Slam ‘N Jam ’96, Featuring Magic & Kareem for Sega Saturn, is a fantastic video game for its era. As a long-time fan of basketball and Sega Saturn, I can confidently say this is one of the more overlooked 90s sports games.
Why Slam ‘N Jam ’96 is a Good Game
- Pace: Gameplay feels fast, easy, and unforced
- Strategy: Presents a good sense of “basketball IQ.”
- Replayability: Can easily blow through multiple games
- Nostalgia: Features legends, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Slam ‘N Jam ’96 Condensed Review
While Sega Saturn sports games are somewhat scarce among retro gamers, the console featured some hidden gems that evaded the scope of either basketball or video game culture.
If retro gamers can look past minor gameplay issues and an absence of NBA licensing (Magic & Kareem are the only real names), the arcade gameplay, refreshing strategy, and legitimate replay value make Slam ‘N Jam ’96 Featuring Magic & Kareem a must-have for Saturn enthusiasts.
Circa 98 Rating: 93/100
Slam ‘N Jam ’96 Overview (Sega Saturn)
Slam ‘N Jam ’96 is a 2D sprite-based basketball game released on May 22, 1996, for Sega Saturn. Developed by Crystal Dynamics, the fast-paced arcade style contrasts the simulation of other games like NBA Action.
On the other hand, so does its lack of NBA licensing, forcing the game to create fake players outside of their legendary endorsers, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Like many sports games facing similar limitations, the rosters attempt to model active NBA players through stats, features, and graphical design.
Slam ‘N Jam ’96 wastes no time identifying itself as an arcade basketball game. Its unapologetic genre seems to help its cause, as the game immediately feels exciting and fun.
While it will always be distinct from a simulation, it is a true 5 on 5 basketball game with 4 quarters, referees, out-of-bounds, and more.
It’s also evident the game was attempting to capitalize on the success of the NBA Jam series. However, this game is far from a doppelganger. It plays as something far superior to a discount version of its inspiration.
Instead, the game is able to integrate some of the best elements of NBA Jam while also feeling like an entirely different video game series.
The backboard shattering in this game is particularly entertaining. You can achieve this if your center completes three consecutive dunks.
Through the modern lens of 2023 and decades’ worth of NBA 2k games, the game will never be able to compete with contemporary basketball gaming. However, the gameplay holds up quite nicely for gamers with a retro hobby.
- Players move with a fast and smooth pace
- Screens and picks are realistic and effective
- Games have variance, so each game feels different
- Blocks are too easy, especially on dunks
- Charges are too easy both for the user and AI.
- Accidentally stepping out-of-bounds is a little too common
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are better than expected for the game’s era featuring impressive 2D animated players and an aesthetically pleasing 3D basketball court. Clearly, the basketball player’s sprites are hand-drawn, which has allowed the game to age better graphically.
Of course, through the lens of 2023, the graphics won’t be mistaken for modern games and may draw criticism for its lack of screen brightness. We should also note that instant replays are graphically limited, as users cannot adjust the camera in this setting.
As for the sound, it’s relatively limited, with sneakers squeaking across the court, general fan/crowd noise, and organic basketball sounds like dribbling and shooting. However, the simplicity adds to the positive gameplay feel rather than detracting from it.
The announcer, Van Earl Wright, may leave something to be desired for some gamers as his calls quickly become repetitive. Personally, however, I find the announcer’s more relaxed disposition preferable over the hectic style of the NBA Jam series.
Ultimately the collection of sounds in this game contributes to the basketball ambiance that makes it replayable for modern gamers.
Graphics and Sound Summary
- 2D players are appealing and well-animated
- 3D Court is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing
- Sounds like sneakers dribbling, and cheers add ambiance
- Graphical limitations of its era (i.e., brightness)
- Repetitive calls from the announcer
- More relaxed demeanor than the NBA Jam series
The game’s crisp controls make it a seamless basketball experience that allows gamers to relax and enjoy. The control designs match the fast-paced, arcade-style gameplay, and players can attempt quick passes, swipe for steals, send double teams, and juke defenders.
The signature moves like alley-oops and high-flying dunks are rewarding and feel natural and organic in the game’s landscape. One noteworthy flaw in the control system is collision detection which causes confusion when two players are next to one another.
Still, overall the game’s controls facilitate a positive user experience that lends itself to fast-paced, arcade-style basketball. That’s pretty much all you can ask for as a retro basketball gamer.
- Controls are “easy” and make for seamless gaming
- Various abilities like quick passes, steals, double teams, and jukes
- Exciting highlight plays like alley-oops and dunks
- Flaws in the collision detection
Though it will never compete with NBA 2k24, Slam ‘N Jam ’96, Featuring Magic & Kareem for Sega Saturn, remains one of its era’s most replayable basketball games.
With its arcade-style gameplay and high-energy feel, this game appeals to retro gamers and basketball enthusiasts. The inclusion of NBA legends Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar injects nostalgia and softens the blow of its lack of NBA licensing.
Like most games from the 90s, the graphics have aged, and some of its limitations appear more evident through a modern lens. However, the game continues to deliver the most essential attribute, fun gaming, especially multiplayer gaming.