Console: NES Company: Konami Release Date: September 1987 Genre: Sports Number of Players: 1 or 2 Save Feature? Nope!
When it comes to old school basketball action, how can you top Double Dribble? From the squeak of shoes to the hilarious mascots, Double Dribble certainly qualifies as a true blue classic. It may not have the eye candy or the adrenaline pumping music of today's games but it sure has the heart.
Overview: Being released way back in the good ole' year of 1987, Double Dribble is old school gaming at its very best. It was the first basketball game to enjoy any real success on the NES and, with the exception of Tecmo NBA Basketball, is probably the best 8-bit basketball game out there. Of course, there are those like myself who actually prefer the simplicity of Double Dribble over Tecmo NBA but I digress.
In terms of gameplay, Double Dribble is as simple as it gets. Pass the ball with the A button, shoot with the B button, and steal the ball from the other team. However, as with any game from the 80s, true mastery took time and a lot of practice. You had to learn how to pass the ball without it getting stolen and make timely steals on the defensive end. Learning about the "sweet spots" where shots have a very high percentage of nailing nylon is key as well. It's all about gaining experience.
Graphics: For its time, the graphics in Double Dribble are above average. Konami always had a knack for colorful, vibrant graphics and Double Dribble is certainly no exception. While the main graphics aren't much to look at, they did a nice job of creating the game's unique atmosphere. I always thought that the mascots coming out during the halftime show were a nice touch. Where else can you see a skateboard with eyes dance across a basketball court?
What really caught my eye when I first played Double Dribble had to be the brief cinema scenes that took place when you went up for a dunk. Say what you will about the main in-game graphics but, for its time, those dunk scenes were incredible. I couldn't believe my eyes! No NES basketball game was ever able to get me in that "jaw-dropping" mode like Double Dribble.
Even so, the game's animation was where the graphics slipped a notch. Even back in 1988 when the game was still new on the market, I couldn't help but laugh at the hilarious animation. The players running in place when the ball was being thrown out of bounds, the fans arms blinking in the air after a made shot (simply pitiful if you ask me), and the ridiculous cheerleaders waving pom-poms during the halftime show; it was good for laughs but not for the overall ratings I'm afraid.
Music: This is probably the most difficult area to critique due to the limited quantity of music in Double Dribble. After all, this is a 1980s basketball game that we're discussing here. What did you expect? Cyndi Lauper songs? (another Konami hit, The Goonies II features her megahit actually)
The good news is that, while music is seriously lacking in Double Dribble, the music that does play is actually quite good. My favorite track is probably the one right after the national anthem where you're setting up the time and teams for the game. It is a very nice track and quite nostalgic actually. The tune that plays after you've won is pretty good as well.
For an early NES game, I found the game's sound effects to really go above and beyond the norm. I absolutely love the sound of squeaking shoes! How cool is that for an early NES release? It sounds very realistic for the NES too. The ball bouncing, shots clanking, and fans cheering after a three-pointer are pretty cool too. Nothing great but at least everything is appropriate.
The funniest aspect of Double Dribble by far has to be the voices throughout the game. This is where the game feels dated because, for the most part, the voices are terrible! Terrible but extremely funny which is its saving grace. The way they say "Double Dribble" and especially "Jump Ball" is hilarious! However, the one that I found to be truly tear jerking was "Free Throw." I mean, I swear that it wasn't until like 1995 or so when the volume was turned up enough to where I could actually understand what was being said! I think that the geniuses at Squaresoft played this game before working on the character Sneff in Chrono Cross. "Fffree Fffrow!!"
Play Control: Even with its flaws, the play control in Double Dribble is very, very good. In my opinion, even the great Tecmo NBA didn't have controls this crisp and polished. Passing, shooting, and defending is as easy as it gets. A 3 year old could learn this! I always liked how you could change to the defender closest to the ball. I don't know how many steals I've been able to get that way. Overall, it's hard to find anything bad to say about the game's controls. Additional options such as fake passes and pump fakes would have been nice but, after all, this is the 80s that we're talking about here.
Challenge: Although Double Dribble can be a testy game the first time through, there really isn't much of a challenge after beating the game. This is one of those games that you'll plow through once you have a victory over the Level 3 computer under your belt. And the Level 1 mode; my gosh, two-year olds would have a legitimate shot here.
Granted, the Level 3 computer can stretch you and even break you if you're not careful. However, with careful passing and stingy defense, you shouldn't have too much trouble with this one. The real challenge comes when you're up against a human opponent. Now that can be tough!
Storyline: There is no background story in Double Dribble (surprise, surprise).
Funfactor: Although there's a whole slew of NES games that are better than Double Dribble, I still feel that this game is the best basketball game to ever grace the NES. I just love the simplicity and the fact that you can pick this one up and play a quick 15 minute game anytime. The gameplay is superb as well. Not to be forgotten is the fact that Double Dribble is one of the funniest games out there. If you want to have a good laugh in addition to an enjoyable gaming experience, it's hard to beat this one (also see Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball).
Negatives: Even by NES standards, some of the graphics are pretty weak. The "crowd" during the national anthem looks extremely pixelized while the halftime show is mediocre at best. Speaking of the halftime show, I find it annoying that you can't skip it...ever! Unlike Tecmo Super Bowl, you are forced to watch this silly display every time you play the game.
In terms of difficulty, I just found Double Dribble to be too easy. The lack of any real variety (no tournaments like in Blades of Steel) combined with the availability of only four teams really hurts the game's replay value as well. As a result, I probably only play Double Dribble once or twice a year.
Ratings: Graphics: 3.6 Music: 3.5 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 3.2 Storyline: N/A Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 18.5 out of 25.0 (3.7 average) Overall Rating: Unsung Hero
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 27, 2006