Review by matt91486

"More proof that we are truly in the ‘Crazy Taxi’ era of gaming"

In the early eighties, we were in the Defender era of gaming. With the advent of the NES, the industry progressed to the Super Mario Brothers era, and in 1991 the Street Fighter II era began as the relatively new genre of tournament fighting games seem to take over every console and every slot in all of the arcades in America. In 1997, the Final Fantasy VII era began, leading role playing games to the limelight, revitalizing the genre, and completely transforming public perception of it. No longer were role playing games limited to nerds obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons. But with the release of the 2000 smash hit Crazy Taxi, the tide began to turn. Sega’s insane driving game teamed up with Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series to bring in the new extreme feel, which penetrates almost every game in every genre. Why am I mentioning all of this in a review for a petty basketball game? That is what probably all of you are thinking. Well, I am telling you all of this, because NBA Street is the direct byproduct of this new industry standard. It takes basketball, flips it all out, and starts judging your moves, like you are at the X-Games or something. No longer is winning just about the points on the board. Now winning is about your style as you get the ball in the hoop, changing the face of basketball games forever.

As I alluded to earlier, a huge part of NBA Street is the way that you get the ball into the basket, not just carrying out the act and shooting any ordinary jump shot. But I had better get you started on the basic premises of NBA Street before I progress any further. Arch Rivals begat NBA Jam begat NBA Jam: Tournament Edition begat NBA Hangtime begat NBA Showtime begat NBA Hoopz begat NBA Street. Some of these games were made by different companies, but that is the basic lineage of arcade basketball games. Many people have thought that the genre became stale after the release of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition; thought that the genre had reached its pinnacle, and had nowhere to go but back down to the doldrums from which it rose. Some attempts had been made in vain to attempt to halt the downslide, culminating in the addition of a third player to each team with NBA Hoopz’s release. (Previously all arcade basketball games had been two-on-two contests.) Yet, NBA Hoopz was the worst game in this niche to date.

The developers at EA Big had already made snowboarding games fun again with the release of the over-the-top SSX. Still, no one expected them to repeat the coup with NBA Street. Yet somehow the upstart developer managed to pull the trick twice, and they succeeded in just about the same way each time. They made the games a little bit wackier, suspended disbelief a little bit more, and changed the landscape of video games a lot. Why not continue this streak with NBA Street?

The first order of business for EA Big was to include some interesting new additions that had never been done before. Better yet, make these additions be tailored perfectly for the current market climate, which was rather centered on extreme sports games. Their brilliant conclusion: Adding tricks and a scoring system. Not only does this set NBA Street apart from the other arcade basketball games on the market, but it also adds an entirely new element of competition. Now, not only do you want to beat your opponents in the actual game itself, now you want to win the game of style and flair on top of it.

Contrary to what I expected, there are not only a wide variety of featured tricks, but they also play as an integral part of the gameplay. You see, the tricks that you perform assist in raising your momentum, which is displayed by a little meter at the top. The more your momentum grows, the easier it is to pull off special dunks and tricks (and to run up the score). It also gives you a better gauge than the score at your team’s current play. You may be winning forty-five to thirty, but if your opponents just got a twelve to two run, the momentum will show that, and it will allow you to better plan out your strategies.

In the City Circuit, your object is to simply put enough points on the board to progress through the various regions, fill out your team, and get your create-a-player maxed out to his full potential. Using tricks and special moves does not really play a part in this mode. However, if you head to the Hold the Court Mode, getting massive trick points is one of the keys to progressing past each level, so you really need to be successful in both major aspects of the gameplay to beat both of the single player modes.

NBA Street is a game that still looks great many months after its release. Graphical innovations have not swept the PlayStation 2 as often as its predecessor, and this allows games to still look good months after release. Unless a game was absolutely spectacular graphically, it looked absolutely diseased after about three months. This may have made your games seem obsolete, but at least developers were always figuring out new things to do with the original PlayStation. With the PS 2, it is sometimes difficult to tell. Anyway . . .

The facial mapping done by EA Big looks spectacular. All of the players, not just the superstars, have their faces mapped almost to perfection. I am the kind of guy who just does not want to collect the basketball cards of the Kevin Garnetts and the Tim Duncans. The Sam Mitchells and Cedric Ceballoses are just as important to me, and I like this parity. It gives equality to the little guys, something that rarely happens anymore. The bodies of the players also look extremely realistic, and they are proportioned perfectly for the players’ respective sizes.

Not only do the players look good, but the environments that they play in look extremely good as well. The street courts all have their own nuances in the background, from the snow at Beacon Hill to the factories in Detroit, which really help define each region. My biggest problem with the background is the miniscule amount of spectators that show up to these games. I know it is street ball and all, but these are NBA stars, and there would be a lot more people watching if they laced up to face on a court in Harlem in real life. And the spectators that are there do not really seem to do a lot. If there are only a few spectators, I want to see them doing the wave and stuff, not just sitting there getting butt spread.


The music in NBA Street consists of some hip-hop songs, mainly instrumentals, that provide some more street atmosphere. (Boy did that sound stereotypical.) For hip-hop music, a genre that I almost always detest, this really did not bother me that much, and I could tell hat it was well done, even if it was against my own personal tastes. If you actually like hip-hop music, then you will like the various themes throughout NBA Street.

The sound effects that actually relate to basketball are fantastic. The ball hitting the court, the noises used for the dunks, the swooshes, the menu noises, they’re all extremely well done. The problem with the audio comes from Joe the Show. He has the most annoying voice that I have ever heard. Couple this with repetitive, annoying catch phrases, and you have a very vile concoction indeed. Joe the Show is like the DJ from Jet Grind Radio, except for the DJ has a much better voice, and he has some style. Joe the Show is pathetic, and should be removed from the sequel.

NBA Street uses a typical control scheme for a basketball game. The configuration has been standard since the NBA Live series ruled the original PlayStation, and NBA Street follows this with one notable exception: the tricks. All tricks are done through combinations of the shoulder buttons. At first pressing the shoulder buttons at odd times while running down the court can throw you off, but the more that you play the game, the more that you get used to it. Your players respond right on cue, except when trying to pull off some of the more difficult tricks. Sometimes a player would slightly hesitate before heading into the trick, which makes me think that the game takes a little bit longer to load those moves, and that split-second is needed to load the animation or something.

NBA Street is an extremely fun and addicting game, and it has taken the arcade basketball genre to places it has not been since the mid nineties. While the single player modes are fairly easy to beat, they were still really fun to play and make my way through. And the multiplayer possibilities for NBA Street are just something else. If you want to have a bunch of people over to play the PlayStation 2, make sure a copy of NBA Street is nearby. You can organize tournaments between the players, and decide who is really the best baller of all.

Perhaps the most rewarding activity in NBA Street is creating your player, and earning points to develop them. These players start out weak (which is why I would not recommend even creating one until you are at least in the fourth region), but they can progress to the point where they can easily be more dominant than Michael Jordan, especially if you focus them in the directions that best fit your style of play. I mean, if you like lobbing the ball down to the big guy, do not create a shooting guard who has maxed out his three point potential. Instead, create a seven foot lummox who can muscle around Shaquille O’Neal. The NBA Street create-a-player system is executed better than I have ever seen one before, and it alone made me play in Hold the Court Mode for a bit longer than I wanted to. I had to power up my player!

NBA Street is not a challenging single player, and I beat both the City Circuit and Hold the Court modes easily in a rental. That is not to say that the game is not worth a purchase, because the lack of difficulty in solo play absolutely does not detract from having a blast in a multiplayer game. Besides, it is notoriously difficult to get through an entire basketball season in a rental, and the different structure of NBA Street allows that. Take advantage of it.

If multiplayer gaming is your thing, make NBA Street the first PlayStation 2 game that you buy. (I will not get into the fact that you should be purchasing another console for multiplayer gaming, because of the PlayStation 2’s obvious weakness, only having two controller ports. As superficial as that may seem, that is a serious detraction from any serious multiplayer gaming.) Still, NBA Street is the class of the console, because it has depth that most sports games do not contain. You cannot win a game only by putting points on the board. You need to master the art of trickery to pull out a victory. Most sports games are extremely one-dimensional, which is the flaw that most gamers will point out with the genre. NBA Street requires mastery of two elements, which should make the game deep enough to please anyone.

*Added some style to a tired genre and brought it back to the top.
*The graphics add flash and a ‘trippin’ feel to the game. (I cannot believe I just used ‘tripping’ in that context.)
*One of the best multiplayer games on the PlayStation 2, a console not known for being good to the popular people.

*You start with Michael Jordan? What fun is that if you do not have to work for him!
*The character dialogue is downright corny.
*You can really breeze through the single-player game.

Even with the immense success of NBA Street, the sub-genre of arcade basketball games still rests on the precarious edge between returning to the limelight, or simply plummeting off the face of the earth. The fate is unknown at this time; Only the future can hold the answers and tell the truth of this mystery. So as we fly through the years, remember the past, and remember that NBA Street began the restoration of the legacy of arcade basketball games.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/28/02, Updated 02/28/02

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