Despite not knowing how to read Japanese, I remember spending a lot of time playing Slam Dunk SD Heat Up!! for the Super Famicom. Slam Dunk was a popular anime series in the country where I live in, and basketball is the most popular sport here as well. I was quite a big fan of the series myself, so I played several of the Slam Dunk games during that period.
Let’s talk about why Slam Dunk SD Heat Up!! is my favorite out of all the Slam Dunk games that I played.
The official title of this game is From TV Animation Slam Dunk: SD Heat Up!! but I don’t want to keep typing that over and over. The game was developed by TOSE and published by Bandai. Unlike the other Slam Dunk games, this is purely a five on five full court basketball sports game.
The letters “SD” in the game’s title is short for Super-Deformed, a Japanese art style that converts people into shorter caricature versions with large heads. It might sound like a bad art style to a person who isn’t familiar with Japanese art but don’t forget that NBA Jam also used a similar style.
This game has three different modes. You’ve got Story Mode where you play as the Shohoku varsity squad. In this mode, you’ll have matches based on how the actual story went. Story Mode considers the manga, the anime series, and the direct to video movies as well. You get short cutscenes to remind you of what happened in the anime in between matches.
The matches in Story Mode can only be played in 20 minute halves and you can’t change the difficulty. Thankfully, Story Mode has a password system for saving your progress. My only complaint about Story Mode is you’re locked to choosing Shohoku. I wish you could choose other teams.
The second mode is Exhibition which can be played by one or two players. You can choose from eight different teams in this mode. You can also choose how long each half lasts. If playing against the A.I., you can also choose between Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty.
The final mode is Tournament, and there are two sub modes for this. The first one is Elimination, where each of the eight teams are matched up in an elimination style tournament. Up to eight players can play in this mode, taking turns with the two available controllers.
The other is a single player mode that works like a Gauntlet match. After choosing your squad, you’ll need to battle the rest. Basketball matches in this mode are fixed to ten minute halves, and you also can’t change the difficulty. This mode doesn’t have passwords, so you’ll need to beat all seven teams in one sitting.
The Basketball Engine – Offense
What surprised me about this game is how complete the basketball mechanics are. On offense, Y is for shooting the ball. If you hold it, you’ll do one fake then transition into your jump shot. I prefer how it works in other games where tapping the button does a shot fake and holding it down controls when you release the shot.
With no way to control your shots, whether you make a shot attempt will depend on how open it was and which player took it. If you’re close enough to the basket, your player can do a dunk or a lay up attempt instead. Dunks are unstoppable except if a foul is called. Lay ups, however, can be blocked or can miss.
To pass the ball, you need to press the B button. This passes the ball to the player with the Pass indicator. To move the Pass indicator, you can press the L or R button. This cycles the Pass indicator from positions 1 to 5. By default, your Pass target is the next position up (e.g. point guard will pass to the shooting guard). Mastering how passing works in this game will be critical to beating your opponents.
The A button is Turbo. I don’t think there is a fatigue metric in the game. Each player does have a momentum meter, and it rises or falls depending on their performance. The better you do, the more momentum you get. Which makes that player do even better.
Slam Dunk SD Heat Up!! has some fanservice in the form of special moves. Either team has a meter that constantly fills up. When it’s completely full, pressing the X button will make the ball handler do a special shot. These shots are guaranteed to go inside the basket. Characters who are significant in the series will have signature special shots, such as Shohoku’s Kogure.
His signature shot involves him having flashbacks. The anime has an entire episode around one three point shot attempt, with him remembering special events concerning his basketball life. Kainan’s Kiyota does an unstoppable drive that finishes into a one handed dunk. He also turns into a monkey, which references how the main character refers to him.
All the characters have a special shot, but the less famous ones have a generic animation. The best way to use the special meter is on characters with jump shots as special moves. These characters can do their special shots from beyond the three point arc, giving you more value for your meter.
The Basketball Engine – Defense
On defense, the controls work a little differently. The shoulder buttons switch between the players if you don’t have player lock turned on. The order is the same, from PG-SG-SF-PF-C. The L button cycles backward and the R button cycles forward. The Y button becomes Push, which can help you steal the ball but you could also get called for a defensive foul by the refs.
The B button changes functions depending on the situation. If the ball is being dribbled, the B button is for a steal attempt. This will send your player running towards the ball handler before making the steal attempt. If the ball handler is in the middle of a shot attempt, the B button does a block attempt. If successful, blocks will send the ball straight downward.
After a shot attempt, the B button changes into a rebound attempt. Rebounding is quite tricky in this game, so just do your best to be in position and jump for the ball.
The Shohoku Lineup
In Slam Dunk SD Heat Up, there are two Shohoku line ups. The weaker line up is their roster at the start of the anime. You can only play as this line up in the first couple of matches in Story Mode. This line up has bench warmers Yasuda as point guard and Shiozaki as shooting guard. Kogure is the starting small forward, Rukawa is the starting power forward, and Akagi holds the Center spot. The anime’s main protagonist Sakuragi is quite raw at this point, so he’s not even good enough to start.
Later on in the series, two key players make it back to the team. Sakuragi also improves a lot, securing his slot as a starter. The primary starting line up for Shohoku has returning players Miyagi at point and ace sharpshooter Mitsui at shooting guard. Rukawa slides down to small forward to make way for Sakuragi at power forward. Akagi still serves as center. Kogure is the sixth man, and he usually subs in to take either the shooting guard or small forward slots.
I like tinkering with Shohoku’s basketball line up to apply modern day basketball strategies. One favorite line up is moving Kogure to small forward and sliding Rukawa to power forward. Either Sakuragi or Akagi stays at center. This gives me two long range shooters. Since Rukawa is a decent rebounder, this line up doesn’t sacrifice much.
The Other Teams
In the anime, there are three teams that challenged Shohoku. The first one is their rival, Ryonan. This team has the small forward Sendoh as their primary offensive option. They’ve also got Akagi’s rival, Uozumi, at the center spot. Later on in the series, they unleash Fukuda at power forward. His main strength is his offensive skills, but he’s quite weak with defense.
The next is Shoyo, which was considered as the second-best squad before Shohoku rose to prominence. Shoyo is lead by player/coach Fujima, who is considered to be one of the top high school point guards. The team also has Hanagata at center, who has mastered the fadeaway shot.
Kainan is the top ranked team in their conference. This team is lead by Maki, the top point guard in the country. They’ve also got ace sharpshooter Jin at shooting guard, and another ace rookie in Kiyota at small forward. Kainan is one of two teams that Shohoku lost to.
The game is rounded out by four other teams. Miuradai was an early opponent of Shohoku in the anime, and they’re using black jerseys. Tsukubu and Takezono were only featured in direct-to-video films. Toyotama was only featured in the manga. They are notorious for rough play, and they beat Shoyo after Fujima was injured in their match.
I’m glad that this game was able to feature as many as eight teams, but there are some glaring omissions. I’m not sure how much the manga showed Takezato, but they made it to the final four of their conference. But most notably, Sannoh should have been in this game. Sannoh is the number one high school basketball team in the country, so they should have been in the game.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
In terms of graphics, I’m happy with what Slam Dunk SD Heat Up has to offer. The SD style definitely holds up, and even if the characters have been “chibi-fied”, they’re all very recognizable. Sprite animations are basic, but they work. You can clearly see what these basketball players are doing: one-handed dunks, two-handed dunks, lay ups. They even have the fadeaway shot animation in the game.
A minor nitpick involves the basketball courts. I just noticed that even in official matches during Story Mode, there are no rafters or crowds. The court is walled up, which is strange. Maybe that’s how it was in the anime? It’s minor, and I never even noticed while I was playing the game.
When it comes to sounds, this game is great. While not necessarily accurate, the sound effects that play when you make a steal or a block is quite satisfying. Especially when you successfully block shots. The theme music also changes depending on who has control of the ball. The music is pleasant to listen to, especially Shohoku’s theme.
In terms of presentation, this game does okay. Story Mode could have used more cutscenes, but what they used works. I think some special scenes in the middle of basketball games when characters do their trademark moves would have been nice. I liked the opening scene with SD Sakuragi finishing a fast break with a dunk. This game could have used more of that.
As a Slam Dunk anime fan, I loved Slam Dunk SD Heat Up. The game has solid basketball mechanics with minimal flaws. It is not as deep as NBA Live games, but it offers a full five on five experience that I don’t get with the NBA Jam games. And it’s got a decent selection of basketball teams that draws from the anime, the manga, and the movies. It could have been better, but it’s a pretty good Slam Dunk game.
Is it the best basketball game on the SNES? Probably not. But this has enough going for it. If you’re not a fan of the Slam Dunk anime and just want to play the best basketball game on 16-bit consoles, this game isn’t for you. But I’m sure that fans of the Slam Dunk anime will be very pleased with this game.