It took us a while to get to the season and playoff action in NBA Courtside 2. That's because we fired it up, chose the arcade mode and forgot about the rest of the game. A lot of basketball titles allow play with the rules off and the offensive stats jacked up, but this game adds a touch of NBA Jam and MTV to make things interesting. First, there are "hot spots" on the floor that can add 5, 10, or even 15 points to a shot. Second, an unlimited turbo and a momentum meter cranks up the accuracy even more. Third, monster jams literally knock opponents on their butts. These three features combine to make a awesome arcade mode where leads of 25 points are created and destroyed with just a couple of fast breaks. It's like an exaggerated version of the All-Star game, 3-point shootout, and slam-dunk contest all in one. And it's a heck of a lot of fun.
That doesn't mean the rest of the game is unsatisfying. Actually, the simulation part of NBA Courtside 2 is equally well done. There are the standard modes such as quick play, preseason, season, playoffs, and even a 3-point contest. Players can adjust the speed of the game and all the rules they want the refs to call. Plus there are loads of camera options and an intuitive replay system that add to the bells and whistles.
One of the best features is the create-a-player mode, which has both career and non-career options. In the non-career mode, a player is simply created and released into the free-agent pool. With the career option, the player can be created, placed on a favorite team, and nurtured into an all-star over the course of many seasons. The basic stats go up when a player has a good night or performs well over a stretch of games in the playoffs. We found it's more tempting to play repeat seasons when a player improves year after year.
The basic gameplay is very good but not great. The analog stick works nicely, and there is rarely a problem picking the player to pass to. The C-buttons kept crossover dribbles, ally-oops, and picks right at our fingertips, and with the digital pad, we could set up basic formations. The AI is decent, with smart substitutions for fatigue or foul trouble, but when teams are ahead, they still don't rotate out their bad free-throw shooters. Worse, we found our own team played some surprisingly lazy defense at times, with the opposition getting loads of points in transition. Changing to full press only makes things worse, and this can get a little frustrating at times. Fortunately, we could use the "last man back" button or lock the controller so we could play the same player throughout.
These are really minor criticisms when we consider the overall quality of the title. The graphics are nice, and the calls by the legendary Chick Hern are as colorful as always. It has two separate playing modes that are equally well executed and will satisfy both the realist and the arcade fan. For anyone who doesn't own a basketball title for their N64 yet, this is the one to get.