I have a weakness for the NBA Street games. I like them because they do not try to simulate basketball, rather, they let you play a type of basketball that is completely ludicrous and unhealthy. I think the series peaked with NBA Street 2, which is still fun to play even today. Hoping to recapture some of that magic, I picked up a used copy of NBA Street: Homecourt at the Exchange the other day to see if it would make it through the Ebay Review System.
The first bad omen was that the Xbox would not read the disk. Luckily, after wiping it a few times with my shirt it seemed to start working again and I haven’t had any trouble since.
Homecourt does not change the nature of the game in any drastic way, but they have tweaked the gameplay and the overall balance a bit. Trick moves have migrated back to the face buttons, where they were in NBA Street 2 and the dunks have gotten even more outrageous. In addition, it’s nearly impossible to score jump shots because everyone in the game can leap 50 feet into the air and grab the ball out of the air just as it enters the hoop. This is perfectly legal, it is not goal-tending.
The two major gameplay changes are the addition of a “double dunk” mechanic and a rebalancing of the Gamebreaker system. Double dunks are fun. The idea is that when you go up for a dunk, you hold the B button down for a while, and in the easier difficulty levels, a meter shows up. If you fill the meter just right, rather than scoring one hoop your player will catch the ball after one dunk and flip up in the air and slam the ball down again, thus scoring two points. This is pretty fun to do. Don’t think about the physics.
The new Gamebreakers are also an improvement. You collect trick points by doing tricks and fancy dunks. When the your trick point meter is full, you can trigger the Gamebreaker and then do some outrageous dancing around and in the end score two or three points while knocking your opponent down by one. The improvement that the new game makes is that while the Gamebreaker is active, the defensive team can still steal the ball and thus collect Gamebreaker points for itself. In the past this was not possible, a GB was basically guaranteed points for the offense. The new system feels more balanced and fun to me.
With the new dunks and the rebalanced Gamebreaker system, I was ready to really enjoy this game. Unfortunately,the game’s difficulty curve is a square wave. On Easy and Medium you can win by 10 points every game just by continually stealing the ball and scoring back on your own side. This is fun for about three days, but then you’d like the game to be just a bit more challenging. Not much, just a bit. Unfortunately, on Hard and Expert, the game is cheap and impossible. All trick moves result in steals for the defense and all dunks are blocked except when the player is completely alone. The harder difficulties also remind you that the controls are actually kind of sloppy and sluggish, which didn’t really matter on Easy, because you barely needed to use them to win. Finally, starting on Hard, the double dunk meter goes away, so you don’t get as many of those moves. This makes the game less fun.
The result of all of this is that after making my custom player and pushing his R up for a few days on the easier levels, I got bored and tried Hard. Then I felt abused and punished. Therefore, the game gets an Ebay rating of 4.5. I’m on the fence about whether to send it into Ebay-land. I want to like the harder difficulties, but I don’t know if I want to spend the time to figure them out.
I guess I should go play more Shivering Isles. At least there I can collect some giant orange mushrooms. Mmmm, mushrooms.