Ever since the inception of Midway's NBA Jam series, arcade-style basic ball has continued to be a popular diversion for hard-core basketball fans and casual followers of the sport alike. But what makes NBA Street stand out from its predecessors is that it takes the basic NBA Jam recipe--even the cheat-code entry system--and expands upon it, giving arcade basketball an added amount of depth by rewarding players for their flashy moves on the court. Though Michael Jordan's presence no longer carries the mystique it did in the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Street, that doesn't even come close to preventing it from being a ridiculously addictive three-on-three arcade-style basketball game.
There are three main modes of play in NBA Street--city circuit, hold the court, and street school. City circuit is probably where you'll spend a majority of your time in NBA Street--you can select from any one of the 28 teams in the NBA and take the team on a road tour to several street-ball courts located around the country. On each of these courts, you'll have to face a varying number of NBA teams before you face the special street team for that region. When you defeat one of the NBA teams in city circuit, you have the option to take a player from the opposing team and add him to your roster, or you can select development points that can be used in NBA Street's create-a-player mode. Defeating a street team automatically gives you development points as well as the star player from that particular team. Unfortunately, you can only have a maximum of 15 players on your roster, so if you continually pick up players, you'll eventually have to make some cuts. Otherwise it's incredibly fun to go through this mode to unlock the additional players and courts and set records for each court. In fact, even when it feels like you've had enough of NBA Street for a while, the game has the unique ability to draw you right back in if you start playing another game.
The hold-the-court mode is similar to city circuit in that it retains the same gameplay mechanics. However, the ultimate goal of this mode is to set winning streaks for courts you've unlocked through the city circuit mode. For example, if you decide to hold court on The Paint--a Washington, DC, court not found in the PlayStation 2 version of the game--then you'll have to set the winning streak for that specific court. Generally, the only real incentive for playing this mode is to unlock additional pieces for the create-a-player mode, but it really isn't all that much different from the city circuit mode.
The last actual gameplay mode is street school, which essentially gives you the opportunity to learn different facets of the game, such as dives and picks as well as special dribbling tricks and dunks. In the greater scheme of things, this mode is actually quite pointless since it's so easy to jump right into NBA Street and start playing with a modicum of skill, though it takes some time to get adjusted to the layout of the buttons on the GameCube controller. In any case, if you're just starting to play the game, you only really need to know that the B button is used to shoot, the A button executes passes, the X or Y button performs tricks, and either shoulder button gives your players an additional boost in speed. In theory, that should be enough to get you through most of the game, and for the most part, this control scheme works well, but when you start to do some of the flashier moves--like the dinner's-served dunk--then a few small problems creep up. A few of the special dunks and jukes require you to press all three turbo buttons (the left and right triggers along with the Z button) and the shooting button at once. Needless to say, you'll find that it can be difficult to do because of the placement of the Z button on the GameCube controller. After a while, you'll start to get used to it and find a hand position that can accommodate the special moves, but it can certainly be a little awkward at first.
It's worth learning how to do these moves because they'll charge your gamebreaker meter much faster than basic tricks. Whenever you perform a cool-looking dunk, shot, or alley-oop or a combination of tricks that involves complicated dribbling and some passing, your gamebreaker meter will steadily charge. When the meter reaches capacity, you'll have the option either to dunk the ball, which gives you a point and takes a point off of the opposing team's score, or to shoot from behind the arc to get two points taken off the other team's score. The gamebreaker shot almost automatically goes in, but in the higher difficulty settings, the computer opponent can and will block gamebreaker shots if you're not careful--calling for a pick, which is done by tapping the C stick, is generally helpful if you want to free up one of your players for a two-point gamebreaker shot.
When executing a gamebreaker shot, the game produces a nice slow-motion cinematic effect that gives the shot a little added drama. Other special effects in NBA Street are really well done--the lighting for each court is excellent and really gives the feeling that you're playing out on a court in the middle of the desert during a sunset or that you're on a court deep within the streets with only a single street light. From the incredibly detailed graffiti on the court known as The Paint, to the fans that casually watch each game at courtside and the cars that drive by on the Miami court, there are plenty of details on each court to take your eyes off the action for brief moments of time. The only minor complaint is with the NBA character models--most are quite good, but it's obvious that more thought and effort went into some than others.
Most of the music in NBA Street is made up of subdued beats with an occasional change in pace to accommodate the onscreen action. The music fits the style of the game really well and really adds to the atmosphere of playing street ball. NBA Street also features somewhat of a commentary system in the form of a man with a megaphone. At first you'll find his quips about dunks, tricks, or various special shots to be pretty humorous, but he tends to repeat himself quite often over the course of a game--thankfully, you can turn it off. Also, since Michael Jordan now plays on the Wizards in the GameCube version of NBA Street, his occasional lines of dialogue seem somewhat out of place since he's no longer the star player of the game--but still, it's Michael Jordan.
NBA Street is one of those rare games that is simply addictive. Even after you've gone through the city circuit mode or the hold-the-court mode, you'll find yourself constantly trying to break records either you or your friends set for individual courts. A great gameplay system, detailed graphics, and easy-to-use control--there simply is no reason for you not to own this game if you don't already have the PlayStation 2 version.