Review by KasketDarkfyre

Reviewed: 12/27/01 | Updated: 12/27/01

It may look like NBA Jam...but it isn't even close.

Basketball games on the Nintendo Entertainment System that come to mind as classic, only include a pair of very average, bare bones types of games in the form of Arch Rivals and Double Dribble. While not the most sophisticated pair of games in the world of video gaming, both games offered up just enough action and enough visual acuity to keep most gamers satisfied way before the days of NBA Jam! While most reviewers would be inclined to say that this is the predecessor of NBA Jam, I’ll be the first to say that if it is, then I don’t see anyone kicking the crap out of each other in Jam like do here in Arch Rivals. Games such as this don’t have a story line attached them, although you could probably pick up on the fact that it is one team against another and none of them like each other. Being one of the only sports games that I know of on the Nintendo Entertainment System to feature a really simple, yet effective combat system, Arch Rivals is one of those classic games that is an early hybrid of combat and sports all rolled up into one little gray cart!

The game play is strictly for those who are looking for a quick game and nothing else. Unlike the games that we have now, Arch Rivals is not intended to be a full flowing season of games, but rather a one time through game in which you play a single four quarter round against the computer and that’s it! The game teams consist of two teams only, one of which is you and the other one is either the computer controlled team or your friend {assuming you have one to play with}. Most basketball gamers will find that this point immediately drops the game play and the overall fun rating of the game, but unlike NBA Jam, all you have to do is shoot baskets and make points. Something of interest though, is that the team that you selected all had a different type of player that was skilled in one particular area or another. You might have a badass shooter, but a poor defense man in the same go, where as you have a brute enforcer but he’s a poor shooter. In all honesty, this adds to the game play in which you really have to be aware of what it is that you’re doing and who you’re doing it with! Another key point to the game is that you don’t have to worry about someone getting in your way. Just swing your fist and knock them down to the floor only to blissfully continue on to a sure-fire victory.

The control is another issue altogether in which you’re working against a very inaccurate game. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are on the court, if the game wants you to make a basket, then you’ll make one. If not, then you’re pretty much screwed out of points that you know you’ve made and with that being said, be prepared for some frustrating times and possibly throwing the controller against the wall! Two different control modes come to mind here when you play in which the first has you in ball handling mode. One button shoots, the other one passes to your team mate. The other control set up is the defense, in which you have a jump {to block shots or whatever} and a punch button to knock your opponents to the floor and steal the ball. Neither one of the control sets are that hard to pick up and understand, so anyone of any skill level can learn how to do it.

Visually, the game is simple enough that the detail put into it is just enough to make it passable, even by today’s standards. Even though there are no ‘real’ players in the game, and the crowd is actually a bunch of faceless figures, you’ll find that the jumping and cheering women at the sidelines will keep you in the mood! If you stand back and look at the game, you may find that the game resembles that of a high-school basketball game rather than anything else, and the layout puts that theme in your head immediately. Probably some of the best looking visuals are when you sock an opponent and knock them on their face in the middle of the court! This is something that really caught my eye, and if you’re playing the game, then you’ll be seeing plenty of it when you start getting on the defense. However, with the lack of team selection and variation on things, the visuals do tend to get a little old after a while and there isn’t anything to see once you’ve seen it upon the first time playing.

Audio wise, there isn’t much here in terms of music or sound effects. The musical track is a simple, yet effective MIDI that the NES is known for, and it keeps the pace of the game for the most part. The sound effects are standard fare of the ball bouncing and being thrown to the basket. When you add all of this together, you’ll find that the dating on the game makes it extremely old considering that this game was one of the first NES basketball games released and has absolutely no ties to NBA Jam! If you can get around this, then you’ll find that the game music and sounds altogether fit the overall mood of the game and it doesn’t play too hard on the ears.

Arch Rivals isn’t a bad game by any means, although it is a dated piece of history that most gamers would shun considering what we have now. NES Collectors might do well to pick this game up, simply because its one of the few early NES games that featured fighting and sports all in one little cart! While it could be considered the predecessor to the NBA Jam games, I tend to disagree simply because the game has all the makings of a game that stands alone against the rest of the NES sports library.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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