NBA Street Showdown
Feel the need to break some ankles and dunk on some scrubs? EA Sports BIG has the game for you, and we have the full review...
The NBA Playoffs are well on their way, and what better way to bring the game of basketball to the PSP than with EA Sports BIG and NBA Street Showdown. Unlike the disappointing NBA by 989 Sports, NBA Street Showdown isn't about simulating realistic basketball. Instead, it's all about high-flying dunks, crazy handles, and hardcore street ball. Despite being nothing new to veterans of the NBA Street series, NBA Street Showdown is one of the better PSP games you can have in your library.
If you're unfamiliar with the series, here's the breakdown. Choose from any of the current NBA teams, as well as teams made up of current and former superstars of the game, and face off in three-on-three ball. But throw out all of those NBA rules and lighten up on the law of gravity a little. Now you have a game, where players will break some ankles with some slick dribbling skills on their way to a rim-rattling dunk.
It may sound a bit like NBA Jam, and it owes more than EA would probably admit to that classic arcade series, but NBA Street Showdown has a few things that make it stand out even further. As you rack up those tricks (achieved by pressing square and a combination of the shoulder button turbos) and finish the combo with a score, you'll see a GameBreaker meter fill up.
Once it's full, you can execute a "GameBreaker 1" that will virtually guarantee a bucket, but in addition, it'll take a point away from the other team! If you're feeling extra cocky, save that GameBreaker and build up the meter again for a fabled "GameBreaker 2," a dunk or shot so dastardly, it'll r0x0rs many s0x0rs. (Gamers familiar with NBA Street will notice this system is identical to Vol. 2 and not the latest home console version - and I think it works a lot better.) In fact, there are a bunch of ways to humiliate your opponent, including tricks like "Off the Heezy" that'll bounce that ball right off your opponent's grill.
As you can imagine, the games are fast-paced but not chaotic. You are given more than enough time to try and counter tricks on defense, and blocked shots are a regular occurrence. Still, the ridiculous dunks are where you'll find a ton of fun, and it's great to see game-specific dunks mixed in with legendary ones like "Chocolate Thunder." Yowza.
NBA Street Showdown has a few modes of play for the baller in you, including Quick Game and Multiplayer options for up to two players. The more robust mode is called King of the Courts, and this has you create your own baller and team and start from the bottom rung on your quest to become the best there is.
This mode is actually a ton of fun, and deeper than what you would expect from a game like NBA Street Showdown. You start off with a modestly skilled player and you get to recruit new teammates as you move up in the ranks. With each victory, you'll be able to spend skill points to improve your player, and eventually you'll find yourself facing NBA stars and even Dr. J at his prime!
Create a Baller was particularly cool because it was more complex than I thought it would be. Having used it in other Street games, I was familiar with how many options there could be, from your player's hair to the kinds of shoes he (or she) wore. But to have it all squeezed into the handheld version? Kudos to EA for that.
In fact, everything is on par with the home console versions, including the speed of gameplay and even the killer soundtrack (though demerits to EA for censoring "Sega" from their remixed "Jump Around"). The graphics were the only thing that didn't make as smooth a transition, with the player models being more on par with PlayStation graphics than some of the more gorgeous PSP titles already out. Still, it's a joy to watch, especially with some of the sweet special effects thrown into the mix.
NBA Street Showdown even tries to one-up its home console brothers with a couple of modes not seen in those other versions. Check out the mini-games you can play, including Arcade Shootout and Shot Block Contest. In both you can use your PSP and play with up to three other people, taking turns at the wheel.
Arcade Shootout is just like those games in the arcade where you have to sink as many shots as possible in 40 seconds. Meanwhile, Shot Block Contest takes it back to the courts as you try and reject as many shots as possible within a certain time. Both are great extras to check out. And EA wasn't done, as they've included something I felt was missing from the PSP itself: a music visualization player. While it only works with the songs in the EA Pocket Trax library, it's cool to see several skins that move to the music.
Overall, you have to give NBA Street Showdown a lot of credit. In terms of gameplay, it stacks up nicely with all the other versions in the series. It even tries its best to include other modes you can't find anywhere else. While the visuals are the weakest part of the game, it's by no means a deal breaker. NBA Street Showdown finally brings the game of basketball to the PSP, and does it with authority.
What's Hot: Almost everything is part and parcel with the home console version, and there are some cool extras.
What's Not: The graphics, though solid, aren't up to par with other PSP titles we've seen.