NBA Live is dead. Well, so is the attempted rebranding, NBA Elite too, at least for a year.
That doesn’t mean something that can’t fit, and with NBA 2K12 so driven behind its retro flair, giving props to the most undervalued basketball title ever made is certainly in order. Not many people purchased a PC to play sports games, but in 1995, EA was on a role. NHL ’95 was a glitzty port of NHL ’94 on PC, and that’s not a complaint.
But NBA Live ’95? That was special. CD-ROM tech was hitting its early prime, used just to spruce up a product, not just assault it with video. With the power of DOS, Live’s first PC edition added stuff the console ports could only dream of: glamorous, massive digitized images of all the players during a pre-game starting line-up, multiple hi-res images of every NBA city to add to the TV presentation, and a high resolution view of the court.
On the court, the sprites and slippery feel remained, but the AI was richer, tighter, and smarter. Eight minute quarters could lead to real results, not inflated statistics, radical at the time. Defensive positions were cherished when run correctly, decimated when confused. The key was sacred ground, and merely hitting turbo for a rush would only result in a clumsy foul. You needed to pace the offense, not rush it.
It wasn’t perfect, the AI instituting a stupid “all three-pointers” offense once the spread was 15+, and a glitch would cause the AI to freeze itself just outside the three-point line on occasion. Still, back in 1995, Live was years ahead of the game, the goofy changes made to the console versions (rendered sprites) were clumsily implemented, and it would be years before this PC version would be eclipsed, mostly with the advent of the 2K series.