Published on July 24th, 2017 | by Chris Ramirez, Editor
NBA Playgrounds: Nintendo Switch Review
Editor’s Note: Saber Interactive provide a game code for review purposes
We have seen the NBA arcade experience evolve from outragest dunks in NBA Jam to include streetball dribbling, crossovers, and dunks in games such as NBA Hangtime to NBA Streets. The one consistent trend is that these arcade games seems to mirror the change to the NBA culture. Back when NBA Jam was released, the Chicago Bulls ran the league. The league was filled with hand checks, body bumps, and push offs that were simply part of the game. The leagues dominant players were “big men” of the Center and Power Forward positions. Players focused on their mid range and inside game where certain players were 3-point specialist. Playing NBA Jam, the leagues culture was reflective in the tone of the game. The biggest strategy were the pushes and elbow throw to make way of making a spectacular dunk. NBA Showtime and NBA Hangtime adopt the NBA culture those games were released as well. The mid to late 90s’ saw NBA game began to see the shift from the dominant “big man” to favoring the wing players (guards). Hand checks and forearm pushes started to become regular fouls. This change allowed guards to easily attack the rim with confidence. As a result the NBA culture lost the mid-range game and players were either favoring layups/dunks and 3 pointers.
The same can be seen with the NBA Street series. The game focused on fancy crossovers and out of this world dunks during an NBA where we saw Vince Carter in his prime doing amazing dunks in game in which we wish we saw during the Slam Dunk contest. Do not even let me mention the 2000 Dunk Contest (if you haven’t seen it, YouTube it). Famous street ballers, like Rafer Alston, were making their name in the NBA. NBA Playgrounds is no different. The league favors the “run and gun” type of play where the mid range game is coming back and shooting three pointers is a regular occurrence. Today’s NBA culture also includes fantasy leagues, stats, and matchups. One of the most unique aspects of NBA Playground is the focus on player stats. Player stats are accurate to their real life counterpart. Having the ability to pick players from any team, once unlocked, is a great addition to add offensive and defensive strategic planning to an arcade title. If you are going up against a team with great dunk stats and low defense, then you want to give yourself the advantage by picking a players with high block or steal stats. If your playing against a team with high block stats, then you want a team with high mid to long range stats. The implementation of player stats sets NBA Playgrounds apart from the other arcade titles. Players with low dunk stats will have a hard time completing a dunk. For those expecting NBA Playground to be a modern age NBA Jam will quickly become frustrated.
Instead of having all the players available, NBA Playgrounds has a ranking system in which you earn player card packs every completed rank or obtaining gold trophies in each tournament. The more games you play, the more experience points you earn towards completing your rank. Each pack contains five player cards.
Players will also gain experience the more you use them. The more you use a player, that player will unlock crazy dunks and crossovers. You unlock players by pulling them in a pack and they will be available for you to pick. However, there are chances for you to gain repeats. Repeated players nets you and automatic 100 experience points for that player.
This review was conducted on the Nintendo Switch. There was an issue that was preventing the game from getting updated at the same time as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam versions of the game. The update made dramatic changes to the gameplay. Shots are now easier to make with the inclusion of a shot meter. The shot meter gives you a green zone in which you have a high probability of making the shot. This is a welcoming improvement as it was difficult to judge when to release the shot button. From those who are not familiar shooting in basketball games, you typically release the shot button at the apex of a players job. In NBA Playgrounds, you have to release the shot button right before the apex. Another welcoming gameplay change from the update is the steal mechanic. Attempting a steal uses stamina as before the update it did not. Adding this mechanic force players to strategize defensively as supposed to spamming the steal button.
The Final Truth NBA Playgrounds is an excellent basketball game that is a reflection of the NBA game today. It is a great hybrid of a basketball simulator and arcade game. The most current update improves the game on both the single player tournaments and online multiplayer. For causal arcade basketball fans, the shooting mechanics will quickly be frustrating. NBA Playgrounds should not be compared to NBA Jam, NBA Showtime, or NBA Hangtime. It is its own genre of sports game that I hope to see more off.