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To start with the bad, the graphics in NBA Live '96 may be the one downfall of the game. Though the 3D stadiums are excellent, the actual player graphics are a disappointment. Most of the possible views in the game are from a distance, which leaves the players looking very small and slightly blurred. The few views that move up close to the court show an inordinate amount of pixelation in the players and the baskets. Also, there are no referees or cheerleaders, and limited crowd interaction. Other than these few flaws, however, the graphics package comes off very nicely. Players are fluidly animated, there is no flicker or slow down, and the rim and net of the basket react realistically to all shots and dunks. Add this to the excellently rendered stadiums that represent every NBA court, and the graphics come off favorably, if not as an outstanding quality of the game.
NBA Live '96 incorporates unique game play mechanics which allow the player to let the game be extremely simple or very complicated. On the simple end, only three buttons plus the directional pad are needed to play: the shoot/shove button, the pass/switch players button, and the run button. As the player becomes more familiar with the game, they learn to use other buttons that allow stealing (incase shoving is impossible because fouls are on), shot blocking, and manual rebounding. Past that, three more buttons can be used in conjunction with the directional pad to call a variety of offensive and defensive plays. This, plus an option to turn on and off virtually every rule in the NBA, allows the player to start off by playing a game that slightly resembles five on five NBA Jam, and slowly move into an almost complete simulation of NBA basketball. From a full court press to the Bulls patented triangle offense, it's all here. Crisp controls allow these plays to be run seamlessly. Add this to all the other extras such as alley-oops and passing while midway through a shot attempt, and what comes out are some very solid play mechanics. This is obviously an EA Sports game all the way.
Though the sound spinning off the CD-ROM isn't as well done as some previous EA Sports efforts such as FIFA Soccer for the 3DO, it definitely holds it's own. The music that makes itself heard throughout the title is very well done, but it is played little during the actual game. A song will often start up for the first ten seconds of a quarter, and then disappear for the rest of the quarter. It would have been a wiser choice by EA to have given players the option of having in game music or not. Sound effects in the game consist of the standard sports fanfare. The squeaking shoes, clanging rim, and roaring crowd are nice, but nothing special. They fit the atmosphere fine, but do little to add or detract to the game playing experience.
Written by Andrew Phelan
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