NBA Live 97

2nOn the one hand, NBA Live 97 embodies everything that was great about the series – cutting edge graphics, sound, a sharp interface and full-motion video. But digging a little beyond the gloss brings back all of those doubts about the quality of sports games being churned out by big gaming companies. It’s a fine example of chrome over content and glitz over gameplay, as obvious problems start to surface after only a few exhibition games. It’s easy to overlook those problems, because just like NHL 97 those visuals and animations are overpowering.

However, with problems ranging from the nit-picky (no jumping on inbounds plays, random free-throw camera angles disorient you when play resumes) to game design weirdness (you can’t make substitutions and strategy decisions at half-time, between quarters, or when an opponent calls time out; you have to wait for play to resume and then pause the game), you start to wonder if they’re as concerned about the gameplay as they are about how the game looks.

12nThere are a lot of other gameplay quirks, some which are questionable design decisions and others that point to poor computer AI. Considering the game’s arcade emphasis, it’s a bit surprising that the computer defense gets back so fast; you’ll be lucky to get a true breakaway dunk. All of your opponents rebound like Dennis Rodman, while your guys, regardless of setting, couldn’t crash the boards if their lives depended on it. The game doesn’t display the score and time remaining often enough (especially the latter), making the game status a bit of a mystery for long stretches.

Despite all these criticisms, the series still manages to be enjoyable thanks to its responsive controls. Overall it retains the same emphasis of previous iterations – some minor gameplay tweaks here and there, improve the graphics and interface, make it hip and fresh, then cash in.

System Requirements: Pentium 100 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95

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