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.
As it stands, basketball gamers don’t have a lot of choice year-to-year. You can either buy NBA Live, NBA 2K, or both, or stick with an older release. Alternatively, you could not play basketball video games at all, but if that’s the case, you’re not exactly relevant to this discussion; no offense. While I wouldn’t be against another developer throwing their hat into the ring with a sim-oriented NBA game, I’m not sure that we necessarily need that to happen. I think that we basketball gamers will be alright as long as NBA 2K continues to do its thing, and NBA Live makes some big strides this year.
Of course, there’s always room in the market for other types of basketball video games. This includes full-blown arcade basketball titles, or perhaps sim-oriented games that focus on different leagues. Cheaper digital releases that focus on mini-games and the like. Resurrections of popular old properties, as controversial as that practice can sometimes be. As you can probably guess, I have a few possibilities in mind; without any further ado, here are five basketball video games that I’d like to see developed.
1. A New NBA Jam for a New Generation
With EA Sports acquiring the NBA Jam license and releasing two games, we’ve managed to get a Jam title in every console generation starting with the 16-bit era. As a fan of the game from way back, I’d love to see that trend continue, with a new game released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One…and PC too, if possible. While not everyone was a fan of EA’s take on NBA Jam, I thought they did a great job with both releases. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, the 2010 version of NBA Jam is somewhat underrated, and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is one of the best – if not the best – arcade basketball video games ever made.
That said, I definitely don’t think that NBA Jam, or any arcade basketball game for that matter, is a good candidate to be released every year. One or two per generation is sufficient, especially now that roster updates are feasible. Additionally, the concept can wear thin, and the gameplay can become repetitive. On Fire Edition’s Real AI was a huge improvement in that regard though, and Road Trip was a fun mode. I think that with roster updates and customisation, a deep campaign mode, and the biggest variety of crazy dunks to date, a new NBA Jam game would definitely find an audience, especially as a cheaper, digital-only release. I’d certainly be up for it.
2. NBA Street, with Full Story Mode
While we’re on the subject of remaking and renewing great arcade basketball games, let’s talk about a new version of NBA Street. I’ve always been more partial to Jam than Street, but I do own the first three games on PlayStation 2, as well as Homecourt on Xbox 360, and I think they’re great. What I said about a new NBA Jam would also apply to a new NBA Street release. It would need to have top notch AI to avoid the repetitive gameplay that so often afflicts arcade basketball titles, an engaging campaign mode, and a variety of cool dunks and dribbling moves. Roster updates, and online multiplayer especially, would also need to be included.
As far as an engaging campaign mode is concerned, here’s my suggestion: make it story-driven. Yes, I’ve criticised that approach when it comes to MyCAREER in NBA 2K, but much of that comes down to the writing and execution. I think a story-driven mode would really fit a game like NBA Street. Call it NBA Street: Playground Legend, featuring the tale of your created player becoming a streetball legend, and encountering some NBA players along the way. Include some branching options in the story based on your decisions, throw in some RPG elements in terms of earning Skill Points to level up your player, and I really think it could work.
3. A College Basketball Title
I believe a lot of basketball gamers would like to see this happen. Unfortunately, issues with licensing and lawsuits mean that it’s highly unlikely to happen any time soon, but it’s clear that there’s still interest in college sports titles. While I don’t follow the college game nearly as closely as I do the NBA, I still have some interest in it, and perhaps that interest would increase if I were able to play a new College Hoops or NCAA Basketball title. Due the lack of a PAL release, and owning region-locked consoles, I wasn’t able to play those games in the past. With the PS4 being region-free, however, I’d now be able to import and actually play them.
As I said though, it’s not going to happen any time soon. A handful of colleges at the beginning of NBA 2K16’s MyCAREER story is about all we can expect, since the NCAA license itself is off the table. The reasons why it’s unavailable are understandable, but nevertheless unfortunate as far as basketball gaming is concerned. Whether you’re a passionate fan of college basketball, someone who’d like to take more of an interest in it, or just someone who’d like to play a good basketball game with fictional players, a new version of NCAA Basketball or College Hoops would be fantastic. Maybe some day, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
4. World League Basketball Redux
I have to admit that being able to just play a good, fun basketball game, and not worry about whether or not the players are playing like their real life counterparts, is part of what makes a college hoops game appealing to me. I became a fan of that concept thanks to a Super Nintendo game called World League Basketball, which as I explained in a Wayback Wednesday retrospective, was actually the PAL version of an NCAA basketball game. Since NCAA games couldn’t be sold outside the USA and Canada, it featured a fictional global basketball league to get around those licensing restrictions. It was a pretty good game, and is still one of my all-time favourites.
Now, the real challenge in developing a basketball game like this is achieving widespread appeal. Licensed games have the automatic selling point of brand recognition, featuring a popular property that will move merchandise. More than a couple of mediocre and subpar releases have been able to sell on the strength of the NBA license. Still, if the five-on-five gameplay is appealing, I think there’s a lot of fun to be had with a game featuring fictional players, especially if it includes customisation options. If there was a moddable PC version, you know it wouldn’t be too long before there were some NBA, NCAA, and Euroleague add-ons, too.
5. NBA Live/NBA 2K: FIBA/Olympic Edition
I’m probably cheating a little here, as we’re talking about releases based on games that are already being developed. However, a FIBA/Olympic spin-off is something that I’d like to see, and there’s no way that a game like Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball is going to make this list instead. While this could arguably just be in-game content in NBA Live or NBA 2K, or even downloadable content, there’s a chance that the concept could support a standalone release. FIBA and Olympic mods have traditionally been quite popular, and there’s always a lot of interest in them in the years when the Olympic Games and FIBA World Cup are being held.
I’m certainly not against this content being in either game out of the box, but since the games are NBA Live, and NBA 2K, I do feel that the NBA experience should always be the focus. With that said, I do like the idea of a spin-off game focused on international basketball, and FIFA has done something similar in the past with World Cup editions. Realistically, it would probably work better as a digital release or DLC for the main games, but however it’s done, I think an Olympic/FIBA edition of NBA Live or NBA 2K would find an audience. As I said before, I’m mostly interested in the NBA, but I won’t pass up the opportunity to play with the Boomers.
What are some of the basketball video games that you’re interested in seeing developed? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to also 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.