"NBA Street" is one of my favorite video game sports franchises of all time. So when I heard that EA Sports was going to put a "Street" team in the new "NBA Jam: On Fire Edition" (October 5, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), I was not only excited to bust out some of Stretch's sick dunks on a new crop of virtual ballers, I was hoping this might be the spark that gets EA back in the studio and working on the next iteration of "Street."
"I can say right now that there are no plans for another 'Street,' but it's definitely one of those things where we can throw a feeler out there and if the fans dig the team in 'Jam' and they speak up about it, I think it increases the chances of another 'Street' happening," explains "Jam's" creative director, Trey Smith. "We have online telemetry hooks, so we have the ability to track what players and what teams everybody is using, so it's one of those things where if we find out that the 'Street' team is one of the most played teams and that they have a strong following, that gives us that much more ammo to try and get another 'Street' going."
Until then, fans should be excited to play as Stretch and crew in this new arena.
"Anytime you're starting a game in preproduction, you always have a laundry list of stuff you want to get in the game that you didn't get in the previous version," says Smith. "Features like tag mode and team fire are a part of that, then we also had some special teams that we had on the docket that we didn't quite get in the last version. The 'NBA Street' team was at the top of the list. Not only is 'Street' mentioned in just about every comments section whenever something gets posted about 'Jam,' but the fans are out there saying that they want 'Street.' It's also just a natural fit because 'Street' was inspired by the original 'Jam,' so it was a no-brainer for us. We tried to get it done last year, but we didn't have the time to do it right, so we're super-psyched to have them in the game this year.
"We went back and found the actual assets from the previous generation of 'Street' games and we took those player models and dropped them into our game. It's really rare that you're able to drop assets in there and it hooks up perfect, but it's just one of those things where it just fit. We just plopped in the assets, hooked them up to our skeleton, and it worked flawlessly. Seeing them run around the court is really cool. As a team, when we saw it, we knew right away that this was going to be one of those things that people are really going to dig."
Six "NBA Street" characters made the final cut, including Anklebreaker, Monster, Phat, Prodigy, Supersized, and, of course, the game's trademark superstar, Stretch.
"Stretch was the coverboy. He was the face of Street and was inspired by the old-school players," says Smith. "He had a Dr. J feel to him and he has a wicked sky hook in 'Jam.' He's one of only a few players who has this shot in the game and it's super tough to block because his release point is so high. This is a big advantage for him and then he's obviously a big dunker.
"Then we have Monster who drains threes and Prodigy who is fast with his hands, so his anklebreakers and spin moves are off the charts. And since all of their stats are among the strongest in the game, you'll be able to mix and match your team and you'll be able to run against anybody."
In order to unlock the team, however, you'll have to earn it, as it's not a code that unlocks the "Street" players, but a progression system where you cash in XP earned while playing to buy the rights to your new squad.
"It all gets unlocked in our progression system," explains Smith. "Just about everything you do in the game, you earn XP, then you turn that XP into Jam Bucks, and you can buy whatever team you want at the store. The whole reason we do this is so you can unlock the teams you want. We didn't want you to have to beat all teams in all conferences just to unlock some team you don't even want to play as. We want you to be able to unlock who you want, when you want to unlock them. So if you like the Bulls, you can unlock those legends right away. This way you don't have to waste time unlocking stuff you don't want. So if you want the Street team, save up your XP right away, and then unlock them once you earn enough points. It's that simple.
"And I think once this team gets unlocked, they are going to be the most used team online. They're that good."
I hope so, because the more people who play as the "Street" team, the more likely it is we'll get another game in the series.
Adds Smith: "I think the arcade sports market is starting to gain some momentum again, and hopefully it grows to the point where we will have two arcade basketball games again. But for the time being, we're super-excited with what we have with 'Jam,' especially with some of our unlockable teams. We're trying to cast a really wide net to capture, not only basketball fans, but gamers. 'Jam' has always been one of those fun, mainstream games, and that's what we're trying to deliver again this year."