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Kobe Bryant's NBA Courtside

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Reviewed by Mike Wales Get ready to raise the roof in your own house in NBA Courtside! Kobe Bryant exploded onto the NBA scene this year. In only his second season in the NBA, he became the youngest player to start in the NBA All-Star game. Kobe's exciting playing style is sure to light up the NBA for years to come. Now Nintendo has signed Kobe to a multi-game endorsement deal, with NBA Courtside as the first game in the series. Graphically, NBA Courtside is as smooth as a Karl Malone fadeaway jump shot and crisp as a Gary Payton pass. Running in the Nintendo 64's medium resolution mode (512x240 pixels), the detailed, motion-captured characters look and behave extremely realistically. Attention to detail can be found in the properly placed arm bands and knee braces. Players even sport high or low socks depending on what their real-life counterparts wear. The in-game camera has as many moves as Vin Baker in the low post. The game supports seven different playable camera angles with adjustable zoom levels. In Instant Replay mode, you can look at the action from any vantage point and zoom right up to the players to see their digitized faces. The Instant Replay also allows for seamless, frame-by-frame advancement of the footage by interpolating between the key frames in a move. "The first thing players are going to notice about NBA Courtside are the incredible graphics," says Kobe Bryant. "But what makes it so incredibly unique is how much it plays like the real NBA. Being able to set picks, change hands on the dribble, and post up on the blocks are things other games have only dreamed about. This is the real thing." Though it's his game, Kobe Bryant isn't the only player on the court who has mad skills. More than 300 NBA players are accurately modeled after their on-court counterparts. Each is rated for shooting percentage and range, foul tendency, dribbling, passing, speed, jumping, rebounding, strength, dunking, stealing, blocking and stamina. There are also hidden ratings that determine which player is the team's "go-to" guy. In addition to the standard moves you'd expect from a video game basketball player, NBA Courtside adds tons of new, user-controlled actions, such as spin moves, first-step fakes, changing hands on the dribble, post-up moves, calling for the pick and boxing out opponents. Many of these maneuvers haven't been seen in video game basketball before. The N64's analog Control Stick gives you total control of a player's movement. He can walk, run and instantly change direction. The other moves are controlled by different buttons. For example, you tap the R Button for a spin move and take a first step with the left C Button. Executing a special dunk or shot is situational. Different players will perform different shots when close to the basket. You can play the game with just the A and B Buttons, but to get the full effect, you'll have to master using all the buttons on the controller. As coach for your team, you'll also be able to call plays on the fly using the digital Control Pad. There are eight different offensive sets: box, perimeter, low post, high post, isolation, motion, inside triangle and outside triangle. Computer-controlled teams will tend to use the offensive sets their real counterparts do, so expect to see the triangle when you're in Chicago. The rosters are completely up-to-date as of the trading deadline for the 1997-1998 NBA season. Of course you can adjust each team's roster and starting five if you wish. During the game, you can adjust the performance of your players by setting how aggressively each player defends his man. You can also indicate which players you want to double team and which players you want to front their man. For the best results, you'll want to readjust all these variables for team you play against. The realism of the game doesn't stop there. NBA Courtside takes you courtside with an authentic audio track. Seattle Sonics public address announcer Vic Orlando announces the names of every player after they score and also credits assists. Orlando announces visitors' names in a normal tone and home players in an excited tone. With over 300 player names in the game, that's a lot of voice! Game play is accompanied by the usual atmospheric sneaker squeaks and crowd noises. All the options, eye candy and great sound wouldn't make any difference if the game wasn't fun and challenging. NBA Courtside delivers like "The Mailman" in both departments. With three different difficulty levels, there's no shortage of challenge. If you don't play good defense, the CPU team will take you to the hole. On the higher difficulty levels, the computer rarely makes mistakes, going aggressively for rebounds and attacking the rack whenever it gets the chance. Other great features that add depth to the game include the ability to Edit a Player and to trade and release players from an existing team. You can set the length of seasons and quarters. During a season, you can play or simulate games. League leaders are tracked on a variety of stats. If you're using a Controller Pak, all the details on your team will be saved, as will any changes you make to rosters. All the features in NBA Courtside add up to one of the most solid sports games yet. The graphics are crisp and smooth and the play control is very slick. Creating and trading players adds to the depth of the game. NBA Courtside is poised to take video game basketball by storm, just like Kobe Bryant did to the NBA.

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