Approximate Release Date: October 1, 1992
Genre: Basketball simulation
Developer: Sculptured Software
Publisher: HAL Laboratory/Nintendo
How jaw-dropping would it have been to see NCAA Basketball for the first time in 1992?
I ask because I’m impressed by it in 2014. Even though the lack of a background around the court is more than a little goofy, I’m surprised by how smooth NCAA Basketball is in motion. There are PlayStation 3D basketball games that don’t play this well. The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 capabilities are used to great effect, only rivaled so far by F-Zero. Even the players’ sprites are large and well-animated. It doesn’t look like a Super Nintendo game from this era.
As a basketball game, NCAA Basketball is okay. It doesn’t do anything especially interesting, but it is competent and leagues better than the awful Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball. NCAA Basketball won’t compare favorably to modern basketball games, but it doesn’t do anything wrong. There’s just a lack of refinement that will come to the genre with time and better technology.
The biggest issue I have is that there is a surprisingly limited choice of teams to play, with only 44 teams split into five conferences. Much of the appeal for me in playing collegiate sports games is playing as my alma mater, but the Big Ten is not represented here. Defense is also too difficult to my tastes, but that could be a personal skill problem than anything wrong with NCAA Basketball.
As cool and as playable as NCAA Basketball is, there’s not much reason to play it today. But it might be the first modern basketball game in many respects, so if you look at it in a historical context, it might be worth checking out.
Tomorrow: We’re returning to one-a-days with a very special entry. It’s rare that a game is more known for its box art than anything else, but Phalanx is one of them!