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NBA Street

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  NuFX
Publisher:  EA Sports BIG
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  5-27-02

If I told you that you should be excited about a port of a 9-month old PS2 game, and one that features minimal enhancements at that, would you believe me? This is one case where a virtually direct port of a PS2 title should give GameCube owners something to cheer about, as NBA Street arrives as one of the best games yet to hit the system.

Basically, the gameplay is sort of a mix between typical NBA games and NBA Jam…only set in the outdoors. NBA Street is basically the SSX: Tricky of the basketball world, featuring 3-on-3 competition between players from all 29 teams and a fantastic point system based on how well the game is played. It’s NBA Jam in that players can pull off exaggerated dunks, shots, blocks, etc., but it’s also pure street ball in that each game is played to 21 points. Behind the arc shots are worth two points, with everything inside being worth one. And of course, the winning team must win by at least two points.

Of course, in street ball it’s all about looking good out there, and NBA Street emphasizes that with an awesome trick system. By combining different actions with use of the three turbo buttons (L, R, and Z), players can pull of dribbling tricks, different types of dunks, etc…each rewarding the player with different amounts of points. Playing good old fashion D will also yield some points, but the meat of the point system is found in pulling off incredible offensive combos. Pulling off a simple block by itself will reward the player with a mere 750 points, but combo-ing that with an outlet pass an around-the-world dunk will result in thousands of points.

So why are points important? Simple…collect enough points, and you’ll go into Gamebreaker mode. This is basically NBA Street’s version of being "on fire", although it only lasts one shot here. Gamebreaker shots can literally make or break the game, as each one successfully made results in an equal number of points being added and subtracted from each team. So if you’re down by six and hit a three-pointer (which is worth 2 points in street ball) while in Gamebreaker mode, you’ll gain two points while the other team loses two points. Thus you’re only now down by two, and back in the game. Unless the opposing team blocks a Gamebreaker shot, it will always fall. Gamebreakers are hard to come by, thus encouraging the game to juke, jive, and look as good on the court as possible while at the same time playing enough fundamental ball to not fall hopelessly behind. Concentrate only on building up trick points and you’ll get mowed down by the opposing team, but find a good balance and a Gamebreaker will serve to put the game away rather than keep you in it. It’s this mix of over the top elements and good old fashion basketball that make NBA Street an awesome experience.

The primary gameplay mode is City Circuit, in which you’ll take your team across America (from East to West) playing different NBA teams on their own home turf. This mode is basically set up like a ladder in most fighting games, with each region’s teams being played at the same time. The player can choose which team they want to play first, but they have to play and beat them all in one region before moving on to the next. After beating each NBA team, the player will get to choose one player from that team to add to their own, or take development points (for the Create Player mode) instead. In addition, in each region there’ll be a local legend that’ll challenge the player after beating all the NBA teams in that region. For example, the first local legend is Biggs, a British brute with maxed-out power skills. Once the player beat Biggs’ team, he’ll be added to the team. Other modes include Hold the Court, Street School, and Create Player. Hold the Court is where one or two players try to set the winning streak for each court in the game. Doing well in this mode can unlock special items not unlockable in the City Circuit mode. Street School is where Joe "The Show" (the announcer) teaches you the basics of the game, and finally Create Player is the now standard create player mode found in every sports game.

Really, the only thing disappointing about the gameplay is what was left out. The lack of a four-player mode in this kind of game is inexcusable, especially since the GameCube has four controller ports built right into the machine. It would’ve also been nice to see some kind of additional gameplay modes and/or features, other than updated rosters, a new court, and a few other minor things. If this is essentially the same as the PS2 game, then why’d it take so long to port?

The graphics haven’t been enhanced much over the PS2 version, as a lot of the texture work in particular looks subpar when compared to other GameCube titles. Court backgrounds are at times blurry and pixelated, and player models have a lower-poly look to them GameCube-only owners won’t be used to. On the other hand, the animation work and player texturing done on the PS2 remains intact, as the player models are silky smooth and always look great performing any move. Each court is highly detailed, right down to debris blowing across the court and dust kicking up under the players’ feet. Additionally, there is a good usage of special effects to highlight outstanding dunks and moves. While it’s obvious that not a lot of graphic enhancements were made, everything here still looks good enough that it doesn’t offend the eye.

The sound is also another high point, with a superb soundtrack and quality voice acting. The soundtrack is made up of a bunch of generic (no big name stars) urban beats, and yet amazingly they all sound really great. The voice acting is good too, with spectators on the sidelines uttering a bunch of phrases in reaction to what’s happening on the court. Players will talk to even talk to each other, with some actual player voices (most noticeably MJ) used in the game. The announcer (a guy with a bullhorn) can be annoying at times (the word "playa" is included in virtually everything he says), but most of the time his comments are both hilarious and timely. In particular, hearing phrases like the announcer telling you to up the difficulty level after whipping up on your opponent or "I told you, you need more turbo!" makes for a humorous experience.

Highs:

  • NBA Jam for this generation, with an awesome trick system to complement some outstanding arcade 3-on-3 b-ball action.
  • The soundtrack is awesome, and the voice acting is excellent and perfectly fits the surroundings.
  • A ton of different players, courts, etc. to unlock.
  • The local legends are creative, and really put the player’s skills to the test.

Lows:

  • Definitely stereotypical in both characterization and locations, although it’s obviously intentional.
  • Graphics are subpar for a GameCube game, but it still looks good.
  • Virtually nothing new added to the port.

Final Verdict:

NBA Street is exactly the type of port the GameCube needs to see more of. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it fills a small but important sub-genre with style. Perhaps more importantly it’s slanted towards an older audience than games like Luigi’s Mansion. While I'm disappointed that it’s virtually a direct port of a nine month old PS2 game, it still comes highly recommended.

Overall Score: 9.1

Additional Images:

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