check out Konami's NBA In The Zone. In the Zone gives you the opportunity to play 5 on 5 basketball with real NBA teams, and with 3 of your friends.

In the Zone is jam packed with options. You can change the difficulty, player display, quarter length, controller layout, and more. You can also play different style of games that allow you to play series or one-shot exhibition games. This is delivered with hit and miss graphics. The big hit is the players. They look down right nifty. They also move realistically. Passes, shots, and swell ball handling animations flow from the basic player motions; the players look alive and seamless.

The miss is almost everything else. There are ten camera angles, but only two angles are really playable. Another big disappointment is undetailed, low-resolution bitmaps. The images for the court and the fans are uncomfortably expanded to fill the screen. This produces an affect that would be pixellation if not for anti-aliasing. The anti-aliasing doesn't make this look better or worse, it's just a brand new version of butt-ugliness. This is the phenomena that occurs in some N64 games when you get way to close to objects that aren't meant to be in the foreground. While the animations are really good, the lack of detail is a major ouchie.

Another miss is actually in the animation. While the animations are smooth as all heck, the slam dunk animations are anti-climatic. They are very smooth, but boring. I don't expect flaming balls like Hangtime, but a little dramatic license would be nice.

There are no real complaints on the sound front. The music is not fantastic, but the crowd noises make up for it. The cheers sound like a real crowd and there are some cool echo effects.

What keeps this game from being good is the control. Here's problem number one: the game does not switch players well at all. You're stuck on the wrong side of the court and you want to take control of the player closest to the ball- what do you do? You do nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. You smash the heck out of a lot of buttons and you get control of the right player just after your opponent scores. This problem is intensified because while you can customize your controls, you're not allowed to use the left or right buttons. Those were my first choices for a switch control.

Problem number two: defense. In the Zone gives you control over movement, passing, and shooting, but if you'd like to steal the ball forget it. It's impossible to grab the ball from someone. This leads to no end of button mashing. There's a similar problem if you'd like to block a shot in mid air. Mash the buttons all you want, you won't be airborne until it's far too late. This combined with a sluggish response time, not being able to discern who has the ball, and slow action, anything resembling a good time is sucked out of this game.

This game supports the rumble pak. That's all I'm sayin'. That's it. I'm not going to mention that it doesn't help. Not gonna do that.

Just like the graphics, the artificial intelligence is hit and miss. It sometimes is accurate and tough, and other times is stupid as all heck. It seems to be good on the offense and poor at defense. This mirrors the problems with the control. That makes the AI play a lot like you- you can sink baskets and you can't stop people from sinking them. So, against the machine, games fall into a your-turn-my-turn pattern. This is acceptable at first, but it doesn't make this game terribly replayable.

Multiplayer games are more fun than games versus the computer, but it has problems. Each player will have a tough time controlling his current player and figuring out who has the ball. This makes teamwork hard to pull off. Having a teammate helps to alleviate the player switch problem. You can leave one man on each side of the court rather then trying to swap. It's a moot point though, you still can't steal the ball.

NBA In The Zone is not a good game, and not a bad game. It's flaws root it deeply in mediocrity. This game may make a good rental, but it doesn't have to goods to keep you interested on a permanent basis. Even though Hangtime can't give you a simulation, it can give you a very good time and keep four people entertained.