IGN – The game [NBA Playgrounds] is a return to the arcade-style basketball games of yesterday, like NBA Street and NBA Jam. Officially licensed by the NBA, the game features players both active and retired, with Allen Iverson facing off against modern ballers Steph Curry and George Hill in the opening of the trailer.
Every NBA team is featured in NBA Playgrounds, and the “roster of current and retired” players can be leveled-up. Keeping inline with its arcade-style roots, Playgrounds features “hundreds of over-the-top dunks and moves.”
NBA Jam gets all the hype as the nostalgic NBA game that everyone loves but people forget that NBA Street was one of the best basketball games ever. Creating your dude, bringing him up against the NBA guys, stringing tricks together like one of the Tony Hawk games to get on fire, there were layers and layers of strategy there. NBA Jam is a ton of fun — NBA Showtime too, another forgotten great — but crossing someone over repeatedly, getting that gamebreaker and then the music hits:
I mean that was an amazing moment in sports video games that I feel like gets none of the nostalgic hype. Pair it with that dude Bobito shouting insults at you all the time, the fact they give you an And1 mixtape nickname, and the actual gameplay, huge. A combination of that with classic two on two NBA Jam rules and there’s some real hope in the long-neglected oversized big head cartoonish basketball genre. The one downside? This isn’t made by the old Midway studio and instead something called Saber Interactive (presumably not being run by Robert California) but hey I’ll gladly impulsively waste $20 on it next month and hope for the best.
Also fuck it while we’re on the topic, here’s my personal list of the street sports games I can think of off the top of my head:
7) NBA Showtime - Great game and honestly better than NBA Jam as a pure game with better graphics but no nostalgia means this is as high as it gets
6) MLB Slugfest - I actually liked this game but it’s competing against some real titans of the fictionalized sports genre, sorry baseball fans
5) Whatever that hockey one was, NHL Face Off? – It was kinda the same shit as NBA Jam and I’m not a hockey guy but that game ruled
4) NFL Blitz – This was a tough call and one you may disagree with. But playing old NFL Blitz in the office, while nostalgic, reminded me that while fun and tense it’s so often the exact same gameflow every time. Unlike…
3) NFL Street - QBs scampering for 70 yard TDs, some strategy with picking guys on your team, there were layers of complexity like real football along with cartoonish over the top hits like Blitz. Big fan. Also unrelated: it’s annoying as shit that every bit of video game footage on YouTube has dudes screaming and trying to be funny over it. Fix that, world.
2) NBA Jam (all versions) - The original version and Tournament Edition are fun, the one that came out for Xbox 360 previously was also just as good as ever. But the whole “pop em for a steal/three game,” while insanely fun, is way too easy of a way to win.
1) NBA Street - EA making their spin on NBA Jam and NFL Blitz with the Street series is SO underrated in hindsight that it blows my mind. It was all the pick up and play fun of the classic Midway games but with depth where you could go a level beyond to get good and never lose a game. Lots of fun, this Playgrounds one better live up to the hype in my head and maybe no one else’s. Need the gamebreakers. Need them bad.