Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Canon Video Game Review: Ultimate Basketball (NES)

Sorry for the lack of activity the past couple of days, as I overdosed on Jon Voight movies and spent two days searching for Jon Voight's car. Anyway, today's review is of the first basketball video game that I ever owned and played, Ultimate Basketball. Released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Ultimate Basketball was developed and published by American Sammy, which produced various other games for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo over the years, including Jimmy Houston's Bass Tournament U.S.A. I remember playing Ultimate Basketball as a kid, but I also remember not liking it too much. I still have the cartridge around somewhere, but my NES doesn't work, so I must play on an emulator instead. Here's the cover for the game, courtesy of

Well, you can definitely tell that it's a basketball game. Anyway, in Ultimate Basketball, you can play either an exhibition game or a tournament. The game features seven fictional teams with fictional players, each team having different strengths and weaknesses. What they are, I don't know, since they all seem to play the same style of basketball, full-court press on defense and constantly driving to the hoop on offense. The graphics are not anything groundbreaking, and the players look and move like cro-magnon cavemen, but the game does have a horizontal view of the court and you can usually tell what's going on. There are certain plays, such as a dunk, three-pointer and free throw, that will change the view into a close up view of the action going on. When going up for a dunk, there's a meter that shows up, and you have to hit the shoot button at the right time or otherwise, you will miss. The controls are rather straightforward, although you have to hit the jump button twice to shoot, and there's not a button to steal the ball, as steals seem to happen at random. The music in the game is neither memorable or annoying, it's just there. The sound effects are mostly realistic for a basketball game, except the sound of a missed shot sounds nothing like a ball hitting the rim. Instead, it sound like the sound of a small hammer hitting a piece of scrap metal, if that makes any sense.

After playing the game, I suddenly remember why I didn't like this game in the first place. For one, passing the ball inbounds is nearly impossible, as the cpu opponent will steal it if you throw the ball to anyone that is not directly in front of you. It doesn't matter if you throw the ball to the left or the right, the ball will magically appear in the CPUs hands, and he'll go in for the easy dunk unless he misses. Speaking of which, there are way too many times where the cpu will go for the dunk, and the close-up animation will show up, and the computer won't even try for the dunk, instead just floating by the rim. Wouldn't it be more realistic if there was an animation of the player missing the dunk?

From there, it gets worse. Apparently, the CPU has an incredible ability to steal the ball. All he has to do is run up behind the player, get relatively close to him and poof! the ball is in his hands. Even if you're on a fast break, the computer will catch up with you nearly every time. However, if you try to do the same, you more than likely will either fail or get called for a foul. Actually, I got called for a lot of fouls on both ends, as apparently breathing on an opposing player will cause a file. The worst call happened when I had just inbounded the ball and was called for a charge, and all of a sudden, the cpu starts shooting free throws. I guess they changed the rules of basketball while I wasn't looking. Another rule change for this game is that jumpballs don't just occur at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of each quarter. Who knew? One advantage that you have is that 75-foot shots are remarkably easy to make on this game, but that goes for the cpu as well. Even on the easiest level, the CPU' defense is sharp to the point of being unrealistic, while your non-controlled players seem to enjoy standing on the half court line and watching the other team go to the rim. Frustrating does not begin to describe this game. It's like being in a home run derby with Albert Pujols, and you have to use a wiffleball bat.

Overall, I must say that I do not like this game. Sure, there a couple of neat effects, like the dunk closeup shot and mini-game that goes along with it, and the game has decent graphics for an Nintendo basketball game. But the degree of difficulty and the cheapness of the A.I. is such that it makes the game completely unenjoyable, and not worth playing much more than one game. I'll give it a 2.09583 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you any ideas for future posts, or thoughts about this post, than either leave a comment on the blog or send them to me at e-mail at

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