NBA Street Showdown PSP Review

When the NBA Street series debuted, it was fresh, unique, and simply a blast to play. The trick system gave the game life. Now on the third game of the series, it doesn't have that same magic. On the PSP, it fares even worse.

That trick system has been decimated on the PSP, which makes it even easier to realize there's no real point to it the first place. Jabbing away on a combination of the triggers and square button never gains you anything other than Gamebreaker points. It seems the only reason it carries that feature is to connect it other games in the EA Big lineup. It's not as if you're actually performing useful moves to break down a defense. You can just as easily glide right by the defense and dunk without performing a single trick.

It's now exposed as a thinly veiled attempt to make the game seem deeper than it really is. It kills the flow of basketball completely. The PSP port cuts down on the amount of moves you have due to a lack of available buttons. That means the thrill of seeing these moves pulled off wears down quickly as you constantly perform the same tired tricks throughout the game.

That would be fine if it wasn't such a core gameplay mechanic. Unfortunately, it is, and the rest of the game surrounding it isn't much stronger. The sloppy controls, especially for shooting (the player shoots on his way down instead of at the peak), make the game a chore to play even without the trick system. This was all done better years ago by Midway in, ironically, their own increasingly stale NBA Jam series.

The King of the Courts is the main game mode, in which you create a character in a quest to take over the various playgrounds by conquering challenges. There are various ways to be challenged, some hard, some easy. Anyway around it, you're not controlling any NBA player for a while, stuck with no name (seemingly random) created players. The whole point of having the NBA license is to control the superstars. King of the Courts prevents you from doing that.

Mini-games are one of the few bright spots, including the Shot Blocker, an amusing way to play around with the mechanics of blocking jumpers, something the series has always handled well. The other is Arcade Shootout, a take-off of those carnival basketball games. It's short, brief fun, but not much else. Multiple players can challenge each other, and the same goes for every mode except King of the Courts. Don't plan to play online however.

Player models are strong and well built. The numbers on the jerseys have been enlarged for easier viewing on the small screen and facial detail, though tough to pick out, seems accurate. The frame rate is steady with a few moments of choppiness. The courts all offer a unique place to play, including real life locations.

EA's audio presentations on the PSP have been nothing short of terrible, and NBA Street Showdown is no exception. Blaring rap over everything you do, it gets in the way and can become distracting. It also constantly spins the disc, sapping battery life. The announcer is a little more reserved, but that's not saying there are no moments where he doesn't become annoying.

While a more playable game of basketball than 989's simply named NBA, that doesn't make it worth a purchase. This is still a misguided attempt at making an accessible basketball game, one that wore out its welcome some time ago. It needs to change drastically before it becomes the enjoyable franchise it started out as.

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