Review: Basketball games offer suprising realism
By CNN Interactive Producer Dave RagalsMay 28, 1998
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- If the NBA Playoffs have you dreaming of hooping it up against the league's best, you can always turn on your game console. This spring saw the release of two new basketball titles -- "NBA Courtside" for the Nintendo 64 and "NBA Shootout '98" for the PlayStation.
Both titles were released at somewhat odd times. Most publishers get their sports games out as the respective professional seasons are getting underway. In fact, it's just a few months before another slew of basketball titles can be expected on store shelves. Still, there's something inviting about a new title at playoff time.
NBA Courtside by Nintendo
"NBA Courtside" is one of the first titles in Nintendo's push to improve its sports line-up. Previous titles haven't done much to sway sports fans away from the PlayStation. "Courtside" is a good start.
The graphics and motion-capturing are very strong. The players look great -- not the often-boxy heads and bodies you might see on other titles -- and they move very smoothly. Whether they're walking, running, dribbling or passing, the movements look real. And there are some really great looking special moves, like dunks and alley-oops.
The sounds are good, but limited. The ambient crowd noise is real enough, but crowds have a tendency to cheer for both teams. Somehow, I find it hard to imagine a sellout crowd in Chicago cheering after a Reggie Miller three-pointer. The announcer also sounds good, but rather than play-by-play or commentary, you get more of a stadium announcer calling out who scored each basket.
Perhaps the best part is the intuitive control. Some games have a different button for everything. In "Courside," the same button can perform different actions depending on the situation. For example, if you can remember the "B" button means "shoot" on offense, you can use it for three-pointers, lay-ups, dunks or put-backs. This makes it much easier to learn and control. Given all the buttons on the N64 controller, it could have gotten pretty confusing.
"NBA Courtside" is clearly the best basketball title and one of the better sports games available for the Nintendo 64. It's not the best game out there for the N64, but if you're a basketball fan, you'll definitely enjoy it.
NBA Shootout '98 by Sony Computer Entertainment America
This game came out so late in the '98 "model year" that you would expect a lot of improvements. Well, there are a lot of features, but they may not qualify as improvements. Sony paid a lot of attention to the little things, like numerous types of dunks and passes, but the gameplay suffers.
The biggest problem is that the controls are too difficult. Unlike "Courtside" you have to remember a lot of button commands, because the game isn't nearly as intuitive. You'll spend as much time looking at your controller as you will at the screen. And you know what happens when you go up against the "Mailman" with your head down.
The gameplay is also frustrating. Let's just say this game is very defensive-oriented. If you manage to get within shooting range without having the ball stolen, your shot will probably be blocked. Don't be surprised with incredibly low scoring games.
There are a lot of motion-captured animations, and they're well-done. The in-game sounds are also good, all the way down to the squeak of sneaker on hardwood. But ultimately, this game is a bit frustrating, and there are better basketball titles available for the PlayStation. Or you could wait -- the new season is just a few months away.
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