When you turn the game on, you are greeted by the familiar NBA Jam TE logo, accompanied by the note that the game is presented in "3-D Sound". I did manage to hook the Jaguar up to my 27" color stereo TV, and play a few games of NBA Jam TE that way, and I must say that the sound effects and music are very complimentary to the game. They may not be CD quality like on the Saturn/PSX versions, but the lack of load times on the Jaguar cartridge version more than make up for the slight loss in audio quality.
The Tournament Edition features several options not available on the original NBA Jam, including power-up icons that give you special dunk power, unlimited turbo, awesome speed, etc. Besides the power-ups, there are also hotspots that allow you to shoot the ball from certain areas on the court for 4, 5 even 9 points for one basket. What's particularly fun is obtaining a dunk power-up and dunking all the way from the other end of the court while starting from a 9 point hotspot, giving you a super-duper incredible 9 point, 80-foot flying slam!!
Of course for the NBA Jam "purists", the Tournament Mode can be turned on or off, so power-ups and hotspots are only on if you want them. All the other options of the original are still in-place, such as the difficulty level of the computer opponent, the speed of the clock, etc. When I first tried this Jaguar version, I had a hard time beating the computer on the easy mode, but now I can even win on the very hard mode!
After you have selected your various options, you can choose whether or not to enter your initials, and just like in NBA Jam, there is a plethora of secret characters available by punching in initials in a certain manner. Included are the traditional Bill Clinton and Kabuki, but Jam TE on Jaguar also incorporates several new secret players, including the game's programmer, Adisak. Of course the first time I tried the Adisak character, I pulled off an amazing, on-fire jam!! Besides the secret characters, there is also a way to play with baby bodies. It's really cool to see the little tiny player go up for the 360-degree slam!
As for the game itself, I have one word: addicting! I spent so many hours playing NBA Jam TE that I kept putting off writing this review. After having played the Genesis and SNES versions, it is indeed a testament to next generation gaming to see how much the Jaguar version rocks! The scaling, the logo on the court, the detail of the background, all the little eye candy things are in place and very complimentary to the game. On certain players, most notably those on the Cleveland Cavaliers such as Mark Price (he has since been traded in real life), the "3-D Sound" becomes apparent, as the announcer sounds way better than on the rest of the game. When he says Price, it's more like "Pprrriiiicce!" You will have to check out the game to fully appreciate what I'm talking about.
One thing that bugs me is how the computer opponent always tightens up in the last 10 seconds of the quarter, seems to always come up with the ball and somehow hit a full-court shot that goes in for three points. Of course if the hot spots are on, I can retaliate by firing up a 6-pointer or whatever pops up when the next quarter begins! The hotspots are not up all the time, they pop up in different places with different values as the game goes on, for those of you not familiar with NBA Jam TE.
There is a rookie team that features many of the best rookies from the '94-'95 season that you can choose to play as, but the rookie team disappears after you beat all 27 NBA teams. At that point, the rookies are assimilated to the rosters of their respective teams, and a new all-star team appears, allowing you to choose from combinations of the best players in the game. Also, 26 of the 27 NBA team rosters are expanded at that point.
That is another problem I have with this game. I am from Sacramento, California, and the Sacramento Kings are the only team that does not get the expanded roster. In addition, even though two Kings rookies from '94-'95 made the rookie all-star team (Brian Grant and Michael Smith), neither one of them is on the NBA Jam TE rookie team. Instead, we get players like Bill Curley and Yinka Dare who have done almost nothing in the NBA. The snub of Sacramento is the one of the very few things I dislike about this game. The other is the price: $69.95 in most places. Paying over $70 for a game that now sells for $30 on the SNES and Genesis platforms, and for $49.95 for Saturn and PSX is a little steep. However, with the amount of times I have played NBA Jam TE, I think I am still getting quite a value!
Even after you have beaten all the teams, earned the expanded rosters and for all intents and purposes beaten the game, NBA Jam TE remains a blast. The power-ups, secret characters and hotspots make it a different game every time you play, and it's even more fun when you are playing against a friend or friends. Both the Team Tap and the Pro Contoller are supported, with the fingertip buttons on the Pro Controller contolling the turbo feature.
Bottom line: if you're a sports fanatic like me, go out and pay the full price to start enjoying this game now! If not, and you just want another quality game for the Jaguar, you might be well-served by waiting a couple months in hopes the price will dip under $60. Either way, this is now my second favorite Jaguar game behind Tempest 2000 (and ahead of Battlemorph, Defender 2000 and Missile Command 3D!). Adisak and the High Voltage software team did an excellent job on this conversion. It is most certainly a great boost to any Jaguar owners cartridge library.