Basketball Classics: A love letter to the game of Basketball

Over the last couple of weeks, we here at have been enjoying Namo Gamo’s new retro-inspired basketball game, Basketball Classics. Josh Marchant and David Pilkington’s ode to the history of Pro Basketball as well as the history of retro basketball games.  This game has been a lot of fun.  It does a good job of telling the story of pro basketball as well as having its own personality.

As I look at my retro SNES Megaman controller, I am reminded of the first moments of Basketball Classics story mode and story mode+.  The first thing that you see when you start up story mode is a 70s looking basketball player telling a story of the mystical ball or something, then you see a ballplayer on a roof zigging and zagging around cops, to stand on top of building like the opening of Megaman 2.  Then it cuts to the boss selection screen with five “bosses” to choose from.  They are inspired versions of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Sir Charles, and Kareem.  The premise is you are a team of Scrubs, and once you beat the ’89 Chicago team you get “His Airness” himself to your team.  After you beat all 5 bosses, you get to take on the Phantom all-star team, and it is a worthy challenge.  After that happens you can then play as the phantom team in quick play, and unlock story mode+ which then has a similar setup but this time with modern superstars.

Even though this game looks like an old school retro game, it plays very differently.  “Retro-inspired but modern-informed,” as described by Josh.  What he means by this is the game speed is fast-paced like NBA Jam or the ps2 era NBA Live series.  It’s easy to play and hard to master. There is a nice shooting indicator that tells you the odds of the shot going in, and if a defender is close or tries to block it, the odds go down and is visually displayed by the shot meter.  One of the nicest things about this game is the quick informative tutorial before every game. A faux Red Auerbach barks coaching tips at you while he licks a sucker to get you ready to play this game. It gives you all the tools to have some success as you play the game of basketball.

The next thing that makes this game stand out from the old school games is the dunking mini-game mechanics if you are near the basket and no one is around it just cuts to a dunk animation.  If you are one step ahead there is a chase-down dunk game that pops up, which is essentially a button-mashing mini-game, and then the other dunk animation happens when a defender is in front of you.  You get a status bar and can either put the ball high, middle, or low or spin, depending on the talent of the player you are using, the same goes for the defender.  When playing against another user, it is quite a fun strategy on whether to do a 900 high-low, or a reverse double pump.

In addition to this fun gameplay, you can re-live several classic NBA seasons from 1977 to 2019.  16 playoff teams, a 15 game season that plays out similarly to Tecmo Super Bowl. Each season ends with a single game elimination playoff. If you are familiar with rom hacks, the season mode feels like 20 rom hacks in one.  Making this game have lots of replay value, with the multiple seasons and online remote play.

Dave and Josh both had a similar dream of making a Tecmo Super Bowl inspired basketball game.  Dave is an artist and Josh is a computer programmer so they got to work on this project in 2016 after discovering they both had similar interests.  You can see both their Tecmo and NBA Live 95 inspirations during the development of this game and how it plays. If you are a fan of Tecmo Super Bowl and classic basketball games, this game is a must-play!

One thought on “Basketball Classics: A love letter to the game of Basketball

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s