In the words of Chuck Swirsky, Toronto Raptors basketball god... "OH MY GOODNESS!!" Courtside 2 is one of hell of a game! In fact, it's everything that the original Courtside should have been and more! With high-resolution graphics, tons of play modes, a super deep play control system and some solid AI; Courtside 2 is your best bet if you're looking for a challenging basketball simulation on any system.
The overall improvements that Left Field made to last year's version of the Courtside series are outstanding. This is undoubtedly the best hoops game to get this season for one simple reason -- DEPTH.
Courtside 2 ranks as one of my all time favourite games!
Once you pop in a Kobe 2 cartridge you'll find an easy to navigate front end with some nice layouts. The menus are easy to access and there is no confusion as to where you're going. The one bitch I can make about the presentation is the substitute menu. I'll be damned if it isn't a pain in the ass to make a substitution in this game. Should be easier so you can keep your players fresher faster and not interfere with the pace of the game. The way the system is now you press start, go to a screen, make your moves, get treated to a "tip" wait for a load time and then go back to the game. This whole process is annoying and breaks up the excellent gameplay momentum. My idea to resolve this is a transparent pop up "on the fly" substitution screen that is just a scroll menu of your players' names. You can pick the subs with the game behind the transparent menu, then get right back into the game. Albeit a small complaint, it still is something that Left Field should look into for the 3rd Kobe.
As for the gameplay graphics….wicked. I can't believe the animations in some of the special moves. They are so detailed that you can actually find them flawless in slow motion replay. I did notice that a frame was missing from the Alley OOP animation. The alley oop pass is in the air and then BOING it ends up through the basket. Could be smoother. The other thing is that there is a small speed issue to the game. One example is when a player is knocked over. I've seen a leaf fall off a 40 storey building at a faster rate! Another time where the game slows is when a team is moving the ball out of their own backcourt. But these instances are isolated. The overall pace of the graphics aren't ridiculously fast. This allows you to enjoy the incredible control system. The gameplay for Kobe's is interstellar and without any bloody comparable and the graphics certainly help make this control scheme so good! It has to be said that the overall look of Kobe's 2 is as smooth as butter between a pair of steamy girlfriend thighs! Yikes!
The graphical thing that did make me laugh though is a small thing during the pregame. The camera pans around the players. It is in this scene that you see a close up of the players. It is also in this scene that if you're perverted like I am it would seem as if all the players had huge breasts! HA! I think the chest model needs one or two more polygons for accurate pectorals rather then "Dolly Partons". HA!
Audio is a big component of sports games. Especially when it's inadequate because it ruins the damned game! Well thank GOD Kobe 2 sounds great. Starting with the music! WHY is this important? Because I suffered through that disgusting wanking guitar for an entire year in the last Kobe game! You'll be treated to some wickedly serious hip hop and grooves here that are worth listening to.
As for in game audio, you get an interactive crowd that gets rather voluminous as the on court action heats up. You'll hear sneaker squeeks, grunts, the ball bouncing and all the nice little special effects you'd expect to fill the audio scape. The best addition from last year? That cruddy loudspeaker announcer is gone and there is some actual honest to goodness commentary here that is the classiest sounding play by play I've yet to hear in a video game. Chick Hearn is timeless in his appeal in that he sounds professional, smooth and exciting all at the same time. Kind of like the same vibe you got when you first watched Sean Connery as 007. Left Field made a great choice with this gentleman. His color sidekick (Stu Lance) does an admirable job of keeping up and not ruining the "Hearn effect".
Being the audiophile that I am, I couldn't help but be bothered immensely by an error made in the audio. When the team that you're playing against is having a rough time at the free throw line Stu Lance starts ragging on YOU. pardon? Yup, he rags on YOUR TEAM even though the other team is shooting gimmies poorly. Why? Because somebody inserted the wrong team code in the programming of this game and when the color voice attacks the opposing teams' free throw abilities he's saying it with YOUR team's name inserted in the line. This is a really obvious mistake that shouldn't have made it out of the first stage of game testing. I don't know how an error of this nature would make it onto an otherwise perfect game. Ah well, we're all human.
Overall though, the audio is excellent. Of course, this is a cartridge and some lines will be repeated frequently but you will hear some refreshingly new bits every so often. Add to the deep commentary with an interactive crowd and hip soundtrack…not a bad job at all.
What I meant to say is that gameplay is the ultimate adjudicator of a game's success. It passes a horrific or sensational judgment. There is no in between ground in sports gaming when it comes to gameplay. It's either guilty or innocent. Kobe's 2 is GUILTY. Guilty of being one of the deepest, baddest, most fullfilling, rewarding, satisfying control / gameplay set ups I've seen in a sports game in a while. And that's the bottom line.
Starting with the control scheme. Every conceivable move on the court that can be performed is hear. Whether it is a micro (individual player) or macro (team play), it's all at your finger tips. Plays like the low post, give and go, crossover, head fake, no look pass, isolation sets and calling for a pick are all brilliantly interfaced. There's some stunning work in the control portion of the game.
The button scheme is intuitive and will require some practice. I love a game with a high learning curve. While the arcade mode supplants the longevity of the learning curve, the real fun starts when you crank up the difficulty and try to really play this game. How do I know the game is dead on? Because I learned a lot about the actual sport of basketball while trying to master this game. Positioning, ball movement everything. You have to keep all of these subsidiary strategies accounted for in order to be a success. Just like a real basketball match up.
In addition to the stunning control there are many gameplay modes to learn the controls in. There's a practice mode that is really needed in order to master some nifty give and go stickback jams. A 3 point shoot out is always nice for multiplayer drinking game at parties. Of course there's a season mode, and within that season mode you can create a "career player" who's attributes grow as you get him experienced and build up his skills. This is a neat RPG element that pushes the create-a-player mode into overdrive. It's similar to the system Konami is going to be implementing in its sports games. There's also a quick play mode and finally an arcade mode. The arcade mode is a "quick in" for all of you Midway fans out there. It plays fast and fun and there's neat platforms that randomly appear for big points if you hit a shot from where they are situated. Then there's the over the rim dunks in arcade mode….WOW.
There's just so much to learn and do In Courtside 2. This game exudes depth. I love it when I get beaten like a rented mule the first seven times I play a game. If it's a quality game it means that the effort in trying to master the gameplay and tame the AI is all worth it. Courtside is the epitome of a sports simulation. Most long time Dojo readers know that coming from me, that statement means a lot.
It may seem that I've been very overly critical at points during this review but the fact is that I like this game a lot. Maybe that's why I'm so critical of it? I'd like to give Courtside 2 a perfect score but I think that there is still room for improvement here. Namely the flow or speed of the game at certain instances can be looked at and the issue of the audio mistake during free throws is a bit of a nuisance. I also think that the great steps made towards improving the in game menus can be furthered.
My ultimate suggestion to casual sports gamers out there remains the same. Take the time to learn and master everything that the simulation aspects of this game. There's no better way to flesh out replay value then mastering a sports sim game. For those sports sim fans out there. You're gonna love this bad boy!
The Courtside Series has really REALLY asserted itself as one of Nintendo's premiere franchises. I think it blows the doors off of the Griffey line. It's nice to know that we'll be getting increasingly perfect versions of Courtside every year. It's hard to believe it gets better then this but the people at Left Field are probably already figuring out how to do just that.
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