E3 2001: Hands-onNBA Courtside 2002

The NBA Courtside series heads to the GameCube. We play the game and bring you our initial hands-on impressions.

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The NBA Courtside series has historically received mixed reaction from the game media and consumers alike. The series has been applauded for its sleek visuals, but its gameplay hasn't lived up to that graphical quality. Now Nintendo's hoops series is headed to the GameCube console and we were able to get our hands on the game at the ongoing E3 in Los Angeles. Its visual design remains similar to the Nintendo 64 games, but with the power of the GameCube the character models and courts are greatly improved graphically. The player faces in particular are probably the most realistic we've seen in a basketball game to date, even at its early state of development. The NBA 2K series on the Sega Dreamcast held that crown until now, but the facial models in NBA Courtside are virtually photo-realistic. The animation in the game is ultrasmooth, as players transition seamlessly from dribble moves to dunks and pull off spin moves and crossovers with fluid ease. The variety of animations are also impressive. For example, players will dropkick the ball into play and frequently pass the ball behind the back. Therein lies the primary problem with the game, it isn't very realistic and at this point is entirely too offensive-oriented.

The gameplay system in general still needs a lot of work. One of the primary problems is that the control scheme isn't very intuitive. The large A-button on the GameCube controller is used to shoot and the analog controls movement, which generally works well. However, the passing is mapped to the analog C-stick. Using this analog control, the passing game is a mess. It is difficult to pass the ball to the right player and several times the ball simply rolled out of bounds, missing the intended receipient of the pass altogether. The Z shoulder button is used to get into a defensive stance, but because its placed directly over the turbo button it is cumbersome to D-up and use turbo at the same time. The defensive game in general needs a lot of work, as at this point NBA Courtside 2002 is essentially an up-and-down, arcade-style hoops game--with dunks and layups on every possession.

The game's developer has several months before the launch of the GameCube. Hopefully, some of these nagging gameplay issues can be resolved before the game's final release.

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