The Top Ten Basketball Videogames of All Time #7
7. NBA In the Zone series
As long time Los Angeles Clipper commentator Ralph Lawler might say, “Oh me oh my!” The NBA Live series doesn’t have anything on this joint. This game also came out during the mid 1990s when Live dominated the simulation basketball scene. Made by Konami, In the Zone had a good mix of arcade and simulation. This game truly ushered in 3D graphics for me. The game rocked the graphics and audio.
My older brother bought this with the PlayStation 1 launch. We went back and forth on this game and NFL GameDay 1996. We did not have any other games for awhile. The fact of the matter is we didn’t need any other games. This game whets my appetite. Live took a backseat. The soundtrack truly made the arena feel immersive. CD quality audio was a new thing for me back in 1995. I’m one of those kids who have been stuck with Nintendo cartridge limitation for years. Hearing the crisp sounds was liberating. This was arcade game play at its’ finest. NBA Jam was 2 on 2. For In the Zone, Konami merely extended the formula to five on five.
The Positives: Again, the graphics were great at the time. This blew away Live and Jam. Looking at the game now, the players look like painted cardboard boxes balling in a shoe box. The game play is very simple and easy to get into even though the game pits five on five. If I can remember correctly, I think there’s a special dribble move by pressing the triangle button. The player dribbles around the defender with a gangsta lean. The music is top notch. It stands up today. Tree Rollins pulled a Space Jam and stole all of Shaq’s skills. Bad players were actually pretty good.
The Negatives: Shaq was listed as “S Center.” Michael Jordan was listed as “S Guard.” I guess the S stands for Suck. They were really bad. There was no bench in the first game, but they made up for that with every other game. Players can dunk from the free throw line. Defense wasn’t that great. You can score 200 points easily. In general, scoring is too easy. The graphics are outdated as expected if you want to relive nostalgia today. The player models now look like Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” music video. YouTube them if you do not know.
NBA In the Zone is actually the forerunner of the NBA 2K series. The pinnacle of the series was NBA In the Zone 2. Many nights were spent playing this until the PlayStation broke. It was frustrating playing NBA Jam on the PlayStation because of the load times so I took my chances with this game. It was worth it. This was the closest thing to Konami’s other arcade basketball game, Run N Gun, that can be played at home without wasting quarters. It just didn’t have the longevity of Jam because five on five basketball mixed between arcade and simulation can work for so long.
[Photo courtesy of me]