26th Nov 2010 | 00:01
You can only really get away with shouting "He's on fire!" without prompt if you're of a certain era, and you have arcade-nostalgic friends.
The fact that clusters of us are still shouting it 17 years after NBA Jam's debut only goes to show that the basketball classic has a special place in a lot of our hearts.
It's games like Jam that must leave developers in two minds when it comes to a remake. On the one hand, it's such a classic that too much tinkering could result in the always likely fan backlash. On the other, it's such a classic that the right mix of respect and modernising polish could result in the often elusive fanboy applause.
If you were a passionate contributor to the old school arcader you can rest easy. This is NBA Jam as we left it, spinning dunks and all - only it takes advantage of modern day tech, so there's no need for those rose-tinted glasses.
For newcomers, the concept is simple: Two on two basketball, no rules and the most ludicrous, flubber-assisted dunks you've ever seen. It's cartoon basketball in every way.
Being the epitome of pick-up-and-play, NBA Jam only really requires you to use two buttons to get started (we're marking the left analogue stick for movement as a given); a press of A will pass to your team-mate, no direction required, whilst Y triggers a shot.
And... that's it, you're playing NBA Jam. You'll need to go deeper into the controls to get the most out of it, but it never gets complicated. X will make you fake a shot, causing anyone guarding the hoop to jump prematurely like a mug, and B will execute a spin to avoid attempted steals or dirty pushes.
The core of NBA Jam, however, is in its flamboyant, gravity-defying dunks. Shoot while you're sprinting towards the basket using the left trigger and your player will launch himself into the air and usually hit net with an amusing game face and an other worldly pirouette.
Don't have the ball? Don't worry. Go for the dunk anyway and your team mate might be able to pick out a pass to you completing the ultimate alley-oop.
The modern day remake keeps the Jam basics at its core, but new tech heightens what made the original so great.
It's almost not worth comparing 2010s offering to that of '93, but animations are quick detailed, smooth and varied. Graphically it's a trade-off between meeting today's standards and retaining the quirks of an arcade game of the '90s.
While players bodies, then, are fully flowing, functioning 3D models, their heads are more like cut-out masks of their real-life counterparts, flicking through different expressions depending on their actions.
It's a great compromise; while the heads become a key part of the quirky philosophy behind the game and a nod to its roots, the more advanced bodies allow for much more inventive, visual spectacle that really propels the whole idea of NBA Jam into 2010.
Another vintage aspect of NBA Jam has been given a boost, too. Fans will be pleased to hear Tim Kitzrow take up the role of enthusiastic announcer once again - only this time he has much more to say.
Where the original NBA Jam only contained a smattering of commentator phrases at key points in the game, now Kitzrow is able to give play-by-play coverage throughout the match as well as the expected celebratory phrases when ball meets hoop.
The best part is some of the new colour phrases are funny enough to have become as prolific as the likes of "He's on fire!" and "Boom Shaka laka!" had they been a part of the original game.
"You bring the peanut butter AND I'LL BRING THE JAM!" is a particular favourite of ours.
NBA Jam does everything possible to bring the adored classic up to date, then, and does it really well. The problem is that the game is a simple one - it always has been - and although that's what makes NBA Jam accessible, it harms its longevity as far as single-player is concerned.
It's tricky issue to form a definitive stance on. Back in the day, simple was the standard due to a technological ceiling, and in 2010 it's something EA Sports really has no option but to leave un-touched. To make NBA Jam any more complicated or sophisticated in any area other than presentation would be to destroy its essence.
We can't criticise the developer, but it does make us raise the question as to how much lifespan NBA Jam will really have in the world of modern gaming - especially now that it's being released as a £30 retail game rather than a download or a freebie with the canned NBA Elite 11.
There are some attempts to shake up the single-player experience with a bit of modernity, but not all of them succeed. The Classic Campaign, for example, tasks you with beating teams consecutively, but offers little on top of a string of Exhibition matches besides a set path.
Remix Mode adds power-ups to matches providing players with extra speed, accuracy, power or invulnerability - but in NBA Jam's already over the top world, they don't add enough to really be considered a game-changer. Remix Tour is a kind of hybrid of both Remix Mode and Classic Campaign with the same issue.
Similarly, 'Smash' adds the objective of shattering your opponents backboard to win. The damage can only be done with dunks but most players will come to the game with a dunking focus anyway.
Domination provides a significant twist, though, and is a welcome addition. The aim is to win certain spots positioned around a half court by scoring from them. Since the winner is the player who dominates all the spots, this mode creates a tense to-and-fro between players and forces them to master a range of shots.
A walk-in wardrobe-load of unlockables will drive most players through the single-player modes, and the sheer novelty of basketball legends and classic rewards like a team of US Presidents make them a real incentive.
Most of the ball-blazing fun of NBA Jam, however, comes when you introduce real-life, human friends. This is a party game that people will gather around in their droves - and while the NBA Jam formula might be overly simple at times, it complements an atmosphere of fun-poking and shameless bragging.
If you loved NBA Jam in the '90s, you'll love this carefully remastered iteration. If you've got mates who share your nostalgia, you'll love it even more.