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 drawbacks of awesome features that tend to be overlooked.
Even though I’m an advocate for deep and detailed critique, I would agree that it’s possible to veer too far into the realm of nitpicking. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to criticise minor annoyances, but perfection is an unrealistic standard. However, I don’t think it’s unfair to point out that some of the most awesome features we’ve seen in basketball video games have had drawbacks that we’ve overlooked. They may not be immediately apparent or a problem for everybody, but they are issues that we’ll end up noticing, and may stand out as weaknesses in aspects that we otherwise really like.
Again, despite the title that I’ve used for this article, I don’t want to come across too negatively here. After all, something we can take away from each of these examples is that the drawbacks in question didn’t prevent the features from being awesome! They are drawbacks nevertheless though, and it’s important to be able to recognise that even our favourite modes and features aren’t perfect. It’s how we constructively criticise games, and suggest ways that the experiences we enjoy can become even better. With that being said, here are five drawbacks that ultimately didn’t prevent features from being awesome, but still caused some frustration or held them back in some way.
1. The Hangar: No Player Selections
To this day, I love The Hangar in NBA Live 10. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and the idea of the ultimate training and pick-up game facility for NBA players made it stand out from previous practice modes. The rotating groups of players made for some fun Easter eggs, and tested our basketball knowledge with the theme of each group. It’s a fun place to shoot around in, and the different groups of players give you a taste of all their signature animations and abilities. Creatively speaking, it’s fair to call it one of the most awesome features we’ve ever seen. It does have one of the most overlooked drawbacks in basketball gaming however, namely the inability to select players.
That is to say, you can switch between players currently shooting around in The Hangar, but you can’t select a specific player as in years past. Your only choices are the ones in the current group, and the only way to cycle to a new selection of players is to enter and exit a game. If you have a favourite player that isn’t among any of the featured groups, you won’t be able to shoot around with them. Even if they are in one of the groups, they may not be in the group that’s currently in The Hangar. Again, the concept was creative and I do like it, but losing the flexibility of choosing specific players is one of those overlooked drawbacks that I believe is worth spotlighting.
2. The Jordan Challenge: Lost Historical Content
At first glance, this probably sounds like a bizarre suggestion. The Jordan Challenge brought new content to NBA 2K after all, from the inclusion of His Airness for the first time in several years, to classic teams and a fittingly legendary mode. At the same time, it also led to the removal of historical content. The All-Decade teams that were featured up until NBA 2K10 were axed to make room for the new classic teams that were added for The Jordan Challenge. This left several historical players on the cutting room floor, from Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell to Julius Erving and even Hakeem Olajuwon. Indeed, several 90s stars not part of the Challenge were removed.
Many of their faces are still found among the assets in NBA 2K11, though in most cases they’re missing arm textures. Now, if you’re going to lose the All-Decade teams and those players, replacing them with The Jordan Challenge does mitigate the loss. Nevertheless, losing that content is one of the overlooked drawbacks of one of the most awesome features we’ve ever seen in a basketball video game. On the bright side, it’s one of the few aspects of The Jordan Challenge that you could realistically call a drawback, and those players have made their way back into NBA 2K via the classic and All-Time teams. It’s a bit of a bummer for NBA 2K11 modding, though.
3. NBA’s Greatest: Contained Features
It was a tough task to follow up The Jordan Challenge, but NBA 2K12 managed to do it with NBA’s Greatest. When it comes to the superior mode, it’s a matter of personal preference. NBA’s Greatest benefitted from a wider focus, which brought historical players that had been removed in NBA 2K11 back into the game. It also went above and beyond with its presentation, utilising audio and video filters along with unique scoreboards and overlays to capture the feel of different eras. The three-point line was also absent for teams that predated it. Across the board, the mode boasted even more authenticity than The Jordan Challenge. It was an outstanding celebration of history.
Within NBA’s Greatest itself, there aren’t many drawbacks, overlooked or otherwise. Many of its awesome features are self-contained though, and that’s a drawback for the game overall. It’s impossible to utilise the retro filters outside of the specific NBA’s Greatest games, and they also haven’t been featured in any titles since NBA 2K12. When you use the pre-three-point era teams in Play Now games, the three-point arc is there on the court and modern rules are in effect. The developers did an incredible job with NBA’s Greatest, but those efforts can’t be enjoyed outside replaying the games, which unlike The Jordan Challenge, don’t have in-depth goals to add replay value.
4. Road Trip: Only One Save File
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition made several improvements over the 2010 reboot of NBA Jam, but one of the most significant was Road Trip. The Classic Campaign in the 2010 reboot was fine, but a little dry and repetitive. Road Trip took that mode and the Remix Tour, and smashed them together to make a fantastic experience with a variety of challenges, more flexibility over progression, and the ability to play solo or with a friend, including online co-op while the servers were still online. Combined with the gameplay enhancements, it makes NBA Jam: OFE one of the best arcade basketball games of all-time. It does have drawbacks though, such as the single Road Trip save.
Why do I consider this to be a drawback? Well, it means that Road Trip can only be completed once. You can replay any games that you’ve previously beaten, of course, but there’s no way to start the campaign over from scratch. This isn’t necessarily an issue, and conceptually, it’s in line with classic NBA Jam games. Once you defeated every team while using your initials to save your progress, there was no starting over using that ID. There’s value in being able to start over fresh though, and the inability to do so meant that certain challenges (which earned extra in-game currency) were a one-time thing. It didn’t destroy Road Trip’s replay value, but it did hamper it a little.
5. NBA Live’s Dunk Contest: The Shot Clock
I’ll stand by the opinion that no other basketball game has represented the Slam Dunk Contest as well as NBA Live did from NBA Live 2005 through NBA Live 09. NBA 2K has had decent dunk contests, but they’ve also utilised poor mechanics such as the rhythm game approach akin to Guitar Hero or Rock Band. All-Star Weekend mode in NBA Live 2005-09 was a hit, thanks in no small part to the Slam Dunk Contest. It’s not without its drawbacks though, and the one that bothers me the most all these years later is the shot clock. In short, you have 24 seconds to successfully complete a dunk attempt. If you fail to do so and don’t have a replacement dunk left, you’ve likely lost.
On the surface, this isn’t a bad idea. The real dunk contest has instituted time limits, and it’s a part of the challenge. Considering how easily lobs can go awry and force you to start an attempt over, however, it’s a very harsh rule. It’s also one of the few rules of NBA Live’s Dunk Contest that you can’t modify. You can change the number of attempts, rounds, and dunks per round, as well as the field of competitors. You’re stuck with the 24 second rule though, and that is a drawback. In hindsight, it wouldn’t be so bad if it were 60 seconds or 90 seconds similar to rules that have been used in real contests, though ideally it should’ve been optional. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Were you similarly frustrated by the aspects I’ve mentioned? What are some of the drawbacks in awesome features that you feel are overlooked? Have your say in the comments, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.