While the Sega Master System’s library was rife with worthwhile titles, it was also plagued by a whole bunch of stinkers! Sega developed and published a series of sports titles for the Master System, all with the prefix Great boldly starting off the titles, followed by the actual sport that was supposedly so, well.. great! I happen to own two of these games and I can say without a doubt I enjoy Great Baseball quite a bit, dare I even say more so than any of my NES baseball titles.
But Such is the story of Great Basketball, perhaps more of a wishful title than a literal one. As you can tell by the title this is a basketball game, naturally. But sadly the only thing great about this game seems to be it’s atrocious, and often times mind-numbing flaws!
From the title screen you’re greeted with a pretty standard screen which allows you to choose one or two players. This screen is pretty opaque and doesn’t show the horrors that await you next, which is the team select screen. You are then presented with 8 choices of countries, rather than actual teams.
The game can’t even get choosing a team done right as the controls are sluggish. Even once you’ve made your choice, you’re forced to sit through a short rendition of that country’s national anthem, which I’ve only managed to skip, on accident, once! Then you have to finish up by picking the CPU’s team, or allowing player 2 to choose their team.
Now the action starts and the graphics look pretty good for an 8-bit basketball game; the court looks nicely decorated, the cheerleaders are standard yet interesting sprites, the referee is the tallest sprite on the screen and perhaps should be the one playing basketball, and the teams are comprised of Amish style, faceless sprites. The goals look like goals and the basketball looks like a basketball. Graphically this game could have delivered a little more in some areas, but truthfully not by much!
So here is where the true horror begins, by now you’ve forgiven the sluggish selection screen and being forced to learn a new national anthem and you’re ready to play ball, but again the game can’t even get that done right! You can pass the ball around quite swiftly but to shoot a basket you must first jump, wait for the peak of the jump, then hit the jump button yet again to throw the ball. From there fate and chance take over as to whether or not you’ll drain that bank shot, more often than not you’ll end up missing.
So lets say you, or the other team most likely, were fortunate enough to sink that basket, now you have to wait as the game makes a sound to let you know that someone scored, the ball drops to the floor and the crowd starts to cheer. This event will burn up an additional couple of seconds off your playing enjoyment. Why can’t I just pick up the ball and inbound it right away, instead of waiting for it to tell me someone scored and hearing the crowd cheer!?
So the ball is now inbounded to a teammate, or perhaps you chose to become a ball hog and rush over to the shadow and inbound to yourself, now you have to go by what I call the “2 pixel foul rule”. The 2 pixel foul rule is just that, if you or the other team possess the ball and YOU walk within 2 pixels of the other team, you foul them by default. This merely changes possession as I’ve never seen any free throws being offered, and although it is harder to do, you can get them to foul you as well.
I will give the game credit for having fairly clear voice samples, the referee will call “Jump Ball”, “Jump Shot” and “Three point shot”, regardless if it were you or the CPU who made the shot. Again the graphics are pretty good, although the crowd looks like Bob Ross’s palette after a long day of painting happy trees. Perhaps there is too much orange off the court and anywhere else there isn’t substance, but that is my favorite color so I may be bias there.
Countless times I’ve tried to give this game a shot, but game up short. Great Basketball never made it to the draft, and there are quite a few reasons why. Had Sega given this game a little more time, and just a few tweaks here and there, this game could have been good, but even so this game simply couldn’t live up to it’s prefix of great.