February 16, 2007 - Rip Hamilton invited me to a friendly streetball tournament at Ash Park. So I show up with a couple of friendly guys: all-world Aussie Andrew Bogut and NBA hair-star Adam Morrison. So what's Rip do? He brings in a couple of his boys that grew up near Coatesville, Penn.: ringers Rasheed Wallace and Kobe Bryant.
Sheed and Kobe grew up in Philly, and were clearly called in late to hustle my squad. Before I can hit the shenanigan button, team "Coatesville" is out to a 19-15 lead and our chances of winning this thing are uglier than Morrison's haircut. We only have one chance of pulling this off other than calling time to research zoning laws: the Gamebreaker.
Hustling to midcourt, I trigger the Gamebreaker and start ripping off tricks like sunny side, the cha cha, rewind, jimmy did it and every other kind of wicked move EA stuffed in NBA Street Homecourt. I fill the trick meter up for +3 points, tell Bogut to get on his knees at the top of the key, leap off his back for the Trifecta, a vicious triple-gamebreaker dunk. Three points for the dunk. Three points for the bonus. Game over.
The most realistic Street ever?
As great as the other NBA Street titles were in the past, this latest is a fine achievement by the team at EA Canada. With the additions of the Trick Remixer, with which you do everything from a simple cross-over to an off-da-heazy, and a Gamebreaker meter instead of canned super-dunks, NBA Street Homecourt brings a new level of organic gameplay to the arcade sports genre. Throw in outstanding graphics, a solid soundtrack and a decent career mode, and NBA Street Homecourt is the next-gen arcade sports game you have been waiting for.
That's because other arcade sports games have left us wanting a lot more over the years. While they start out great with a few quarters at the local arcade, non-stop Phi-Slamma-Jamma jams wear thin after a few days on a home console. From NBA Jam to NFL Blitz to the original NBA Street, the majority of arcade sports games start out with an over-the-top bang and fizzle out in the end -- i.e. Morrison's hair. Very few titles have been able to overcome that, with the notable exception of FIFA Street 2, a title that, despite its other flaws, featured a new organic gameplay style, a do-it-yourself gamebreaker and a decent career mode. Not coincidentally, many of the same guys that brought you FIFA Street 2 are also on Homecourt.
Create your own highlight reel.
On the court, you'll use the Trick Remixer -- tap the X button to quickly cross the ball over. Slow the pace and you'll perform other moves, like behind-the-head dribbles and nice little pirouettes. L1 and R1 act as modifiers to go between the legs or around the back, and with a good ball-handler you can use this Trick Remixer to pull off some amazing combos. The triangle button is a standard trick button that pulls off canned-animations and, when a defender is in proximity, some embarrassing ankle-breakers that act as multipliers for your mounting trick score.
This plays into a nice defensive mini-game. As a defender, you need to challenge ball handlers by going for a steal or simply shoving players to the concrete. Shaq is good at that. If you don't time it right, you'll continually get beat but with just two buttons, you're bound to get it right soon -- all the more reason to try out off-the-heazy passes. On the offensive end, the Trick Remixer is a great new combo system and you are finally in control of just how you want to blow by defenders. On defense, you have to work to stay in front of a ball-handler and either take the ball away or force him to pass. It's very well balanced and playing both sides of the court are equally enjoyable.
As goaltending is, as they say on the streets, "fine and dandy," blocks play another big role in the gameplay. The best time to hit a three -- er, a two -- is actually on the break as a big man underneath will simply snatch your shot from the heavens. As multiple players leap into the air for alley-oops or head-fake a jumper, the blocking action gets heated. Just make sure you're not standing under the hoop when you take off.
But what's an NBA Street game without dunks? With four basic player types -- guards, forwards, centers and WNBA players -- there are a number of different jams specific to each position, like Jordan's patented Jumpman for guards or Shaq's lumbering Caveman dunk. A few of the WNBA players can dunk, but most of them -- and a few NBA guards-- prefer tricky lay-ins to thundering jams. Personally, I'm all for equal dunking rights so I would have given the women a little more hops. It's not like T-Mac's spinning, around the back, off the board, standing on the rim dunk is very realistic, either.