Once upon a time, there was a rather popular game called NBA Jam. And, as tends to happen with popular things, NBA Jam inspired an imitator or two – and so we come to Street Hoop.
Visually, Data East’s sports game looks a million miles apart from Midway’s monster earner – there’s not a chance you’d mistake one game for the other in a packed arcade, as Street Hoop uses regular pixel art as opposed to digitised sprites. However, in terms of gameplay there’s not an awful lot in it. Street Hoop sticks to a two-button control scheme offering shoot and pass, omitting the “turbo” button, but many of the same tricks can be pulled off. Instead, each team has a third player, reducing the need to cover vast spaces with a single player. Likewise, netting three baskets in a row won’t have any type of incendiary effect, but each basket does build up a super shot bar at the bottom of the screen so it’s much of a muchness.
Of course, a strong imitation of a great game is likely to be very good in its own right, and Street Hoop is a pretty cool game. It does lose a bit of the authenticity of Midway’s game, as it features international teams instead of the licensed NBA teams and players, but it’s just as playable as its more popular peer – which is good news for Neo Geo owners, as there’s obviously no version of NBA Jam for them to pick up.