I was always a basketball fan, my father played basketball while in the military and while I didn’t inherit my Dad’s height, I did carry on his love for the game.
I didn’t matter what the weather was like; rain, sleet, snow or hail, I was out there playing. I spent years working on ball-handling and jumpers to develop a reputation in the area for my skills. Before I had a job I was earning extra money by hustling on the courts.
Naturally, I played every basketball game from the humble versions on Atari to the complex EA Sports simulations. Once you started up a game and heard that guy say, “E A Sports, It’s in the game.” You knew it was gonna be dope. Live 95 was the first in the Live series and the minute I starting playing it, I knew it would be my favorite basketball game of all time.
I had the Genesis version when I was younger but popped in the SNES version since I knew where it was, I always wish I had an SNES a bit earlier in its lifecycle but eh, when you’re poor, you’re poor. Anyway, this was the first game in the series to switch to the three quarter view, opening up the court and making it easier to make threes and set up teammates for alley-oops.
The TV style presentation felt like you were really watching a live NBA game, it had a pregame intro, halftime “Players to Watch” and stats popping up during gameplay enhanced the overall experience. It was the closest a game came to the title, “basketball simulation.” The crowd cheered when you made a shot, said “ahhhh!!!” when you missed and you even heard the squeak of the sneakers on the court, the game was almost flawless. Jordan would have been nice but he had to be in total control of his license so instead of appearing in any of true BBall games of the time, we get the Chaos in the Windy City game. Good call Jordan.
The controls at times are a bit awkward, the same button you use to steal is also shoot, so I found myself launching full-court 3’s on a regular basis. The turbo button is a necessity on fast breaks and driving into the paint, since this was before the days of Isomotion and crossovers, so you just tried to get the jump on your opponent and get to the basket or toss an alley-oop.
The music is cheesy 90’s faux hip-hop, but you don’t have to hear it during the game, I used to pop a tape in my Walkman and just lay back and play this while listening to GZA’s Liquid Swords, you gotta pair a classic with a classic.
Additional features popped up later on in the Live series to turn it into an unstoppable BBall juggernaut (until 2K) but it all started with this game, it was complex and simple at the same time, a simulation that felt like an arcade game and a foundation laid that all would follow.