With the advent of a new year, millennium, and basketball season upon us, what can we expect, basketball-wise, from the virtual dimension? Did I forget to mention the relatively new platform that will usher in and support the next wave of hoop games? Yes, the first (of a long-standing series, I hope) of the Visual Concepts NBA games has arrived on Dreamcast and apparently these programmers care about their reputation because NBA 2K is a remarkable representation of the pro
Since I speak of software for the latest and greatest (so far) console out there, I must first comment on the much important nowadays, "visual appeal" of the game. Many gamers will buy this game based on how it looks alone. From the first impression you instantly realize how thin the line between what’s real and what’s not has become. The guys at Acclaim (a great company at times) should observe closely because the people at Visual Concepts truly do make you "sweat the details". They have included everything from ankle tattoos to Latrell Sprewell’s braids, plus the attitude and overpaid egoism that comes with. You can do without the easily legible names and numbers on the jerseys because these "cyber athletes" look so much like their real-life counterparts that you simply don’t need them. Even the look on Pat Ewing’s face when he finds himself with the ball, that unique and unmistakable look of desire to score without humiliating himself or the team, has been included. You can really appreciate the life-like facial animations in the close-ups during the replays. Tattoos never looked better.
Not only do the player designs impress, but the animation in their movement is also something not to be missed. Not one frame of animation has been left out. Every lay-up, jump shot, and dunk is buttery smooth. The bench for each team is fully animated and quite emotional about the goings-on around them. Oh, and the coaches, oh my God how could I forget the coaches? Yes now you can see Van Gundy nervously pacing back and forth on the sideline. They’re all here and they all remind you how much you suck on a consistent basis. No seriously, they do spurt out little bits of wisdom every now and then. So, as far as graphics go, this game has no equal. As for the audio, the commentators like to offer the gamer various words of wisdom and they actually are quite accurate with insights. They do, however, get a bit repetitive at times, but hey, even real commentators find themselves at a lost for words during games.
I don’t remember game-play being more true-to-life in any other basketball game than in NBA 2K. The truly spectacular ball handlers, like Iverson, move with seemingly effortless strides and are able to cut and stop on a dime. Unlike other b-ball games out there though, not every player is blessed with lightning-fast speed or quickness. Their skills in the game very closely resemble their skills in real life. So those looking to dunk on the Spurs’ low post defense with Gary Payton will be disappointed. For you to score you have to keep in mind a few basic principles. Accurate passing is the fastest way to find an open man. Take immediate advantage of mismatches. Let your point guard do his job. Use him to distribute. If your team has talented low post, give them the ball for God’s sake! I’ve found that turning the play indicator on in the beginning will help you out a lot. You’ll know right away for whom the play is set up for and what to look for, instead of just running around aimlessly looking for an easy dunk. That type of gameplan might get you by in other games, but doing that here will have you behind by 20 points before you know it.
As this is an attempt (and a successful one) at a simulation, the obligatory season mode is in here, along with the create a player and custom team features. You can choose to play all your season games or simulate the ones you'd rather skip. The gameplay can very well be classified as simulation, yet the intuitive controls give it the feel of an arcade game. The end result is an enjoyable, frustration-free night for you, assuming some part of you enjoys the concept of basketball as a video-game.
So what's left to say? Nothing much, except that NBA 2K is without a doubt the best basketball video game out there. Of course, there's really only one b-ball game out there that can compete and that would be EA's NBA Live 2000. If you have a Dreamcast, you would be wise to pick up NBA 2K and just skip Live all together this year. It is time for EA to hand over the rock to a much better competitor. NBA 2K's got next.