NBA Action '98

If you can adapt to the controls,
you'll definitely have a blast with NBA Action '98.

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Visual Concepts
Genre: Action

Gray Matter is out and Visual Concepts is in for this year's NBA Action. Where last year's basketball for Sega Sports had impressive graphics but played like a dog, this year's edition brings the best of both worlds. It looks and plays great.

It's identical to what Midway's bringing to the PlayStation under the NBA FastBreak moniker -- why not, since both games were developed by good ol' Visual Concepts. While the PlayStation enjoys slightly better visuals, the Saturn edition certainly holds its own. This is definitely the best Saturn basketball title yet.

For starters, the game flows smooth well enough to follow the action -- the 3D engine handles the texture-mapped players and arenas quite well. It's a fast engine that keeps up with the quick action. And as expected, the developers take advantage of the graphics by utilizing many different camera angles, both for playability and for show. If you come home with an awesome jam, the camera will swing in tight for a replay.

Chick Hearn takes over Marv Albert's voice in this year's edition. The play-by-play flows with the action, but it's nothing elaborate. It's the added fluff that's expected in a sports title these days, and it does the job satisfactorily.

And as for the game itself, NBA Action '98 plays a tight, solid game of b-ball. You can run, jump, block, steal, and alley-oop all with the touch of a button. And if you want real control, turn on icon-passing -- each of your offensemen are assigned a specific button on the controller. Just hit a button to pass to that specific player.

My only true gripe is in the control scheme. With all the options you can turn on - arcade/simulation mode, injuries, fouls, yadda-yadda-yadda - you'd think you could have the opportunity to map the controls to whatever configuration you want. The three choices for controller modes just aren't enough -- I want to make a controller configuration that suits my playing style, and the options just don't allow it.

But if you can adapt to the controls, you'll definitely have a blast with NBA Action '98. It's a sports title laced with all the goodies you've come to crave these days, and it plays one mean game of basketball as well.