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NBA Street Showdown
Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1-2
Genre: Arcade/ Sports (Basketball)

Graphics & Sound:
After a less-than-thrilling NBA experience with 989’s NBA, basketball fans finally have a game to get into. Though it’s a slightly cut down version of the console version, NBA Street Showdown still manages to provide a top-notch arcade experience.

NBA Showdown delivers in the presentation department. The game sticks to the more realistic-vision of the game seen in NBA Street Volume 3 rather than the over-exaggerated style seen in the game’s first two iterations. As with other PS2-to-PSP ports, the game is slightly pared down, yet still manages to have a nice, fluid look. It’s still amazing to think that these types of visuals are coming out of a handheld. A few slight enhancements have been made to the game to make it a little better-suited for the PSP’s smaller screen. Numbers and names are slightly bigger to help them stand out and the action doesn’t get so fast that it blurs up the screen, making it hard to tell what’s going on.

The absence of commentary is a welcome addition – or should I say subtraction – to Showdown. I’ve never liked the commentary in NBA Street, so I didn’t miss the constant jawing of DJ during the game. There are still a few choice comments used during big plays, but overall you’ll really only hear the background music during games.

Showdown uses the same soundtrack as Volume 3 and is heavy on the hip-hop. Tracks include De La Soul’s “Me, Myself and I” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around”, just to give you a taste of what to expect. How much you like the soundtrack will depend greatly on your personal feelings towards hip-hop, but even if you don’t particularly like it, it works well enough within the context of the game.

NBA Street Showdown follows the same basic structure as the console versions. 3-on-3 street basketball. The game includes partial rosters, mostly the big names, from all 30 NBA teams as well as unlockable legends like “Magic” Johnson and Pete Maravich.

Showdown is broken down into two core modes: Pick-up and Career. Pick-up games are exhibition games that you play with the included NBA teams, making it ideal for a quick-game. Career mode is slightly deeper and lets you create your own custom player and travel to real-life street courts around the country and face off against NBA players. The more courts you “own”, the more things you’ll unlock – such as new courts and legends. You’ll also earn points that can be spent on improving your character’s skills.

Character building is rather deep and allows for lots of customization. In the beginning, you’re limited as to what you can do, but later on you’ll have a wide variety of clothing options and other additions to really make your character your own. In addition to being able to improve your character’s individual skills, like ball handling and speed, you can also purchase special dunks.

Showdown is loaded with extras, adding lots of replay value. In addition to the added unlockables, you can also choose from a selection of mini-games, like a carnival-style game where you try to sink as many shots as you can in a limited time. An ad-hoc mode is also included for multiplayer games.

How easy, or difficult you find Showdown will rely greatly on how easily you adapt to the controls – which are pretty confusing, even for seasoned Street players. How well you create your character in Career mode will also determine difficulty. Building a character that doesn’t mesh with your particular play style will hamper progress.

Game Mechanics:
NBA Street Showdown is in no way a simulation, so this may not be the best title if you’re expecting the handheld answer to NBA Live. Instead, matches are three-on-three and place more emphasis on style and showiness rather than choosing the right plays. The arcade style really lends itself to fast-paced games and really lets you do things you normally wouldn’t do in a simulation. You can go for more long-range shots, or go for dunks on every shot. The real style comes from ball handling, allowing you to dribble, fakes and other antics normally not seen in a normal game of basketball.

Getting fancy with ball handling is encouraged since it builds up your Gamebreaker bar, letting you pull off special shots that give you points and subtract from your opponent’s score. As in Volume 2, Gamebreakers can be saved up, giving you access to a Gamebreaker 2 for an added bonus.

The on the court action is top notch, but is marred by an askew control setup. All of the controls you need to play are there, but the lack of four shoulder buttons seriously cramps how much you can do. Special jukes and dunks can still be assigned though in-game menus, but still feels limited. To make up for the two missing shoulder buttons, the trick button can be used along with the move and turbo buttons. This gives you more moves, but feels really odd, especially when set against the game’s fast pacing when you don’t want to “think”, but “do”.

NBA Street Showdown is great for people who need their fix of handheld NBA action. The variety of play modes make it well-suited for both short and long play sessions. Its more style than simulation, but there's still enough basketball here to please any fan.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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