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 reflecting on the new appreciation that I have for NBA Live 10.
If you’ve been following along with my recent Wayback Wednesday features, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve developed a new appreciation for NBA Live 10 as of late. Despite a few gripes that I have with certain aspects of the game, my overall opinion of it has always been generally positive. I’m sure that came across when I covered the game with a retrospective for our 25th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations. For the most part, I still stand by what I wrote in that article and my appraisal of NBA Live 10 as a fine game, but not the best release in the series.
To that end, this isn’t a revision of the impressions I shared in my retrospective, as was the case when I revisited NBA Live 06 on Xbox 360. Again, I’m not inclined to disagree with my previous comments on the quality, depth, and ranking of NBA Live 10 compared to other strong releases in the NBA Live series. However, I can now say that I’ve been able to make some new memories with the game upon it becoming my retro kick, and that has undoubtedly given me a new appreciation for the experience on offer in NBA Live 10. Before I move on to covering other games, I’m reflecting on why NBA Live 10 has inspired me to go back…way back…
Before I reflect on my newfound appreciation for NBA Live 10, I’ll set the scene by glancing back to the circumstances that shaped my initial impressions of it. In 2009, many of us were still reeling from EA Sports ending PC releases for NBA Live. Sure, we now had NBA 2K on the platform, but whether it was due to our brand loyalty, unfamiliar controls, or a combination of the two, not all of us could make the switch to 2K right away. I was also more inclined to keep making roster updates and playing NBA Live 06 on PC than spending time with NBA Live 10 on Xbox 360. The issues with Dynasty mode definitely didn’t help, as that was my mode of choice at the time.
Additionally, though I still held affection for the brand as a long-time NBA Live fan, I did feel burned by it in several ways. The first few games on seventh gen were rough, and they weren’t being ported to PC besides. Dropping PC releases entirely did bother me as it did many gamers, as even if we understood that it was a business decision, we still felt abandoned. Speaking of which, I’d been promised that we’d be able to host NBA Live 10 Developer Q&As in our Forum, and at the urging of my contact at EA, I announced this. They ultimately fell through for reasons that were never explained to me, leaving me with egg on my face, and no apology for being left holding the bag.
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t dim my enthusiasm for NBA Live 10, on top of it not coming out on my preferred platform. I’ve always played games on both PC and consoles, as there have been several console-exclusive titles that I enjoy. A fondness for modding had kept me from truly warming up to NBA Live on the seventh gen consoles, as did playing my Xbox 360 on an old CRT television that didn’t allow me to appreciate the graphics. In fact, I can attribute a common criticism I had of NBA Live at the time – the menu text being too small – to playing the games on an old TV. Bottom line, I wasn’t in a position to really appreciate NBA Live 10 back then.
We’re over a decade removed from that now, of course. I’ve since ditched the RCA cables and CRT for HDMI and a modern TV. I’ve become a fan of NBA 2K, and made peace with not getting exclusives and other goodies if I don’t toe the line or produce certain content. Games like NBA Live 10 no longer carry the expectations of being the latest release, which as I’ve discussed before, opens up the possibility of viewing them with fresher eyes and a greater appreciation of their stronger points. Also, with the rise of microtransactions and focus on aspects beyond the NBA, it’s refreshing to go back and play a title that’s all about realistically depicting the league.
Of course, not every old basketball game that lacks microtransactions is fun to play, or viable to revisit for any extended period of time. It helps that I feel like I’m making up for some lost time and missed opportunities with NBA Live 10, but even putting the notion of unfinished business aside, it’s simply been a lot of fun to play the game in recent weeks. It all began with Dee4Three and I testing out which games we could play using Parsec. We’ve tried several games and settings tweaks, but so far, nothing has worked quite as well and been as mutually playable as NBA Live 10 on PS3. As such, it’s been one of our top choices, as well as our go-to when all else fails.
It’s not just a matter of making the best of the situation, either. NBA Live 10 holds up extremely well, and I’ve experienced similar enjoyment when I’ve fired up my copy on Xbox 360 to play it solo. With that being said, playing head-to-head games against Dee has been a significant factor in developing a new appreciation for NBA Live 10. Growing up, most of my multiplayer basketball gaming took place during the school holidays when my cousin Clinton came to visit. By 2009, we were in our mid 20s, so the opportunities to play basketball games for a couple of weeks on end with no other responsibilities simply weren’t there. Also, when we did play, it was usually co-op.
I’ve already described what the online scene in NBA 2K is like in great detail, and suffice to say that back then, online head-to-head wasn’t much better. Online team play also required more planning on our part to get a session going, so most of my time with NBA Live 10 was spent playing solo. The single player gameplay is quite satisfying – even to this day – but limitations and bugs in Dynasty mode do hamper the fun somewhat. Being able to play some competitive head-to-head games against an opponent that values a realistic style and sportsmanship has breathed new life into an old game, as it’s an experience that I wasn’t able to indulge in back in 2009 and 2010.
Spending more time with NBA Live 10 has given me a greater appreciation for some of the mechanics that I always liked and commended, but arguably didn’t truly enjoy to their full extent until these recent sessions. In other words, I’ve always known how good NBA Live 10 is, but not how fun it can be. As I said, in 2009 there were a few factors holding me back from truly investing in NBA Live 10, and appreciating its positive attributes. I enjoyed NBA Live 10, I understood its value, and I believe that I’ve ranked and rated it fairly. What was missing was a personal connection with the game; a true sense of nostalgia. It’s something that I’ve now developed in retrospect.
The nostalgia and appreciation I have for NBA Live 10 isn’t the same as the regard I have for titles I enjoyed when they were new, such as NBA Live 06, NBA Live 2000, or an arcade release like NBA Jam Tournament Edition. Compared to those games, many of my fond memories with NBA Live 10 are obviously far more recent. It’s a new retro kick rather than dusting off an established old favourite. The joy is similar though, and there’s naturally a sense of nostalgia in the rosters. It’s the “interactive almanac” aspect that I’ve mentioned in many Wayback Wednesday features, and as more than a decade has passed since NBA Live 10’s release, its era is now nostalgic.
And then, there’s the Fantasy Teams mode. Looking back, this was an underutilised feature, by a fanbase that understandably wanted a deeper Create-a-Team mode. It facilitates many fun scenarios though, from the creation of makeshift retro teams to weird and wonderful fantasy matchups, such as the “Virtual Hardwood Legends” game that Dee and I played. It’s been very useful in the creation of recent Wayback Wednesday features, reducing the amount of roster editing needed to take screenshots of players in specific scenarios. Of course, it’s impossible not to feel slightly wistful, knowing that recurrent revenue mechanics make modes like this a thing of the past.
There’s further wistfulness when I think about the direction of the series following NBA Live 10, as well as what could’ve been if the game were released for PC and available to our modding community. On the other hand, knowing what’s happened since then has also increased my appreciation for NBA Live 10 for being the last truly polished and well-received game in the series. The response to the videos that Dee has produced featuring highlights from our sessions suggests that we’re not alone in our appreciation for NBA Live 10. It’s clear that people enjoy watching well-played, competitive virtual basketball, especially when the game holds up respectably well.
Video game nostalgia also goes beyond our experiences on the sticks. Although I’ve associated NBA Live 10 with some frustrating times as a content creator, at the time I was on a self-improvement kick that was – without getting into all of the details – life-changing. Just as my memories of NBA Live 2002 and NBA Live 2003 are tied to the end of high school and entry into early adulthood, I can associate NBA Live 10 with a period of personal growth and importance. NBA Live 10 was more in the background than those other titles for the reasons that I’ve already mentioned, but the link is there nevertheless. It’s only been strengthened by the new memories I’ve created with it.
In time, I’ll develop a new retro kick, and I’ll definitely be moving on to some other games in my Wayback Wednesday features. However, my new appreciation for NBA Live 10 makes it a game that I’m eager to return to whenever the mood strikes; far more eager than I was just a few months ago. I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to really give the game another look and make new memories with it, as well as mess around with ideas for what I hope has been enjoyable Wayback Wednesday content. I’ve always seen NBA Live 10 as a fine game, but I can now also say that it’s moved up my list of favourites. It happened somewhat by chance, but I’m thankful that it did.