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Mini-Review: NBA 2K12 Legends Showcase

NBA 2K12 Legends ShowcaseI'm not the guy you want to ask about sports video games.  My pal and Power Button podcast co-host Brad Hilderbrand is.  As I did several months ago when NBA 2K12 from 2K sports arrived, I asked him to check out the latest sports game to land on my virtual doorstep.  Here's his review of the recently released NBA 2K12 Legends Showcase downloadable expansion for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 available now via the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Store.

Hey there Press the Buttons readers! It’s Brad from the podcast and now official unofficial PTB sports guy back with another review. The 2K folks sent over a review code for NBA 2K12 Legends Showcase so I decided to put it through its paces and report back. The verdict? It’s a fun distraction, but it likely won’t be long before the novelty wears off and you return to playing the more traditional game modes.

Legends Showcase steps away from the formal 5-on-5 game and instead opts for a decidedly streetball feel. 2 vs 2 games take some of the classic pairings of the past half-century and pit them against one another to see who truly is the greatest two- man tandem of all time. 3 vs 3 games expand this concept to bring in modern teams, grouping the best of each decade and forcing them to square off. Even cooler, plowing through the 3-on-3 challenges unlocks the use of modern teams throughout the DLC, so you can finally find out how today’s stars stack up to those who came before.

Perhaps the most clever mode of all is HORSE, which takes the playground game we all loved so much (miss a shot, take a letter, first one to spell HORSE loses) and adds a bit of flair. Superstar players take a variety of wild and crazy shots, even adding special rules such as requiring a bank off the backboard or a swish (or both) for the shot to count. Things really get crazy once you start discovering the hidden locations and begin taking shots while standing atop the stanchion or from the balcony of the NBA Store across the street. The only downside is that while it’s fun to come up with wild and crazy shots for your opponent the timing-based gameplay can quickly grow frustrating. I know these shots shouldn’t be easy, even for NBA greats, but some of them are so impossible that they’re not even worth attempting.

The Legends Showcase DLC is rounded out with modes that allow for pick-up games with any ruleset you like and games of 21 with equally flexible rules. These are the more sandbox modes, and offer an option for those who just want to put the greatest of all time out on the court and let their game do the talking. Buying the DLC also unlocks the legendary teams of the main game for use in online matches, but 2K12 has such notorious online connectivity issues that you may not find many folks to play with.

The content in the Legends Showcase pack is a bit of a mixed bag, because it serves as an entertaining respite from the traditional game modes, but it also will only really appeal to those who prefer playground style basketball over its more traditional sibling. The DLC also attempts to look much different than the main game, adopting a cel- shaded aesthetic and introducing a basketball court in the middle of Times Square. It’s an interesting approach, but the whole vibe doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the game.

In a lot of ways it feels like the Legends Showcase DLC takes several steps to ultimately limit its audience and appeal. The streetball game modes will turn off purists, though those folks may still check it out in order to see their favorite players once again. The cel-shaded visuals are a fun artistic choice, but will leave a sour taste in the mouths who prefer to see Dr. J, Larry Bird and others in their carefully-rendered glory. In a lot of ways Legends Showcase feels like an imitation of NBA Jam, but less entertaining.  While I may personally go back and spend a few minutes here and there with the DLC, it seems telling that I’ve already all but abandoned it to go back to the My Player and NBA’s Greatest modes. There is some appeal to Legends Showcase, but it’s not exactly long-lasting.