NBA Jam Tournament Edition is the second game in Midway’s basketball arcade series, featuring two-on-two fast paced matches with NBA players from the 1993-94 season (1994-95 on consoles). In total, the game features over 120 NBA athletes and over 40 hidden characters. Improvements include additional power-ups, more detailed player attributes, player substitutions after each quarter, and a new soundtrack. The namesake "Tournament Mode" turns off all cheats and power-ups, and rewards players with expanded rosters for nearly all teams if the player beats all 27 teams.
In addition to these features, console releases added practice and “juice” modes, optional game toggles like "hotspots" and power-up icons, and an "injury" stat that lowers a character's stats. Later console releases (Jaguar, Saturn, PlayStation) also featured larger character sprites and scaling effects to match those of the Arcade version.
The core gameplay is largely unchanged from the original NBA Jam. Players still have the ability to do all the crazy dunks from the original, and all actions (running, passing, shooting) can be enhanced by holding down the "Turbo" button. Turbo drains while active, and replenishes quickly when not in use. Players also have the series-staple ability to go on fire after making 3 unanswered scores in a row - giving the player temporary unlimited sprint and the ability to goal tend without being penalized. Small, but significant changes in the T.E. include slightly improved A.I., game speed, new dunks, and court changes matching the color of the home team. Up to four players can play at once, with the A.I. filling in any empty slots.
The most significant changes in the Tournament Edition are expanding each player's stats, and expanding each team's roster to three players (with some exceptions due to trades or retirement, such as Dallas, which only has two players). Players are graded from 0 to 9 in eight categories: Speed, Dunk, 3-Point, Block, Power, Clutch, and Pass. Stats directly affect a player's success for each particular action, and players can be substituted out at halftime to respond to the changing needs of the game. For example, the player can send in a player with high Power and Pass ratings if ahead, to minimize getting shoved or picked and secure their lead. If trailing in the 4th, send in players with a high Clutch rating. These changes bring an added level of strategy somewhat missing from the original.
Every version of the game also contains the Tournament Mode, where all cheats, power-ups, and special characters are disabled. Players are challenged to beat all 27 NBA teams, with progress stored to their initials (inputted at the start of the game). If a player beats all challenging teams, they unlock new characters and challenges. In the Arcade version, this unlocked the "???" team for play, consisting of NBA All-Stars and secret characters. These characters would also populate opposing teams, and always come with the "Quick Hands" and "Max Power" power-ups (except in Tournament Mode). On consoles, beating Tournament Mode unlocks 2 new players for almost every team's roster, plus a new difficulty level.
All versions of the game also include "Power-up" codes to input at the Tonight's Matchup screen. These are secret combinations of button presses and stick moves that grant abilities akin to cheats (such as infinite turbo and power dunks). Playing in Tournament Mode disables these.
An owner dipswitch option in the Arcade allowed the winning team out of a game of four players to continue playing for free, adding extra incentive to beat any challengers lined up.
Some additional modes were added for console releases, and could be individually toggled in the options screen off the main menu. "Hot Spots" place marked circles randomly around the court and reward the player with extra points (up to a 9-point shot) for sinking a basket while standing inside them. Each spot clearly displays its value within the circle. "Power-up" icons add randomly-appearing icons around the court that bestow an effect when touched (such as enhanced accuracy, instant "on fire," or an earthquake knocking down all other players). Finally, some releases included a "Juice" mode that increased the game's speed by a factor of four. Once again, playing in Tournament Mode disables all of these.
The console releases also added an "Injury" stat for each player. This stat increases as the player is repeatedly shoved to the ground, and decrease all his other stats proportionally. Substitutions are also increased for each quarter, encouraging injured players to be swapped out for a quarter and come back refreshed. It also adds a further layer of possible tactics, as a strong player could be shut down with repeated shoving.
Console releases also include an optional "Tag Mode" where the player always control the athlete holding the ball. Passing to a player switches control to that player as soon as the ball connects. This mode can be helpful for anyone not content with the A.I. teammate's handling and decisions.
Computer AI Analysis
The computer artificial intelligence seems to have two different modes. In one mode (mostly seen in early tournament matches) the computer adopts a more passive defensive strategy. They will rarely ever try to push the player over, and the player can often simply run the length of the court and put up a three, or go for an easy dunk without ever worrying about passing. On offense, they tend to often go for three pointers, and will almost always make them if the player doesn't steal or block the ball first (especially if the player is ahead in score). The AI will rarely ever go inside the paint for a lay up or a dunk in this mode.
In the second mode (mostly seen in later tournament matches) the computer is much more aggressive. They will often try to push the player over, making it almost impossible to progress the ball up the length of the court without passing the ball to the other player frequently. Also, if the player tries to put up a three, they will almost always get shoved by the opposing computer controlled AI player if he is nearby. This makes it hard to get three pointers up, and the player can end up getting pummeled if they do not pass frequently. On offense, the AI will frequently go for dunks and attack the paint. However, if the player leaves them wide open on the perimeter they will pull up a three and make it almost all the time.
In general, AI in the first mode is much easier to deal with than the aggressive second mode. The one advantage the first mode has to the second mode is on the offensive side because they will often go for three pointers and will make them almost all the time meaning they can come back quickly if the player is sloppy on the offensive end. However, because of the second modes extremely aggressive defensive, it is more often than not much harder to deal with. Though if the player can manage to get a huge lead on them, it is a lot harder for this mode to make a come back because they often don't put up three pointers.
However, it is hard to get a big lead on either types of AI because of the Rubber Band AI effect. As the player's lead grows, the probability of making shots becomes progressively lower, while the AI's probability of success progressively increases. One strategy to deal with this is to always go for dunks after starting to get a lead bigger than two possessions (4 points), because dunks have a very high probability of going in. Likewise, never go for three pointers because the probability of a three pointer going in is very small when the player has a lead. Also increasing the defense on the perimeter is recommended because the computer's probability of making a three pointer when the player has a big lead is nearly 100%. This is why the second computer AI mode is easier to get a big lead on because they tend to not go for three pointers and have tougher defense on the perimeter than they do in the paint.
It is interesting to note that if, in the last seconds before half-time or the end of the match, the computer has the ball and they throw up a full court shot it will always go in (a 100% probability) regardless of the score, but if they advance the ball to half court and shoot it from there their probability of making the shot is significantly reduced. For the player, the probability of making a full court shot is very small, giving the computer a competitive edge at the end of the game. Also in the last ten seconds before halftime or the end of the game the computer will become extremely aggressive (even more so than the second AI mode) regardless of the type of AI the player may be facing. If the player has the ball the computer will sprint full speed towards him/her and try to steal the ball and take a quick shot. So if the player is not careful, the computer can score 4 or 6 points in the final 10 seconds using quick steals and shots.
Teams and Players
NBA Team Rosters
(players in brackets are unlocked after beating all 27 teams in tournament mode)
The Following players are new to the franchise (They did not appear in the original NBA Jam):
Hidden Players (Varies Depending on Version)