Sunday 1 April 2018

Slam City with Scottie Pippen (Mega CD / Sega CD review)

Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Digital Pictures
Released: 1994

Slam City with Scottie Pippen is a Full Motion Video (FMV) basketball game that was also released on the Sega 32X-CD in 1994.

There's five opponents and you can choose to play to a time limit (3-9 mins), or until a specific score is reached (7-21 points). One billion respect points are needed before you can face Scottie, which can be earned by scoring, dunking, or blocking shots (it also decreases if your rival manages to do these). On Offense, the A button shoots and B attempts to break past an opponent. What makes the gameplay so tough is that you have no control over spatial distance; the game wants you to create space, but even when an opening appears the footage will cut away to a completely different scene (e.g. it doesn't match up), and your opponent will easily block your shot. As a result, you either need to guess or get lucky to even score a point, especially as there's no consistency as to how much power is required when shooting. Defensively, A raises your hands, B blocks and C attempts a steal. Again, the action is confusing, as you can have perfect positioning, yet the video will cut-away to your adversary breezing past and dunking. Similarly, you can be face guarding and their shot will swish through the hoop while the video makes it seem as if you were playing two metres away! The FMV often transitions far too quickly (giving you no chance to react) and even if you do steal the ball or block a shot it's usually a fluke rather than actual skill. The video quality isn't the worst I've seen on the Mega CD, but it is very washed out with occasional large blocks of pixelation. Also, the decision to frequently cut-away mid-contest to focus on fan interactions and chat-up scenes is weird, as it interrupts the flow!

Slam City with Scottie Pippen highlights the limitations of the FMV genre, as it reduces the exciting world of basketball to a laughing stock due to its poor controls and almost non-existent gameplay. In reality, it has little depth and favours a bunch of cheesy video clips over giving the player any meaningful control over the action.

Random trivia: The game's video director was Ron Stein, who also worked on Prize Fighter (1994, Mega CD).

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