Nintendo's NCAA Basketball breaks the b-ball mold. It starts fresh with a new look, style of play, and approach to video basketball. The results are stunning.
NCAA packs five top National Collegiate Athletic Association conferences: the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Big Eight, the Southeastern Conference, and the Southwestern Conference. Obviously, several high-profile conferences and independents are missing, but the 44-team selection is good. The squads are represented by authentic logos and jersey colors.
Collegiate sports regulations require fake player names. However, the real ‘90-'91 season statistics combine with your skills to determine a play's outcome! For example, a poor foul shooter in real life must contend with a faster moving and more difficult free throw interface in the video game. Your performance is tallied over the course of each contest, but you can't save your new stats, or customize teams.
In Your Face!
Abandoning the run-of-the-mill, side-view, hoops game formula, NCAA's camera looks over the ball handler's shoulder as he dribbles up the court. If you turn, the screen turns! The view rotates and zooms to follow the ball's flight during a pass. The breathtaking visual perspective sports sharp character details; crisp, non-choppy animation; and expertly shaded court features. Perfection would include a crowd rendition and an instant replay. Still, you'll gobble up the graphics, and ask for seconds!
NCAA's excellent, arcade-quality action gives you a thorough workout. Precise controls enable you to toggle between players, shoot, pass, jump, block, and steal. A useful passing icon indicates a target player's position and the proximity of opposing defenders. In the paint, you get five showboatin' dunks. A ref's voice calls 'em as he sees 'em, but he doesn't always see 'em, just like in the real thing. The b-ball sound effects and theme songs are good, but better crowd noise and more music is needed.
ProTip: When you're all alone under an opponent's basket, stop and pop just as he starts to foul.
NCAA does a good job of capturing on court strategy. This game's seven-formation, on-the-fiy play calling is a first for 16-bit basketball games. The single button interface hampers instant selection, but it's still an innovative, game improving idea. At the top-notch coach's screen, you can pull fatigued players and go to your bench, crash the boards, call for a fast break, examine the stats, and call time-outs. Missing, however, is a full court press. Also, you can't command your team to foul in the waning moments of the game. You must do it manually.
- Pause the game, and then call your play.
- Spin and drive the lane while an immobilized opponent attempts to steal.
You can play NCAA against the computer or a friend. The one-player, 18-game Season mode culminates with passwords in the invitation only NCAA tournament. HAL America Inc., the actual developers of NCAA, consulted each team's coach to gather realistic computer strategies. Although entering the Big Dance is a thrill, definitely fire up NCAA in two-player mode and take advantage of the difficulty, the time limit, and the team selection options.
Dunk through the back of the backboard.
HAL went back to the drawing boards to create NCAA Basketball, and the game's a fine example of graphics, sports realism, and game play working together to form a great game. NCAA Basketball makes almost all the right moves.