Anyone looking for a fast-action basketball game that isn't afraid to tinker with Midway's stock formula will definitely find a lot to like in NBA Street.
For years, Midway has been breaking the arcade-sports formula down to a science. The company takes a sport, breaks it down to a four-player match, adds a turbo button, creates some way to set your player on fire by accomplishing a task three times in a row, and includes a code to give your player a huge head. While the company's basketball offerings have always been fairly solid, there's definitely room for improvement. Electronic Arts' latest PS2 offering, NBA Street, capitalizes on this fact, delivering a very NBA Jam-like game of street basketball that features enough well-designed differences to breathe life into Midway's stock formula.
NBA Street is three-on-three street basketball. Games go to 21 points, though the winning team must win by two points. Shots from inside the three-point line count for one point, while shots outside it count for two. Outside of the shot clock violation, there are no fouls, and there are no quarters or other time limits. The game also keeps track of your trick points, which are accumulated on defense by stealing balls and blocking shots and on offense by faking out defenders and scoring on various dunks and other shots. Executing tricks also builds your gamebreaker meter. Once the meter is full, you have a limited time to shoot one special shot that is almost guaranteed to land if your player is in range. The shot, if it drops, subtracts points from your opponents' score while adding to yours. For instance, landing a gamebreaker from outside the three-point line will give you two points and take two points away from the opposing team. As games are typically pretty close, the gamebreaker shots can really make the difference between winning and losing.
At first, NBA Street's control scheme seems needlessly complex, especially if you're used to playing simpler games, such as NBA Jam or NBA Hoopz. But once you spend some time with the game, the control becomes second nature. Aside from the standard pass and shoot buttons, you have a steal/trick button, a shot-blocking/rebounding jump, and four turbo buttons. Much like EA's snowboarding game, SSX, the different turbo buttons are used to execute different tricks. While driving to the hoop, you can execute lots of different side steps and other tricky footwork in an attempt to shake the defenders. Different turbo-button combinations also translate into different dunks. While any player can attempt any trick or dunk, players with low handle ratings will lose control of the ball if they attempt a more complex trick and players with low dunk ratings will frequently miss difficult dunks.