fIt's tough to disagree with a lot of Chi's gripes about NBA Courtside 2002, but I don't believe that the game is as bad as Chi says. I liked the mechanical-themed menus. I thought that the players looked fairly realistic, and I have not seen a basketball game with accurate faces like Courtside has. I appreciated Courtside's slower pacing, as compared to a fast-paced arcade basketball game like NBA Jam. The game is far from perfect, I'll grant you that, but it is a very playable basketball game that can potentially serve as the foundation for an even better sequel.

One of Courtside's biggest draws lies in the C-Stick passing system that Chi touched on. Most of the time, pass commands are quite responsive and passes find their targets. With a little practice, players will undoubtedly get some enjoyment out of making some no-look passes or completing a thunderous alley-oop. Repeated play and practice are the best ways to get maximum performance from this innovative system, and I hope that Left Field Productions, Courtside's developers, keep this system for the games next installment. It really is a fresh change from icon-based passing or pointing your directional pad towards a player and pressing a button, plus it helps to put a bit more emphasis on assists rather than flat-out scoring.

Courtside's create-a-player feature is another asset. There are plenty of customization options, including physical appearance and skills; in fact, I was able to create a player that looked pretty close to what I look like. The best part of this player creation feature is that your player can continually improve as they earn attribute points after each game they are involved in. Players can be tweaked in certain areas, whether its crashing the boards like Dennis Rodman or raining three-point shots like Steve Smith. Collecting these attribute points also adds to the games replay value.

I also like Courtside's statistical tracking and visual presentation. Courtside is second only to the NBA Live series in the depth and presentation of accumulated statistics. Timely stat overlays will appear during games, denoting certain numbers for players. Points, assists, free throw percentage, and other numbers will come up just as they might if you were watching an NBA telecast, and that's something that I look for in a basketball video game. I also like the player introductions and some of the replay angles are quite good. I would have liked more dynamic replay angles, much like in Sega's NBA2K series, but the multiple angles that Courtside uses are okay.

Chi's observations about high scoring are unfortunately right on. Courtside does have some defensive functionality, but too many shots inside of three-point range seem to drop in, and the computer opponent relies more on high-percentage shots in close to the basket. I'm sorry, but there aren't any NBA teams (including the Bulls and Grizzlies) who allow opposing teams to shoot 70% or better, night in and night out. On the easier difficulty settings, players can score at will by just consistently driving to the hoop and throwing down dunks. Shooting three-pointers can be tough until players get the hang of when to release the shoot button, but even then, the players ability does figure somewhat into whether that shot will go down.

One bone of contention that I had with Courtside that has not been mentioned is the games poor audio. If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the announcers say, "I totally agree," I could buy a house no kidding. With competing basketball titles having commentary that's interesting, informative, and timely, there's no excuse for Left Field or Nintendo letting an area like this go. One of the announcers, Van Earl Wright, is a professional sportscaster who works for Fox Sports Net. I've seen the guy on TV, and he's got personality provided that he's given some latitude with which to work. His work in Courtside makes him seem like a sham. Occasionally, players will be graced with random bits of information about certain players, but the commentary gets repetitive quickly, and its second-rate at best. The games one lone music track also will annoyingly burrow its way into your brain, and the PA announcer sounds like hes taken a dozen sleeping pills prior to gametime.

It's indeed unfortunate that GameCube owners have only Courtside currently available for a basketball title, but Courtside is a passable NBA experience for casual basketball fans or for casual sports gaming fans in general. When two opposing human opponents are competing, rather than a match-up solely against the computer, more defensive match-ups can be expected and more fun can potentially be had overall. The ability to continually improve a created player is a feature that more basketball games should implement. I didn't even mention the arcade mode, which is a fun diversion in and of itself. There's definitely room for improvement, but Courtside just isn't the total loss that it may appear to be. Rating: 6 out of 10.

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