Personal Favorite: NBA STREET VOL. 2
EA Sports BIG made a name for themselves in the gaming market as a provider of games that are a less realistic but more fun alternative to sports simulators with gems like NBA Street, FIFA Street and SSX Tricky. In 2003 they released NBA Street Vol. 2 for the Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2. The game had decent sales but received excellent reviews for a sports game, with a Metacritic rating of 90%.
NBA Street Vol. 2 has a retro and street level feel in all facets, be it music, art style or dialogue. While the actual character models and textures are your typical size and shape, the clothing of the players, the animations of their movements and the graphitti like lettering are the ways that NBA Street Vol. 2 expresses itself visually. Its soundtrack is killer, with tons of old hip-hop jams like “T.R.O.Y.”, “Get Up” and “Rock the Party”. Actually come to think of it pretty much every EA Sports BIG game had killer soundtracks. Also worth mentioning are the unique tracks that play during certain moments of the game like during gamebreaker modes or during the intros before a game begins. NBA Street Vol. 2‘s dialogue, of both the announcer and the players also does a great job of emitting the street level vibe through use of street slang, basketball slang and PG-13 rated disses.
More important than the way NBA Street Vol. 2 captures the streetball feel though is the game’s actual gameplay. NBA Street Vol. 2 sticks to the formula that made its original title strike gold, but adds plenty more flair, a more advanced story mode and a surprisingly deep and gratifying rewards system. In regards to the latter, as you play through any of NBA Street Vol. 2‘s modes you unlock currency that can be used to unlock various items to use in game ranging from unique streetball characters, actual hall of fame NBA players, their jerseys (if you want to put them on your created player), 90s rap artists and historical streetball courts. Each item can also be unlocked by completing its unique challenge instead, for example ‘finish a pick-up game without being blocked once’. Because these unlocks are actually usable in game and not just cosmetic collectibles, I really went out of my way to unlock each and every one and try them out in-game. ‘Be a Legend’ mode is definitely the best part of NBA Street Vol. 2. You create your player, his size, style and spend a limited number of development points in skill allocations. You will start out with no-name rec league caliber teammates and only be able to play pick-up games at some classic real-life streetball courts. As you win games you will be able to choose one player off the losing squad to join your team, giving you more options for your 3 man game squad. You also get development points to spend on your player and you gain reputation in that area. Eventually with enough rep you can gain invites to tournaments. It is there that you will face more fierce competition and earn much more reputation and better players. Some of these players are over-the-top created characters, some are actual NBA players. Like real life, it is a long but rewarding grind to keep improving your skills and reputation. The picking up of new players and the array of challenges and game types you will complete keeps that game diverse throughout the gamut of ‘Be a Legend’ mode.
Full disclosure: basketball is my favorite sport, hobby and a personal passion. You may think that makes me biased towards basketball games, but it also most definitely makes me more critical on them than any other genre. So when I say NBA Street Vol. 2 is amazing, you can take that claim to the bank. It perfectly captures the action, feel and culture of streetball while still having enough over-the-top action to feel like a video game and not a simulation. To this day NBA Street Vol. 2 and NBA Street Homecourt are my favorite basketball games. This is definitely worth owning for PS2 or Xbox if you’re even remotely interested in streetball.