With college basketball heading into its final weekend of the season, we decided to dig into our archives and dust off a copy of Fox Sports College Hoops 99, the one and only college sports game to ever come out on the N64, to see if it was any good, and if it could give you your college hoops video game fill since there hasn’t been a game made in like 10 years.
The game featured former Kentucky player Jeff Sheppard on the cover who, aside from a great run in the NCAA tournament that year, helping the Wildcats win it all, had a pretty unremarkable career. Seriously, he average 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists per game over his career, and even after his great run in the NCAA Tournament, his senior year was 13.7 ppg, 4 rgp, and 2.7 apg. He wasn’t exactly a huge name player, and went on to play all of one season in the NBA after going undrafted. Literally anyone else would have been a bigger name to put on the front of this game.
Growing up I remember this game being pretty decent, it was simple controls, good atmosphere, and lots of fun dunks, probably in the range of a 7 out of 10 if I had to grade it based on memory. But 20 years later (the game came out in 1998), does this game stand the test of time and cut down the nets, or is it bound for the NIT and better off forgotten?
Here is a video of the gameplay if you want to see how this runs during game action.
They are uhh…well. They’re OK I guess? It looks like a game from a few years earlier, like if the old NBA Live games on SEGA had come to life a bit more. The players all kind of look the same, aside from different skin color. But the players move well and the motions look like real basketball, which is good. But one weird and bad thing is when you drive into paint or an area with a lot of guys, the game slows down and lags a ton. And it’s not just areas with lots of players, if you go up for a dunk/layup, or the ball bounces of the rim on a missed shot, the game slow down a ton. Which makes it tough to watch and play. Look at that video again up above, on a missed shot it’s like the ball goes into slow motion as we watch the rebound bounce into the air. The courts and uniforms look fine I guess? The arenas as a whole are really lacking and it just looks like a literal wall of fans on the sidelines, with no actual depth.
The sound during the game is fine, the whistles are sharp, the noise of the ball bouncing off the rim is OK, the menu music of that classic FOX Sports music is good. But the biggest issue is there is ZERO authenticity during the game. The crowd might get a little louder following a dunk, but knock down a three and it remains dead silent, oh and there are no team-specific fight songs or anything that plays after great plays. Just something that sounds like drums.
Nothing in this area is bad, but nothing is really great either.
The controls are simple, one button passes, another shoots, C-buttons will do moves while you have the ball, and on defense one button goes for a steal, another for blocks, another for changing your guy. It’s not complicated.
But they don’t really work well, particularly passing. Passing tries to help by a cursor lighting up under the player you are looking at for the intended pass, and then you bump the joystick the tiniest bit away from intended player and you suddenly pass it to a guy who is covered on defense and it’s a turnover. Shooting is fine I guess, and the moves on the C-buttons work well, but probably too well, because you can go around your defender with them and dunk almost every time if you feel like it.
Defense and rebounding is a damn mess, even when you hit the button to change players, it doesn’t feel like it moves quick enough. There’s no way to lock onto a player and keep him in front of you so the computer gets to the rim at will as well, and when you do force a miss, you hit the button to jump for a rebound…and the ball ends up five feet away from your guy, leading to TONS of offensive rebounds. Your best bet is to play defense as a guard, hope for a steal, and then just let the CPU rebound for you if there is a miss.
This part is not great, which is bad in a game that already has meh sound and graphics.
So in 1998 there were probably in the range of 250 to 300 teams, not as many as the 351 that took the court in 2018. Well, even in a year where FIFA Road to the World Cup 98 had EVERY international team AND club team for the domestic leagues they had, Fox Sports College Hoops 99 has only 120 teams on the game. If you went to or root for a big school, they are on the game and you get to play as that school. But if you went to a mid-major, you probably aren’t on the game. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for what mid-majors they picked, so rather than pick the best mid-major leagues or teams to round out the team count it’s just kind of /shrug/. There’s no MAC schools, no Gonzaga, but you get shitty leagues like the Patriot League, it’s bizarre and kind of all over the place.
The game doesn’t have a ton of game modes, from Exhibition, to Tournament, to Season, but the game does having pretty much every early-season tournament you can think of from the time, as well as the NCAA Tournament, but not the NIT. Season mode is meh, with the biggest issue being that it’s only one season, and you can’t skip or simulate any games. So if you want to take your team to the Final Four, you have to play every damn game, which gets to be a chore when the gameplay isn’t that great.
And the same goes for Tournament mode, you can play the field of 64 with the team of your choice, but you can’t pick any of the regions or other teams, or again, sim any of the games along the way.
The one and only college sports game to hit the N64 turns out to be a dud and would have been better off hitting the gym following a loss in its conference tournament. Meh graphics in sound, less than stellar controls, and less than half of the available teams in NCAA basketball makes it hard to recommend this one.
Honestly, this game might be best as a 2-player game with a friend where you play a couple of games at most just to remember it, have a couple laughs, then realize that even for 1998 standards this game was not very good.
FOX SPORTS COLLEGE HOOPS! For when you only have N64 and are desperate to play a college sports game.
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 out of 10.