As the NBA is holding it’s All-Star weekend and with the recent announcement by EA Sports that they are reviving the NBA Live basketball game franchise, now is a perfect time to take a brief look back at some classic Electronic Art’s basketball titles. We’ll be focusing primarily on the computer versions though there were versions released for game systems as well.
Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One-On-One (also known as “One On One”)
Developed by Eric Hammond and initially released for the Apple II by Electronic Arts in 1983, this game was the best basketball game of it’s time. Even with the graphical and sound limiations of the Apple II, Hammond was able to recreate the feel of one-on-one basketball. For such an old game, Hammond included some smaller touches such Larry Bird being a better shooter while Dr. J was more of a slasher and dunker. There were small comical touches too as the backboard would shatter occasionally and the janitor would come out and sweep the mess up. While the game is definitely dated today, for it’s time, it was one of the best of it’s era.
Jordan vs. Bird: One on One
Released by Electronic Arts in 1988 (developed unknown), the sequel to One On One has Michael Jordan replacing Dr. J while retaining Larry Bird. The game was released for the Commodore 64, PC’s, Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System but surprisingly not the Apple II which the original One On One was developed on.
While the original One-On-One on the Apple II had fairly sparse graphics and sound, with Jordan vs. Bird being developed on more capable systems, the graphics were more colorful. The sound was sparse and there was no music. To be fair, the Boxer / DOS-BOX emulator warns that there are copyright issues with playing game music and so music files are not included with the emulator itself.
From the game play perspective, the game had the one-on-one mode along with a dunk contest and a 3-point shooting contest which added to the fun. Overall, despite being developed about 5 years after the original One-On-One, Jordan vs. Bird didn’t take a huge leap beyond the original and that was a bit of a disappointment.
The Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs
While the NBA Live Series started with NBA Live 95 (released in December 1994), the series has it’s origins with The Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs game. The game was released in 1989 for the PC and later for the Sega Genesis. This was the first team basketball game that was endorsed by the NBA and featured NBA players.
Players could play against the computer or play against other player using the 8 teams available in an exhibition mode. The best aspect was that a player could pick one the 8 teams and attempt to go through the NBA playoffs to win the championship. Players could pick one of three levels: Pre-Season, Regular Season and Showtime. Addiionally, you pick the length of time per quarter: 2 Minutes, 5 Minutes, 8 Minutes or 12 Minutes.
Graphically, the game was solid though besides the jersey numbers, it would be difficult to differentiate between the various different players on the court. Sound was once again sparse and music was not in the game due to the issues noted previously. The full court was split into two courts but the delay in switching back and forth was minimum.
There were some signature moves for some of the players though don’t expect the cross overs or other fancy moves that today’s games have. Also, remember that the NBA of 1989 did not have zone defenses so the game had all the teams play man to man.
Overall, the game still plays relatively well even though it’s been over 20 years since it’s release. It’s well worth a look for those interested in how Electronic Arts / EA’s NBA Live franchise got off the ground.