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Jobu takes it back to the old school with a new Retro Game Review. Behold Tecmo Super NBA Basketball.

I think I’ve mentioned this in my other posts, but my good buddy, Dr. Draft, recently bought me a shiny, brand new, old refurbished Super Nintendo Entertainment System. What a guy! Because of his unbridled generosity, I have been getting back into my old favorite games. Many of those (as if you couldn’t guess) are sports titles. What can I say, I love sports! Anywho, I’m starting a new series for you guys called Retro Game Review. The first game we’ll be tackling is one of my favorites, Tecmo Super NBA Basketball.

Tecmo is pretty famous for putting out sports games during the 8-bit and 16-bit generations. Everyone knows Tecmo , Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl, but they also had a solid baseball game named Tecmo Super Baseball that was actually very solid too. Tecmo’s first attempt at a basketball game was Tecmo NBA Basketball, which was released in November of 1992 for the NES. Just one month later, they released the super nintendo version, which I almost immediately snatched up (I re-purchased this game as soon as Dr. Draft gave me the system). I am very glad I did, because this game is definitely a classic.

What makes this game a classic? Well, the box itself tells you. Right on the cover, in weird and sort of hard to see green text with white outline (blue on the NES box art), are the following words: “REAL TEAMS. REAL PLAYERS. REAL NBA ACTION.” That pretty much says it all. Like in Tecmo Super Bowl before this game, Tecmo acquired the real NBA and NBAPA licenses for this game. That meant that every team and every NBA player was available to you in the game! More specifically, the game used the official 1992 NBA Rosters. While the Genesis version came out in 1993 and featured an updated roster, only the Super NES version included Michael Jordan and Reggie Lewis. Take that, Sega!

The graphics and the cutscenes were pretty great for this classic.
The graphics and the cutscenes were pretty great for this classic.

As far as actual gameplay goes, this game was pretty solid. Like most Tecmo sports games, it was complete with those crazy cool cut scene animations for certain big plays. There was no better feeling than spotting up for a three-pointer and seeing the screen switch to that cut scene. “THREE!,” the game announcer would yell. Conversely, there was no worse feeling than spotting up for a shot and getting a cut scene, thinking you were getting that three-pointer, and instead getting a close-up of two hands as one slapped the ball back at the other. “BLOCK!,” the announcer would yell. CURSES! I would bellow back at the screen. Those small details are what really set Tecmo above and beyond all other sports franchises of the era. The actual gameplay was pretty solid. Sometimes it’s hard to dribble past a defender without getting called for a foul (there are no crossovers, shake and bakes, etc), but other than that, it’s very enjoyable.

The game included exhibitions and an All-Star game option, but my favorite was, by far, the season mode. That’s right, Tecmo let you play an entire season with whatever team you wanted, and kept all of your stats! You could see how well your team was doing and how your individual players stacked up on the league leader boards. I know that’s the bare minimum a sports game has to have nowadays, but back in 1992, that wasn’t the most common thing in the world. It was really cool! Also, the season mode had real injuries in it. I thought that was a neat touch of realism, although it would eventually come back to bite me.

There are a few memories I have of this game. The first is the first season i decided to play. You would think that, being a big Celtics fan, I would try to take the original “Big Three” (Bird, Parish and McHale) to one more championship. However, I went with the Chicago Bulls for some reason. Was it because they had Jordan? Maybe… but my big start was Scottie Pippen. I barely gave Jordan the ball at all throughout the season, and Pippen averaged around 80 points per game (the exact number escapes me, but it was absurd). Why did I ignore the best player in NBA history and make his second fiddle a star? I’ll never know. But I won the championship, so that worked out.

The second thing I remember was starting a franchise with my cousin as the Charlotte Hornets (his favorite team). It didn’t last too long, as the great Rex Chapman broke his leg just a few games into the season, and all hopes were lost. That’s where the injury feature came back to haunt me. I mean really? A broken leg? Who is he, Sam Bowie?? Anyway, I’m not bitter about it or anything, so let’s move on.

I’ve also played this game a lot with my good buddy Marc. In college, when we discovered Emulators and ROMs, we spent many hours playing each other over the internet. We played tons of Uniracers, but definitely managed to get some Tecmo Super NBA Basketball in as well. It was fitting that the first time I played this game when I got my new SNES, it was against Marc. It’s also fitting that I won, because I’m great. Take that, Knicks! Celtics win!

Seriously though. Check this game out. I was able to pick it up used at Retro Games Plus in Westport, CT for only a few dollars. Definitely a steal at that price.

Martin Stezano

About Martin Stezano

Uruguayan born and American raised with a unique perspective on the domestic and international sports scenes. It will both tickle your funny bone and enlighten your mind. Love it or hate it...just read it.

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