A game that reached critical success in the Arcade, Double Dribble was a once familiar name that was erased by NBA JAM. To get one thing straight, Double Dribble is not trying to emulate NBA JAM. Cool cutscenes aside the game is really trying to capture the actual rules and gameplay of Basketball in a time where everyone else was simplifying the sport to work as a video game. Nintendo itself was actually guilty of this if you look at their versions of Baseball and Volleyball.
There is usually a reason why all developers stick towards a trend. The NES hardware was going to make it really tough to emulate a real game of Basketball. Truth be told, Double Dribble still takes some liberties, but it’s dedication to the actual rule set makes it a worthy entry in 1987 for Basketball and sport lovers in general. This comes with some tradeoffs. The game isn’t as rapid paced as other sport entries we have seen. A lot of the rules can cause a stop and go feel. Since you only have two buttons at your fingertips there aren’t really a lot of options for control of the ball or defense.
Now, one place where Double Dribble shines at first before taking a dive is the shot timing mechanic. Whenever you take a shot you have to hold down the A button to change the height of your jump shot. If you’re close to the net, you don’t want a high shot, if you’re far away you want to be at the peak. This is a really great idea. The problem I have with it is that because the hardware is so limited, the timing mechanic actually becomes muscle memory as you learn exactly which arc makes each shot. There is little room for error. With how many Basketball players attribute muscle memory to their seamless shots, maybe this was intended.