"Too much emphasis on style over substance, better dunks and worse outside shooting, caricatures instead of heroes: everything that's wrong with the NBA, and awesome about NBA Street Vol. 2"
Released in early 2002 for the three major consoles, the sequel to NBA Street expanded upon the original premise to the great delight of players all over the globe. The basic idea of the game is simple: 3-on-3 basketball. But the game has so much more to offer, let's not sell it short.
There are three main ways to play the game, but they are all basketball. They are:
How do I play?
- Pick-Up Game - Choose an NBA team, custom team, or other preformed team and play against the cpu or another player. This is your multi-player option (obligatory in all sports games). Also in this mode, you can play with various rule sets: "dunks only", "NBA scoring" (two and three point shots instead of ones and twos), and "first to a gamebreaker".
- NBA Challenge - Choose an NBA team and play every other team in the league. This can be boring, and can easily be done in Pick-up mode, but they needed to give you some more hurdles before you unlock everything.
- Be a Legend - This is the "story" mode that we are familiar with from games like THPS and such. You build a custom player and work your way up, playing more and more difficult teams, all the while earning points to develop your skills. You also can recruit players from teams that you defeat to join your squad.
Notable update from the original: in the original, you had a 15-person team. This allowed you to have all the unlockable players and special players on a team with your custom character. Now, you only have five. So you have to be picky about who you keep.
It's basketball! Three on three! Only this is a video game. If it were that simple, the game would get stale faster than bargain donuts. So, there is variation available for style, and points.
- Pass - Basic offensive maneuver where the ball is transferred from one teammate to another. Yawn. But wait! If you pass to a teammate while that player is flying in the air near the hoop (at their whim, mind you) they do an awesome Alley-oop! Plus, you have the option of doing a kick-pass, or even passing to a player by bouncing the ball off of the glass. You can even pass to yourself off of the backboard. If you are really cocky, you can bounce the ball to yourself off of your defender's head.
- Shoot - Wherein you throw the ball through the hoop. Again, this can be jazzed up. If you do a trick shot, it gets you more bonus points. If you do a dunk, it gets you a lot more bonus points. If you shoot from behind the three-point line, you get two points instead of just one. Dunks can be awesome.
Notable update from the original: if the player you are controlling has the ball, a disk underneath them indicates their likelihood of making a shot from their current position. Green means very likely, yellow means somewhat likely, and red means not likely. This option can be deactivated. You can imagine how much this helps the novice player though.
- Moves - These are crazy. Say your defender just will not relent. What to do? Well, you could pass the ball around and wait for an opening. Boring. Why not roll on the ground while dribbling? Or perhaps do a little dance, like the funky chicken? If you do a move, and your defender does not counter, they are "faked out", and either fall to the ground for a moment, or simply stand looking stupefied. Thus, leaving you able to shoot over them undefended or drive right past for an easy dunk. Awesome. Don't forget that each move you do earns bonus points. However, if you try to execute a trick that is beyond your capability, you will send the ball flying, probably for a turnover.
- Others - Your teammates can set picks for you also. These are pretty basic looking, but they are devastating when used effectively. Combos are completed by linding together moves, passes, dunks, rebounds, and all that other cool stuff. The longer the combo, the more bonus points. This is a LOT like the combo system in Tony Hawk.
- Steal - Swipe at the ball while the defense is dribbling. If you hit it, the ball goes loose. You have to recover the ball to get credit for the steal though. If the offensive player does a move on you, you have to "counter" it while stealing in order to not be faked out, and thus rendered useless.
- Block - Block shots. You can block shots liberally in this game. Goaltending calls do not exist. However, the shot clock restarts if a shot reaches the peak of its arc, not just the rim. So even if you are a blocking machine, you can still be on defense for a long time. Tough beans.
- Dive - When you knock the ball lose (due to a steal or a block), you can dive to recover it. Note that you can dive whenever the ball is loose, so the team that just had the ball knocked away can dive for it as well.
- Switch player - Switch which player you are controlling. The defensive equivalent of the pass. However, since this is largely a user-interface type of move, there are no points or anything else associated with it. Purely for convenience.
Here's where things get ridiculously unrealistic. While most of the moves and extravagant dunks may seem outlandish, they are usually based on actual moves that street ball players have used for years (Go watch the And1 Mixtapes). However, the gamebreaker is pure fantasy.
What happens is this: By accumulating enough bonus points (by doing moves and dunks and other points-accruing combos), you eventually fill up a meter at the top of the screen. Then, you have a limited amount of time to make a Gamebreaker shot. This shot will, if made, not only give you the same amount of points, but take away a point from the other team! That's right. So you can overcome a three point deficit in one shot if you play it right (Gamebreaker shot from behind the arc = +2 for you, -1 for them). Most Gamebreaker shots go in if they are from a reasonable range (within the player's capability), and aren't blocked. But you can do even better than that.
If you are in a Gamebreaker situation, and the clock is ticking down for you to get your shot off, you can SAVE the Gamebreaker. This will benefit you, as long as you don't win/lose the game before you can work up to the level of another Gamebreaker. If you canget that meter full again, you get a Level-2 Gamebreaker (very original name). Now, if you take a Level-2 Gamebreaker shot, three (3) things take place:
- The game has an animated cutscene, where you and your teammates (not under your control)perform some ridiculous stunt that involves multiple camera views and replays in slow motion. Whatever stunt the game makes you perform depends on your location on the court.
- The shot can't be blocked, since it's just a cutscene, a cinematic event. The opponent can't control their players any more than you can yours. Just relax. Also, I've never seen one miss.
- You take away 4 points for a 2-pointer, and 3 points for a regular shot. However, due to the tricky nature of the actual "shots", (it's a cinematic, remember?) the point value of your shot and the point deduction from your teammate is minimally predictable.
This is the driving force in the game. When you start out in Be A Legend mode, you have next to no skills. But, as you play and beat people (and add defeated players to your roster), you can advance your skills, so you can play against more difficult teams, and use more difficult moves.
When you first start designing a player, you can customize them to a fairly ridiculous amount as far as appearance, but for size, you have 4 options: Stocky, Slim, Athletic, and Huge. I made a huge African-American lady with pigtails and a stocky Hispanic man with glorious sideburns.
Notable Update: Much to the chagrin of chauvinists everywhere, now you can play as a lady. Also, once you choose your size, you are stuck with it. No more "upgrading" your height and weight, as you could in the previous version.
Now that you have made your little person, you get to choose what they can do. There are eight different skills that have five levels of attainability each. Plus, you have the option of going past the fifth and getting a Crown on an ability, which signifies mastery of that skill. However, you can only get one crown. Tough beans. Here are the skills:
- Shots: The better this is, the further out you can shoot and make it. My personal favorite
- Dunks: If you have no skill in this at all, and you try to dunk, you will fail. The more skill, the more elaborate dunks you can perform.
- Power: I'm not really sure what this refers to. Maybe if a loose ball is between you and another player, it goes to the one with the higher power ranking? It can't be bad though.
- Blocks: Block shots better. Remember, there's no goaltending calls.
- Steals: The better to take away the ball with, when the opponent is dribbling.
- Handles: Any baller can tell you this means ball-handling skills. This translates to the difficulty of dribbling tricks that you can perform, and prevents you from having the ball knocked away.
- Rebounds: Get the ball after a missed shot.
So, once you've distributed your points, you can play away with some really crappy teammates. As you continue on the road to success, you will play against better and better people who you can trade into your team. Plus, with every team you beat, you earn points that you can spend to improve your skills, "buy new moves" or even shoes (note: shoes are pointless). Each skill point costs more than the last though, so the improvement system is somewhat regulated.
Who else can I be?
Well, the players you have available for play are wide and varied. Of course, since you have "NBA" in the title, you know they licensed that. Thus, the starting five from every NBA team (at the end of the 2002-2003 season) is available for play. Plus, they have a number of "classic" players who are among the greatest of all time, including:
Also, there are unlockable bonus players such as Nelly and the St. Lunatics. Not the best players, but reasonably entertaining that you can play as Murphy Lee.
What else is there?
A major element of the game that is very polarizing is the announcer, voice sampled from Bobbito Garcia, AKA DJ Cucumber Slice. He gives introductions to each of the courts that you play on, as well as giving witty commentary during the game. His style of speech is heavily influenced by the urban Puerto Rican community, presumably where he grew up. Such urban slang is illustrated in confusing phrases (to a country boy like me) like "COOKIES!!!" when a shot is made. Bobbito is also an unlockable player.
The soundtrack may also be grating, being comprised entirely of backbeats from hip-hop songs. Thankfully, the songs aren't chart-toppers, so you don't have to suffer through a marathon game with Lil' John's "Get Low" bopping all the while. The background music when you aren't playing (navigating the menus and such) are the same tracks with the lyrics included.
Should either of these features annoy you to the point of resignation, they are both avoidable: they can be deactivated in the settings menu.
First and foremost, I'd like to say that I'm not generally a fan of sports games. I'm not even a zealous fan of professional sports (Carmelo Anthony? Who's that? And where's Reggie Miller?) I don't get too competitive with other people as far as videogames go. But, this one appeals to me. This is, in my opinion, the best way to play basketball on a television. The number of players on a side is limited (three, not five), so it's easy to follow. The controls are simple, and creativity is strongly encouraged (not unlike SSX Tricky, or other games of that ilk). Plus, the cartoonish characters add a charm that can't be had in regular sports games. Fun for the whole family.