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The Friday Five: 5 Nifty Features That Weren’t Advertised

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five nifty features that weren’t advertised, and we had to discover on our own.

Over the years, the preview season has grown shorter and less exciting. I’ll admit that for my part, there’s a certain amount of cynicism that’s inevitable after covering hoops games for so many years. Features and entire games that didn’t live up to the hype do leave one jaded, or at the very least, taking every preview with a grain of salt. On top of that, with only one game guaranteed to come out every year, we’ve lost that back and forth, those attempts at one-upmanship coming out of EA Sports and 2K Sports. Indeed, the preview season has been reduced to a handful of blogs close to launch.

Hopefully, the previews for the Next Gen version of NBA 2K21 will shake things up. It’s the version that’s received the most attention after all, whereas the Current Gen release was outsourced to another studio. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when a few things are left for us to discover. Indeed, even when the preview season felt longer and more exciting, developers wouldn’t go into absolutely every detail about the games. There were always a few nifty things that didn’t make the previews, or the list of features on the back of the box. It’d be nice to discover a few gems in the newly released Current Gen version of NBA 2K21, though; gems such as these nifty features in past games.

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Wayback Wednesday: 10-Man Freestyle in NBA Live 2004

Wayback Wednesday: 10-Man Freestyle in NBA Live 2004

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at 10-Man Freestyle in NBA Live 2004.

Over the years, we gamers have become more and more familiar – and thus, more and more obsessed – with the technical aspects of video games. In particular, we concern ourselves with the engine that games run on, and lament it when we feel that a title is using outdated or unsuitable technology. There are times that we probably assume too much knowledge in this regard, but it’s not always our fault. Developers are always touting the benefits of the tech they use, especially as we find ourselves on the brink of a new generation (as is the case right now).

Of course, technological advancements aren’t limited to next gen launches. During the course of a generation, we’ll see engines and motion systems replaced and revamped, with mixed results. A recent example would be the motion system introduced in NBA 2K18, giving the game an obviously different feel to NBA 2K17. We’re going a bit further back with the topic of this week’s Wayback Wednesday however, as I’ll be talking about 10-Man Freestyle in NBA Live 2004. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Quick Strike Ballhandling

Wayback Wednesday: Quick Strike Ballhandling

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Quick Strike Ballhandling, also known as Quick Strike Ankle Breakers.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call right stick dribbling controls one of the biggest, best, and most important advancements in basketball gaming. Although we were able to perform crossovers, spins, and other dribbling moves before Freestyle Control made its debut in NBA Live 2003, we were at the mercy of a button press as far as the specific move that was performed. Not only were we in complete control with Freestyle, we could perform moves on command that would’ve been far harder to implement using the old approach of face buttons for random dribbling moves.

As the years passed, EA Sports expanded on their player control concepts with ideas such as Freestyle Superstars, eventually dubbing their control scheme Total Freestyle Control. In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of NBA Live 08 however, the controls were revamped once again. Freestyle Superstars was replaced by Go-To Moves, shooting went back to two buttons (a jumpshot and a combined dunk/layup button), and the dribbling mechanics were now called Quick Strike Ballhandling. Although it was a familiar system, it was more than just a new name. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 06 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 06 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 06.

After the success of NBA Live 2005, NBA Live 06 proved to be a pivotal moment in the series; one that NBA Live is still feeling the effects of today. Because of those long-term ramifications, it’s all too easy to forget that NBA Live 06 is a tale of two games: a last gen and PC release that was at least on par with its predecessor, and a new gen launch title that was a disappointment. It’s unfortunate that the latter often overshadows the former, but it’s understandable, given the lasting impact that it had. Nevertheless, I’ll be covering both versions of the game in this retrospective. Let’s look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly in a significant year for NBA Live.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2004 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2004 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2004.

After NBA Live 2003 leaned too much towards an arcade style of gameplay, NBA Live 2004 was a very welcome course correction. It took the strong points of its predecessor, such as Freestyle Control, and built a more robust sim game on that foundation. It was also the beginning of a very solid three year run for NBA Live on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, before the series began to struggle with its transition to the next generation. NBA Live 2004 was generally very well-received in its day, and it remains a favourite for many long-time basketball gamers. It was definitely a return to form for the series, and the game most of us wished NBA Live 2003 had been.

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25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2003 Retrospective

25th Anniversary of NBA Live: NBA Live 2003 Retrospective

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at every game in the series with retrospectives and other fun content! This also includes re-running some features from our 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a few revisions. Whether you’re a long-time basketball gamer who grew up with NBA Live and are keen on taking a trip down memory lane, or you’re new to the series and want to learn about its history, we hope that you enjoy celebrating the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live here at the NLSC! Today, it’s a retrospective of NBA Live 2003.

It’s interesting how attitudes towards NBA Live 2003 have changed as the years go by. I’ve seen a lot of people mention that it was their first game in the series, which no doubt leads to the same kind of nostalgia people like me have for NBA Live 95. Even for those of us who were more critical, or at least had mixed feelings about NBA Live 2003 when it was new, it’s a release that has since inspired more fondness. It makes sense, though. While certain design choices were controversial and didn’t pan out, it’s a very important release, in large part thanks to the way that it innovated with its dribbling controls. Let’s take a look back at a milestone game in the NBA Live series.

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NLSC Podcast #301: 25th Anniversary of NBA Live (Part 1)

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #301 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This is Part 1 of a two-part episode, as Dee4Three and I celebrate the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live. We’re covering the series’ origins through to NBA Live 06 in Part 1, with retrospectives, trivia, and personal memories. Be sure to catch Part 2 next week, when we cover NBA Live 07 through to the present!

To mark the 25th Anniversary of NBA Live, we’re taking a look back at the history of the series with retrospectives and other fun content. We’re extending those deep dive retrospectives to the NLSC Podcast, as we start at the beginning with the precursor to the NBA Live series: Lakers vs. Celtics. From there, we move on to the game that started it all – NBA Live 95 – and go through the series year by year, discussing improvements to gameplay, debuting features, modding, and the overall evolution of the series. Along the way, we share some personal anecdotes of our time with the earlier titles, and compare them to the other releases they were competing with. We also discuss how and why the quality of the early NBA Live games is too often forgotten. Part 1 ends with NBA Live 06, a significant turning point for the series that it’s still feeling the effects of today.

Tune in below!

What are your memories of NBA Live 95 through NBA Live 06? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

Monday Tip-Off: Should NBA Live Be More Like NBA 2K?

James Harden shoots in NBA Live 19

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with an interesting and important question that continues to be hotly debated: should NBA Live be more like NBA 2K?

As NBA Live continues to rebuild and re-establish itself in the face of NBA 2K’s dominance, there is a debate among basketball gamers as to the best direction for the game. There are gamers who would prefer that NBA Live remains distinctly different to NBA 2K in focus, style, and approach, and generally reject any suggestions that Live should borrow ideas from 2K. Conversely, as noted here on Reddit, there are others who would prefer that NBA Live essentially copy NBA 2K, but for a few details here and there (such as avoiding 2K’s approach to microtransactions).

Naturally, between those two extremes are more nuanced suggestions about NBA Live doing its own thing, while also borrowing some of NBA 2K’s best ideas (and in some cases, putting its own spin on them). To that end, of course, there’s still debate as to which ideas should be borrowed, how closely NBA Live should mimic what NBA 2K is doing, and to what extent any 2K concepts should be reworked. It leaves us with the question of whether or not NBA Live should be more like NBA 2K, or as the thread over on Reddit put it, “NBA 2K re-skinned” rather than NBA Live. For me, the answer is yes…and no.

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NLSC Podcast #285: A Decade of Dominance for NBA 2K

NLSC Podcast Logo

Episode #285 of the NLSC Podcast is out now! This week, Arcane and I are discussing how NBA 2K has now enjoyed a decade of dominance in the basketball gaming genre.

Since overtaking NBA Live in sales beginning with the 2009 season releases, NBA 2K has secured its place as the dominant brand in basketball gaming for over a decade. We reflect on how NBA 2K’s journey has differed from that of NBA Live, and the way that journey has accounted for its continued quality, popularity, and financial success. At the same time, while NBA 2K’s success has ultimately been great for basketball gaming, there have been downsides to its dominance. We discuss where the game is headed, and name our favourite NBA 2K titles from the past decade.

Tune in below!

What are your thoughts on NBA 2K’s Decade of Dominance? Sound off in the comments section below, or join in the discussion here in the Forum! Additionally, feel free to hit us up with any feedback on the episode, as well as suggestions for topics that you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes. For more information on the NLSC Podcast including episode guides, check out this page in our Wiki.

The Friday Five: 5 Gimmicky Features That Turned Out Great

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five gimmicky features that turned out to be great additions to basketball video games.

If you’ve been playing basketball video games for some time and experienced more than a couple of preview seasons, it’s tough not to get cynical. Chances are you’ve bought into the hype and been disappointed at least once over the years, and have likely learned to take previews with a grain of salt. Many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to features that sound gimmicky, particularly if they’re given a name that makes for a good blurb on the back of the box, but doesn’t sound like it will address our concerns regarding the experience on the virtual hardwood.

Of course, names can be deceiving. Some of the best features don’t have fancy names, while other times it’s the features with gimmicky labels that have a positive impact. A feature needs a marketable name if it’s going to be a selling point, and as long as it’s something that enhances the game, it’s all for the best. Thankfully, there have been several such features throughout the years, some being very pleasant surprises after a gimmicky name initially led us to be dismissive of them. Most of us will undoubtedly remain somewhat sceptical whenever we encounter fancy names during the preview season, but here are five features that turned out great despite sounding gimmicky.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003’s Three-Point Exploit

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at another topic related to NBA Live 2003, namely its step-back three-point exploit.

Ensuring that a basketball video game is completely free of cheesy moves and other exploits is much easier said than done. As such, even today gamers will find tricks that aren’t realistic basketball strategy, but certainly effective against the CPU and other users alike. In older basketball video games, with their far more primitive AI and mechanics, simple strategies and reliable exploits tended to be the most effective means of picking up win after win. From the corner three in Double Dribble to the Outside Scorer moves in NBA Live 06, most games had at least one exploitable tactic.

As I noted in my retrospective of NBA Live 2003, the game strayed rather noticeably from the usual sim approach in most areas, and the overpowering nature of the new Freestyle Control turned gameplay into a wild shootout. One of the most powerful exploits allowed gamers to knock down three after three following a step-back, a trick that was effective even on higher difficulty levels. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: PC Basketball Gamer? Get a Gamepad!

NBA Playgrounds PC Gamepad Configuration

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some advice to PC basketball gamers, regarding the necessity of a dual analog gamepad.

With last week’s gameplay blog, we’ve learned that there will be a few tweaks to the controls in NBA 2K18. Beyond those changes however, the general approach will remain the same. The game will still feature the Pro Stick, which is used to perform both dribbling moves and specific types of shot attempts on cue. Dual analog controls aren’t an issue on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, which have made use of controllers with two sticks for a few generations now. The approach can cause problems for PC users however, especially if they prefer to use the keyboard to play games.

It’s admittedly less of an issue than it used to be. Both NBA Live and NBA 2K have featured dual analog controls for over a decade now, so a majority of gamers have made the adjustment and picked up a gamepad for their PC. There are a few holdouts, though. Every so often, someone will ask for help using the keyboard with a PC version of NBA 2K or NBA Live, or complain that the keyboard controls are lacking. This is fair enough, as everyone has their own preference, and the keyboard is a viable option for many other games. However, if you’re a PC basketball gamer who wants to have complete control, there’s really only one solution: get a gamepad.

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Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Control in NBA Live 2003

Freestyle Control Dribbling in NBA Live 2003

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Freestyle Control in NBA Live 2003.

It’s funny that it’s taken me this long to do a Wayback Wednesday feature on Freestyle Control, especially since I talked about Freestyle Superstars just a few weeks ago. I did talk about it in my retrospective of NBA Live 2003, but being such an important development in terms of controls, it definitely deserves its own article. Although the name has changed a couple of times over the years, taking on monikers such as “Quick Strike Ballhandling” and “Quick Strike Ankle Breakers”, the basic concept of Freestyle’s right stick control has remained essentially the same. It’s since gone back to its original name, and we’ll be seeing more of it in NBA Live 18.

Freestyle Control changed the game, and for those of us playing on PC, it also meant picking up a dual analog gamepad to take full advantage of it. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live 06

Kevin Garnett with the Freestyle Superstars shot in NBA Live 06

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live 06.

As basketball video games have improved along with gaming technology in general, our expectations have also grown. When it comes to aspects such as realism, advanced or flashy moves, signature styles, and player differentiation, the bar has been raised higher and higher. Signature moves were present in EA Sports’ NBA Playoffs series, and skill levels were more defined beginning with the implementation of player ratings in NBA Live 95. However, star players still didn’t quite stand out from the pack. Freestyle Superstars was arguably EA’s first major effort to incorporate individual playing styles, and properly represent differing skill levels.

It was a concept that had its drawbacks, but I also believe that it was innovative and reasonably successful. Although the criticisms of Freestyle Superstars are fair, it’s a little underrated in terms of being an important stepping stone in the progression of basketball video games. How so? Well, let’s take a look back…way back…

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