Plataform: Nintendo Game Boy Color
Controller: Default controller of the console.
Later 90s, the handheld consoles rise in popularity in the public. In particular, one shine above the others, Nintendo’s Game Boy and iterations.
Sport videogames are not very frequent in handhelds, being the main reason the small size of the screen, or that due to the console’s nature, competition between two players was not very common. Said so, there were quality titles at the end of the decade, amongst them, one dedicated to the basketball player Kobe Bryant.
The game is really simple to play, it’s possible to choose between an exhibition game, a season mode or only playoffs. If season mode is chosen, the stats of the matches are saved and they help to determine which teams will play in the play-offs.
When you select a team, you can see the stats of the players and you know what kind of mess are you getting into. I’m amazed as how the stats are fairly accurate when compared to the real accomplishments of the player in the season. Although with exceptions, Sacramento in this game is not portrayed as the awesome scoring-machine it became at early 21th century.
There are a lot of skills to watch for, so you can have enough info to choose a good team. Every skill can have a value ranging from 0 to 99 (yes, there is a player with 0 on a skill), these skills are:
- Spd – Speed of the player.
- FT – Precission of free throws. Very unussual.
- Drb – The higher, the better, because it will be harder for rivals to steal the ball.
- FG – Accuracy for throwing a shot at the basket.
- Pas – Passing, if low, it will be very easy to rivals to intercept.
- Jmp – Jumping, but did not find a remarkable impact.
- Stl – Important for stealing balls.
- Blk – Blocking shots, but also timing is important.
- Def – The higher, the most firm the player is in the paint.
- Reb – Grabbing rebounds.
- Str – The higher, the player can easily move rivals.
As you can see, all of these stats allows the creating of very different teams with very different styles of playing, according to the offensive and/or deffensive characteristics of the videoplayer.
Another feature of the videogame is how you can enable/disable features. I highly recommend to let the “fatigue” on so the virtual player get tired and you are forced to make substitutions. This is important, and not only in this videogame.
To control ghe game, you move the virtual basketballer with the cross, one of the buttons perfroms a pass to the closest teammate, or to jump trying to block a rival shot.
The other button allows to shoot at the basket, or if slightly pressed, makes a feign shot. It’s impressive how the Artificial Intelligence, when controlling a low-defense team, gets fooled a lot with the feign. With that same button you can try to steal the ball, and believe, you’ll have to develop that skill if you want to win matches in this videogame.
The pace can be perceived as a bit slow, maybe for the hardware limits of the handheld, but I think it’s more than adecquate. The idea of playing with only 3 players at the court, in an isometric view is strange, but really works in this color handheld.
The videogame has all the NBA teams with logos and rosters as of the 1999-2000 season. In some cases (very understable) it has not the right rosters. For example, Scotty Pippen did not play with the Houston Rockets in that season.
At the same time, some rookie players of that season do not reflect their accomplishment, like Ron Artest with Chicago Bulls and Dirk Nowitzki with Dallas Mavericks.
Annotations for some of the teams:
Recommended for rookie videoplayers.
- Indiana Pacers: Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson and Rik Smits are a formidable trio of starting players. The bench is quite good.
- Los Angeles Lakers: OK, with Kobe Bryant, whose name is in the videogame title, and has every stat maximized at 99, and Shaquille O’Neal, this team is scary. The bench can be considered its weakness, but believe me, you’ll have few reasons to rely on it.
- Miami Heat: Great team, a bit slower compared with the other squads in this group.
- Portland Trail Blazers: Awesome team, in my opinion, the best team to start playing this game (yeah, better than Lakers for that purpose).
- Utah Jazz: John Stockton and Karl Malone are still active in a really competitive and complete team. Another great choice to play the game for the first time.
Moderate or interesting challenges
- Boston Celtics: In theory, this team had everything to crush the opposition, but it was not the case in the real life. The potential of the team is shown here, but they can get tired really quick.
- Charlotte Hornets: The opposite of Boston, being a team which accomplished more than expected in real life. If you want to experiment with a really defensive team, this is your choice.
- New York Knicks: Strong men at the paint, but slow and easily tired.
- Phoenix Suns: Fast guards, but lack a strong man at the paint.
- San Antonio Spurs: Oh yeah, Duncan and Robinson. Have fun with these guys at defense and offense as long as they can be together.
- Toronto Raptors: Really good defense, and with 4-decades active Vince Carter leading the otherwise weak offense.
- Atlanta Hawks (Even with the best deffensive player in the videogame, Dikembe Mutombo).
- Chicago Bulls (Yes, I know, Ron Artest, but he is a rookie)
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Vancouver Grizzlies
Every other team not mentioned is both slightly better than this group, and slightly worse than the secound group, recommended only for fans of them, or if the videoplayer do not want to be too humiliated, or is looking for a good challenge.
It’s a pattern in recent entries, but I was not able to play this game at the time, so I always looked to play it.
Having spent my teens looking a good amount of the NBA’s Golden Age, to 1999 many of the stars players of that age were no longer playing, or past their prime, so the next generation was reclaiming their space and it’s quite notorious here.
After playing it for making this entry, I was not disappointed being a really good basketball videogame, which I would have enjoyed in the long bus travels I did during the end of the last century.
Finally, a really nice touch is that this videogame is much more defense-oriented than other sports videogames, who tend to rely more in high-scoring offenses. Particularly I had a bit trouble adapting for that philosophy, but as I was slowly understanding it, my performance was improving.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.