Bulls Versus Blazers and the NBA Playoffs

The year was 1992, Garth Brooks, Michael Jackson and Nirvana battled for the best selling album, a reflection of the country and the culture at a time when the Atari 2600, after 15 years of production, was finally shuttered. Bill Clinton was elected as the first baby-boomer president, the Pope, in a timely move, apologized for the inquisition of Galileo. And in the world of basketball, the Chicago Bulls ended a regular season winning record of 67-15, and under the stewardship of Michael Jordan, went on to win back to back Championships.

Capitalizing on this, EA released Bulls Versus Blazers and the NBA Playoffs on the SNES, and later SEGA Genesis/ Megadrive, as a sequel to Bulls Versus Lakers. Playing the game now, in the 21st century, it is amazing that this was a game released in just the second year of the SNES. While the framerate is a stolid 4 frames per second (estimate) the sprites are large, colourful and detailed enough to resemble the actual players they represent.

 Dogs like big sprites.

Dogs like big sprites.

The controls are easy to pick up, and standard, the player may block, shoot and switch from one player to the next. As with most basketball games, EA committed a technical foul by using the same button for blocking and shooting, resulting in many inadvertent 3-point shots being attempted from the opposite end of the court after successfully blocking an opponent at their hoop. The free throwing controls, consisting of first stopping a moving vertical circle at the correct time, and then a horizontal one, is simple and effective and was used in many games up through mid-2000's.  There was no indication that the speed of the challenge changed on the basis of the athletes actual free-throw percentage.

 Boom-Shacka-Lacka, Fogg drops the hammer.

Boom-Shacka-Lacka, Fogg drops the hammer.

Complementing the play on the court Bulls vs Blazers features robust coaching options (for the time), with all options closely adhering to the rules of the game. Similarly the officiating is very meticulous and well portrayed (unlike the actual NBA and associated video games for the last 15 years).

The game modes provided, exhibition or playoff (a series mode) allows you to select from any of the teams that made it into the NBA Playoffs, which doesn't limit the enjoyment at all.

Beyond the slow framerate, the game suffers from a limitation of the SNES controller; there is no "give" of analog controls. The digital commands add a level of sterility, as do the magnet-like hands of each player.  There are no missed passes in Bulls vs Blazers.

 Fogg with the windmill dunk.

Fogg with the windmill dunk.

As with the strained introduction to this review, this game takes you back to a simpler time, and that is not solely due to nostalgia. Sports games are unique in that they present an explicit, contemporaneous view of the world in the year in which it were made. All of the players, their stats, their teams logos, their stadiums are represented as they were, reflected through the best technology available to the consumer at the time. Because of this, old sports games like Bulls vs. Blazers serve a purpose, like collectible sports cards, in providing snapshot of the era.

- Phil Fogg

8/10