|NBA Street: Homecourt (2007)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2
Suffice it to say that the whole “NBA Street” franchise has come a long way. When it debuted on the PS2, it revolutionized the whole 3-on-3 streetball game. Being part of EA’s BIG line, the game was allowed to be over the top and silly, while retaining a fresh sense of authenticity as well as arcade gaming fun. The colors were bright, the moves were huge, and the dunks were the centerpiece of the game. The characters were larger than life, featuring a fine set of fictitious bosses who ruled various courts and had their own strengths and weaknesses. Good stuff.
“NBA Street Vol. 2” managed to tweak the recipe a bit, changing up the skill development portion and making the whole game feel a bit more challenging. It was good, but ultimately not as fun as the debut. So here we are a few years later with “NBA Street Homecourt” that really redoes everything and makes the game look like something completely new, which it basically is. Not to worry, the same core gameplay is still at work here, so if you’ve played either of the other games in the series, you’ll know what you’re doing straight out of the box.
However, the cartoonish qualities of the earlier games are completely gone. This is “serious” streetball, and the tone of the game sets this up immediately. The game is all about the character you create and your journey from a nobody to the king of the courts. Along the way, you’ll meet up with plenty of real players who are keys to advancing to other courts and milestones in your career. This game isn’t about the hip-hop, but the soul. The funky soul that creeps into all the players and keeps them motivated. Hell, this is even reflected in the game’s soundtrack, which is a depository for ‘70s funk and soul tracks.
The big differences in play this time around are the dunking system and the gamebreakers. When your player goes to dunk, a meter will quickly fill up. Let the button go at just the right moment, and you’ll find your athlete dunking the ball not once, but twice. Needless to say, this makes winning the game a bit easier if done properly. For the first time, the opposing team can actually steal gamebreakers. This makes for a radical change in the game, but is nonetheless more than welcome. For once, games aren’t hinged entirely on who pulls off the gamebreakers.
Control of the ball has changed a bit, too. Now players can dribble the ball slowly or rapidly by pressing the X button, allowing the trick meter to fill up quicker if handled smoothly. For the first time, there is also the “remix” button. Pressing Y will pull off all sorts of little tricks, from bouncing the ball off an opponent’s forehead, to doing trick rolls and dribbles on the court. And to top it off, there’s even a special dunk that allows players to jump off the back of a crouching teammate and slam the ball into the basket.
Players’ skills (such as shooting, passing and dunking) are increased automatically depending on how well they perform each during matches. At one point the player is given the choice to set any skill at 100 percent, allowing him to max out in a skill that he feels is vital to winning games. Gone are the days of points being allocated and all that hoo-ha. For once, the skill development feels balanced.
Players working through the home court challenge will find an array of games to participate in such as shots only to five, dunks only to seven, play to 21, play to 30, etc. Again, this is a nice touch that breathes new life into the franchise. There is, of course, online play as well, which seems to be quite a bit of fun, depending on who your opponent is. Some games can get really close, while others can be a bit of a blowout at times, and aren’t as much fun. It’s always good to have a challenge.Graphically, the game has a bit of a “dirtier” look to it. The colors are intentionally washed out during the outside games. An overcast grayish filter gives the game a “Gears of War” look in terms of the color palette used. All in all, a good look for the new update. But if anything detracts from this game, it’s perhaps that after a while it just feels a bit repetitive, especially after you start getting good. Unfortunately, giving the player a choice of what matches he wants to play makes this problem all the more obvious. Other than that, “NBA Street Homecourt” is a lot of fun, and certainly has most of the right things going for it to help keep the series enjoyable.