Release Dates: 11-12-88 (Japan), 1988 (North America) (from GameFAQs)
ESRB Rating: N/A
The Nintendo Entertainment System saw many different treatments of the game of basketball.
Most of these were in a professional, indoor setting, such as Double Dribble and All-Pro
Basketball, but Hoops brought playground, 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 basketball to the NES for the
first time. Hoops is a fast, enjoyable game of basketball, despite a few flaws.
Hitting the Pavement
Hoops is almost entirely about the basketball (with very little story to get in the way
.) Players have 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 game modes to choose from, and two players can compete against
each other in either mode, or team up against the computer in 2-on-2 (1-on-1 gets boring quickly,
though. The real meat of the game is in the 2-on-2 modes.) In single-player or cooperative
modes, players can progress through the game by continuing to defeat opponents, and eventually be
rewarded with an ending which briefly tells the story of each character's life.
Ah, yes, the characters. Players can control any one of eight characters (and Jaleco made the
progressive decision to include two women, both of whom are excellent.) The characters are (
profiles taken directly from the game):
- Mr. Doc (tall): All around player. Can run, shoot, pass and dribble.
- Jammer: He is not too quick. Great on defense and under the boards.
- Barbie: All around player. Can run, shoot, pass and keep up with any of the players.<
- Face (tall): Tall and great inside shooter. Plays rough sometimes.
- Bomber: Best outside shooter. Super fast. The playmaker.
- Zap (tall): Outside shooter. Fast forward. But weak on defense.
- Legs: Best rebounder. Great inside shooter and very fast.
- Wiz: Real smart and fast. Not a shooter. Good playmaker. Best passer.
The characters' descriptions are relatively accurate in terms of how they play in the game.
Using a tall player gives a marked advantage in rebounding and shot blocking (and in avoiding shot
blocks), but the taller players are much slower. A good 2-on-2 team usually consists of one short
and one tall player.
I'm Coming Up, So You'd Better Get This Party Started...
After choosing the number of players, the teams, and the number of points the game will go to
(5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 baskets), the teams take turns shooting free throws, and the first team to
make a free throw gets the ball first. On a free throw, an arrow moves rapidly around the
basketball, and only by pressing the shoot button when it is directly above the basket can a
player make a free throw. Players can play an Around the World mini-game before the actual game
begins to hone their free throw skills as well.
Gameplay is relatively simple. It is played on a half court, there is no 3-point line, and
players cannot dribble out of bounds (though passes or rebounds can go out of bounds.) Fouls are
called somewhat randomly, but in all cases, the team that suffered the foul takes possession of
the ball (there are no free throws during the game.) Since this is a half court game, anytime a
team gains possession of the ball, they must take the ball out beyond the timeline on the side
of the court before being permitted to score.
All baskets count one point, and before the game, players can decide whether the game will be
played "Winner's" (the team that scores keeps possession, also called "make it take it") or
"Loser's" (possession goes to the other team whenever a basket is scored.) The first team to
score the agreed-upon number of baskets wins the game.
Careful, the Court's Warped Over There
Hoops is not without its flaws. Outside shooting is difficult except for a few "sweet
spots" on the court, where players will make a much higher percentage of their shots. Tall
players can block short players' dunks from behind too easily, as well. The game's biggest
problem, however, is passing. Regular passes are slow and can be picked off easily. Players can
execute a "jump pass" by jumping and passing in mid-air, but if a player has just stolen the ball
or grabbed a rebound in front of the timeline, he cannot execute a jump pass until he takes
the ball behind the timeline, and computer-controlled players especially will frequently steal the
ball back first. Regular passes can alleviate this problem somewhat, but Jaleco should have
allowed jump passes at all times.
Where is This Court, Anyway?
The Hoops cartridge was fairly common. Any decent NES emulator should be able to play
it, and the ROM is not terribly difficult to find.
Overall, Hoops is unique among NES games for its take on playground basketball.
Playground basketball would not be the subject of another video game until 1994's Barkley Shut Up
and Jam for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. It is also notable for having characters
with different playing styles and abilities in an era when most video game athletes were nameless,
faceless, and indistinguishable. Hoops has its flaws, but it really shines in 2-player, 2
-on-2 cooperative mode. It lacks some of the strategy of modern basketball sims, but it packs
more depth into an 8-bit cartridge than practically every other NES basketball game.