PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 12/1989 – (EU)
There is nothing to fear in Basketball Nightmare, except for werewolves, kappa, and vampires all vying for control of your resting subconscious. This is not a drill, but rather, a dream; a dream where an entire high school basketball team falls asleep at the same time and is thrust into a paranormal world occupied by supernaturally gifted basketball-playing creatures. Why has this happened? To prepare the human high schoolers for the game of their lives in the All-American High School Championship. Ridiculous, yes, but for being among the first to include a fantastical element into what is otherwise a broken basketball game, Basketball Nightmare should be lauded.
In the one-player-mode, you take on six teams: Werewolves, Kappas, Yokai, Vampires, Old Women and Tengu. The ball is thrown up into the air, you catch it, dribble, jump, throw, swish. Two points! Get close enough to the basket and you will always score. The opposing side likes to go for the cinematic dunks, which means they will travel as close as possible to the basket before throwing the ball. This gives you plenty of time, in theory, to steal the ball, but stealing is hard to achieve here. To truly steal, you have to stand in front of the player with the ball and let them run into you until they finally lose it. Which is less stealing and more complete idiocy; werewolves are smarter than that, Sega.
Sounds like an easy win – just stand in front of the creatures and pick up the ball when they drop it – but it’s difficult to get in front of them. And, like you, the opposing team will almost always make their shots. When the opposing team is in control of the ball, the only way you’ll be able to grab it is if they drop it or you successfully get a guy in front of the ball-carrying creature and stand still. Worse still is when both teams cluster together into a mess of dead-eyed sprites. When this occurs, the ball will always find its way into the other teams paws (claws, fins, what-have you).
At times, Basketball Nightmare feels unfair for both the computer and the player. If your team gets on a roll – makes shot after shot, takes advantage of the computer’s inability to pass a ball, and grabs the ball after the computer misses a shot – you’ll win easily. Simultaneously, even if you make shots, the computer could turn around and get aggressive out of nowhere. Or they could steal the ball just by bumping into you (shame you can’t do the same to them, eh?). There’s no real difficulty, just pure luck for either you or the computer, depending on the game’s ever-changing whims.
Aside from Basketball Nightmare‘s one player mode, there’s also a two-player-mode where you basketbrawl against teenagers from other countries who look eerily similar to your team, just with different palette swap. Why can’t you control the monster teams? Would that have ruined the one-player mode’s mystique? There’s also a CPU vs. CPU mode, where the computer battles against each other. Again, no monsters, only children from around the world resolving their differences on the eternal basketball court.
Like a B movie that’s appreciated for its demerits, Baskektball Nightmare is similarly worth playing, if only to experience the truly busted gameplay. Perhaps the game will be merciful and you’ll dominate the five creature teams contained within, or perhaps you’ll get slaughtered – literally and figuratively – by the werewolves (of course if you lose, they get to eat you – what did you expect?). Either way, there’s very little at stake. It is, after all, only a dream.
15 replies on “Basketball Nightmare (Master System, 1989)”
You’re spot on Dylan – the game really plays like a weird dream. I wanted to like Basketball Nightmare because of the premise, but the gameplay feels off.
Also, not sure how you played Basketball Nightmare, but when I had the original cartridge the game crashed constantly. Did you have that problem?
The game didn’t crash, but it did seem to subtly speed up and slow down at times.
This sounds like it would make a good double feature with Ghoul School on the NES, another busted game that feels like a crummy b-movie.
Woah, Ghoul School. Haven’t thought about that game for a hot minute…
I looked that one up when you got to it during your NES run. Good times.
As a huge basketball fan, I have to say this: Drugs and basketball don’t mix.
I can’t argue with that.
I know you got a system for doing these games. And release dates are not well known. But this game I think came out in late 1989. At this point I had a Genesis already. So this falls into one of those SMS games I’ve never played. Wasn’t really missing much. The dunks share a lot wit Pat Riley basketball , a 1990 release I believe. That game was a lot better playing though. I think there was a similar game on NES with dunks like his where it zoomed in to large graphics for the action. But playing with monsters is a cool premise. I bet this could have been a much better Genesis game. We had Mutant League Football and Hockey, a monster basketball game could have been cool. Would have been nice to see the monster teams have different abilities as well. Or how about power ups , like silver deodorant or something to keep wolf men away? A lot of missed opportunity here.
I agree about the missed opportunity. Also, only Europe got this one. America “missed out.”
That would doubly explain why I never played it. Also this had to be at one time been meant for Japan with its focus on Japan themed monsters. Must have cancelled it there when they officially discontinued it.
Mostly my assumtion is based on that I meticulously tracked what SMS games came out every week all the up until August when I got a Genesis. So I presumed it came later in the year since I never saw this game on the shelves. Turns out it came not at all to us.
Actually my copy has a UPC sticker on the back that says CANADA, making me think it was released in Canada, just not the US
Hmm, interesting. You should let the boys over at SegaRetro know. They would love to have that info!
I actually like the look of this
Yeah, the character designs are great. Too bad the ball playing is a little sloppy.