NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (also known as NBA Jam T.E.) is a belt-scrolling basketball game developed and released by Midway for arcades in January 1994.
An updated sequel to the 1993 game NBA Jam, Tournament Edition revamps the player roster for the 1993-94 NBA season while fine-tuning the gameplay and allowing more than two basketball players per team to choose from (in which players can choose their team composition before and half-way through each game). It also features "Tournament Mode", which disables all cheat codes and special characters while reducing the "rubber-banding" effect in player-vs-player matches.
The game received home console ports through 1995-1996, first for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and Game Gear, then for the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Jaguar, Sega 32X, MS-DOS PCs, and Game Boy. These were published by Acclaim, and most were ported by Iguana Entertainment, with the GB version ported by Torus Games and the Jaguar version ported by High Voltage Software. These versions include an updated roster (from the 1994-95 NBA season) and new game options (including power-up icons, "hot spots", faster game speed, and an injury system).
Both early arcade versions and the console ports are known for building up their list of unique hidden characters, with the early arcade versions including guest characters from the studio's Mortal Kombat series (which were removed shortly after release) and the console versions including some NBA mascots, retired sports icons, the American rap group Beastie Boys, the American hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, and Charles, Prince of Wales.
Some of the console ports were later used for the spin-off College Slam, while the original arcade version later received a successor with NBA Hangtime.
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 & Players
All 27 teams from the original NBA Jam return, albeit with roster updates to match the 1993-94 NBA season. In addition, most teams now have three basketball players to choose from, with players able to change their team's composition both before and half-way through the game. Players can now also choose the same team for mirror matches and can unlock an expanded roster with a cheat code (which is sometimes used by CPU teams normally). With the expanded roster, which adds 13 players, this version's total number of players is 92.
Along with movement speed, ability to score Three Point shots, ability to dunk, and defensive power, each basketball player is categorized (from 0-9) on their ability to pass, their ability to steal, their ability to block, and their "clutch" (which buffs them in the last 10 seconds of every period). In the console versions, each basketball player now has an "injury" stat.
The game's console versions updated the roster to match the 1994-95 NBA season while building up the expanded roster count (bring the total amount of players to 120).
Defeating all 27 teams with a persistent profile unlocks both the expanded roster (without needing a cheat code) and access to the 28th "???" team, the latter of which consist of special team combinations that are used for subsequent CPU opponents.
In the console version, the 28th team is unlocked from the start as the NBA Rookies, which consist of 20 team pairings with rookie players from all the other teams. Unlocking the expanded roster changes the team to the NBA All-Stars, which consist of 20 team pairings with better-known players from all the other teams.
Most of the hidden characters from the original arcade game return in the arcade version (the only exceptions being motion-capture actors Stephen Howard and Tony Scott), with several new additions. Unlike the previous games, all characters have their own unique stats that are hidden.
Most of these additions involve those from Midway (Paul Barker, Steve Beran, Ed Boon, Matt Booty, Tim Coman, Pat Cox, Bill Dabelstein, Rachel Davies, Warren Davis, Linda Deal, Larry DeMar, Joe Dillon, Dan Forden, Raymond Gay, Jim Gentile, Chris Granner, Jim Green, Jack Haeger, Paul Heitsch, Kerri Hoskins, Eugene Jarvis, Eric Kinkead, Al Lasko, Joe Linhoff, Mark Loffredo, John Lowes, Ray Macika, Martin Martinez, Cary Mednick, Lorraine Olivia, Mark Penacho, Vince Pontarelli, Roger Sharpe, Jake Simpson, Jason Skiles, John Tobias, Josh Tsui, and John Vogel), along with some costumes (Elviscious, Grim Reaper, and Kongo) and guest characters from the Mortal Kombat series (Raiden, Reptile, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero). The costumed and Mortal Kombat characters, as well as Tim Coman (who dons a gas mask), Kerri Hoskins, and Lorraine Olivia, were removed from later revisions by demand of the NBA.
In addition, the game allows players to use the hidden character system to have access to certain NBA players (already in the game) for use with any team. These include Charles Barkley, Dee Brown, Derrick Coleman, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Kemp, Karl Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Webber, and Dominique Wilkins.
Similar to the previous game, the console versions of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition include a different assortment of hidden characters, with only a few returning from the arcade version (John Carlton, Sal DiVita, Tony Goskie, Shawn Liptak, Jamie Rivett, and Mark Turmell), and all of which require a specific button combination in addition to the correct initials.
Along with the additions from Midway's team, the game includes members from Acclaim's teams: Asif "Chow-Chow" Chauhdri, Jason Falcus, Dan "Weasel" Feinstein, Brett "???" Gow, Chris Kirby, Eric "Kabuki" Kuby, Wes "???" Little, Alex "???" de Lucia, Jay Moon, Mike Muskett, Neil Hill, Eric "???" Samulski, Scott "???" Scheno, and Steve Snake. One hidden character, named "Stud Muffin" (believed to be Acclaim founder Greg Fischbach), is unique as his cheat code requires additional steps to activate. Additional team members were added to later console versions.
[NOTE: Which character (Brutah, Facime, Kid Silk, Moosekat, and Scooter Pie) corresponds with each "???" above?]
Similar to the console versions of NBA Jam, the console versions of this game are known for their unique hidden characters: