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NBA Street
Review By:  Matt Douglas
Developer:   NuFX/EA Canada
Publisher:   EA BIG
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Basketball
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   8-9-01

EA Sports BIG released the critically acclaimed SSX at the Playstation 2 launch, being named by many as the PS2's best game. Well, I'm glad to tell you that there's no sophomore slump for the company, as NBA Street has become the king of fantasy hoops, combining pick-up-and-play controls with challenging, fun gameplay.

For those that haven't read about the game, NBA Street is a three-on-three street basketball game. The game uses street rules, meaning the first team to 21 wins (providing they are winning by at least two), and that inside shots are worth one point, with outside shots being worth two. It also means there are basically no rules, so goaltending and other fouls usually not allowed occur frequently. With goaltending being allowed in Street, unlike the Midway games, scoring points becomes much more difficult, as blocked shots become much more frequent in the game. When playing against a good defensive opponent, it can become nearly impossible to make any sort of jump shot, making you use the game's arsenal of flashy dunks.

Now some of you may be thinking, "That's great and all, but there doesn't seem to be much innovation."  Well, that's where Street's excellent trick system comes into play.  Most moves in the game, whether they be blocks, dunks, steals, or even picks, are worth a certain amount of trick points.  These moves fill up your trick meter, and the higher the point amount, the more the meter will fill.  To add to that, you can link up these moves within a span of about five seconds and bust out some combos, which can make your meter fill up even quicker.  Once your meter is full, your team can get a "gamebreaker shot".  These shots, which can change the outcome of a game in seconds, give you either one or two points (depending on whether you take an inside or outside shot), while taking that respective amount of points away from the other team's score.  You may not think that seems like much at first, but let me tell you, when it's a game to 21 points, that's huge.

Of course, gameplay mechanics are nothing without an intelligent opponent.  While I can't guarantee you a great human opponent, the AI in Street will be more than enough.  Your opponent will play a smart game, crashing the boards and trying their best at making sure you don't get off a gamebreaker.  The easy setting may not be all that difficult, but medium and hard can give you quite a challenge.  Unfortunately, your computer-controlled teammates, while not stupid, seem to not play as great of a game on defense, or more specifically, shot blocking.  It's a very minor gripe though, as your teammates do a great job making sure every player is covered on defense, and going up for alley-oops on fast breaks.

As you may be able to tell, I was absolutely amazed how the seemingly simplistic gameplay can become such fun to play.  What makes it even better are the great modes of play that complement Street's "mad skillz".  To begin with, you have the create-a-baller feature, where you can customize your player's height, weight, skills, gender, clothes and even shoes.  Also, unlike in the Midway games, attributes such as height, weight, and handling, these attributes ACTUALLY MATTER!  The way the game distributes the attribute points is great at making sure you can't have yourself an Allen Iverson or Kobe Bryant right out of the starting gates, by making each notch cost more and more attribute points the higher up the scale you go.  For example, if you're making your player taller, each inch initially costs five attribute points, but as you get to about 6'3", an inch costs 10 points, and the cost gradually increases until you either run out of points or max out on height.  The only complaint I have with the otherwise excellent feature is that you can't mix and match clothes.  If you happen to like the shirt in look number four, but happen to like the shorts in look eight, you're out of luck.  Nevertheless, I'm happy to see the feature to be much better than the abysmal NBA Showtime create-a-player mode.

Gameplay wise, you have Street's unique take on a season mode, in city circuit.  Here you take your created player and an NBA squad of your choosing (with Michael Jordan as well) around the States and Canada on the quest to be the best baller in the nation.  Every time you beat a team, you get to either take a player from their squad or take attribute points of various values depending on your performance.  So, as you continue your quest, you can build yourself your very own Dream Team, in addition to having your player develop.  Every once in a while your team will take on a "street legend", or a boss if you will.  From a 7'8" Japanese shot swatter to a flamboyant Jamaican, these players will join your team after you beat them in addition to gaining attribute points, which will help you on your way to your final challenge.  The catch is, every game, your opponent gets slightly harder.  You'll notice a big difference between your first street challenge and your last.  That is in part because your opponents don't gradually get harder, they can just all of a sudden go from manageable to very difficult in just one game.  I found that the game became much harder around the fourth legend, which did make the game challenging, but didn't exactly have me jumping for joy at the time.  I'm really nitpicking though, the city circuit mode it a welcome change from regular season modes in basketball simulations.

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