FreeStyle Street Basketball – A simple game of B-ball
by Michael Sagoe (Mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Back in 2007, South Korean developer JC Entertainment and US publisher Sierra Entertainment released a new kind of MMO that mixed RPG elements with old school b-ball, and they called it “FreeStyle – Street Basketball” (or FSSB for short.) Despite some strong publishing support back then, the US version of FSSB was shut down with very little signs of a revival.
The game was then resurrected for the global market and published directly by JC Entertainment under their GameKiss portal. Since then, the game has been given several updates and additions to keep it afloat. But with such an old game out in today’s market, does FSSB have enough going for you get in the game or should you stay on the sidelines for this one? Let’s find out.
First off: You must pick a general position class for you character. You can play as a Guard, Forward or Center, and each position has different strengths and weaknesses.
There’s a huge lack of initial character customization options for both male and female appearances, so you will have to look like some average joe for a while before you can look stylish and fly on the court. One aspect that I found interesting regarding initial character creation, however, was that your selected character’s height has an overall effect on your character’s starting stats, so deciding how tall or short your baller is has to go into consideration.
Hopping straight into the tutorial: The game explains the basics of basketball at a snail’s pace, but if you have ever played a basketball video game before this, you should already know exactly what to do, so you can just skip the tutorial altogether.
The amounts of modes available in FSSB are fairly moderate. You can play quick 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 pickup matches, or assemble a full 3-man team with friends and strangers. If you’re not confident enough to go against players in a live match, FSSB gives you options to hone your skills with practice modes, mission modes, NPC battles and a free court feature that lets up to six players shoot some hoops with no ranks on the line.
FSSB also features an open court lobby that lets you walk around in a murky urban town, allowing you to chat with other players, but this town is pretty much empty and holds almost no real purpose since the features available from the lobby can be accessed from the main menu. But hey, there is a few amusing things you get to see around here, like a bunch of crazy disco dancers and a freaky looking dog.
Hey look is that Spuds Mackenzie?!
The overall themes with FSSB are all about urban culture and youth, but it’s a hit-and-miss thanks to the game’s somewhat lackluster presentation.
The thing about FSSB’s urban theme is that it feels too forced, too marketed and too tacked on. All of the character voices (especially the in-game announcer) come off as cheesy and may get tiresome after hearing their voices over and over again. FSSB’s visuals are simply dated and have not aged well at all. Even with the game’s nicely cell-shaded character models, textures for the environments are muddy and low-res. Plus: The max resolution available is only a mere 1024×768, which looks awful on newer PC monitors.
The only real upside with FSSB’s presentation is that it comes with a really stealer original soundtrack. Well… that is if you’re into Rap, Hip-hop and Jazz like I am.
Getting down to the actual meat of game, FSSB plays just like… well… a basketball video game. Controls are handled with the arrow keys for movement and the WSAD keys before both offense and defense. All the general commands that you would expect to find in a basketball video game are here: You can pass, shoot, dunk, screen, steal, etc. All the mechanics here are done pretty well, but not well enough to stand out in comparison to other basketball video games out there.
After playing several rounds, your character will earn a few levels, RPG style, allowing you to increase your stats and play your role more efficiently. Once you hit LV15, you can advance your character with a sub-class like Shooting Guard or Power Forward, but these sub-classes only increase your stats further and do not involve any changes to core gameplay.
Using different skills on the court is all a matter of having them unlocked after meeting certain requirements such as having enough points earned from games or achieving a high enough level. These skills are separated as basic skills and freestyle skills. All of the basic skills you can earn are useful, but not so much with the freestyle ones. Freestyle moves are just flashier versions of basic skills that are performed at random. Besides from some crossover moves, there’s very little point to having freestyle moves for anything but showing off.
The community you’ll be playing with here is a mix between sweet and sour. The players here seem to be really serious about their b-ballin’. Once you hit the later levels, everyone expects you to know your role by now, and if you don’t , they WILL nag on you about it… not that there’s anything wrong with that, since it’s a team game and having synergy among your team to make up for weakness is important. When you are doing your part to help out your team, players will mostly be enjoying themselves regardless if it’s a win or lose situation. Just make sure you are aware of everything that’s going on and yell out a few commands here and there by pressing the 1-6 keys.
FreeStyle Street Basketball plays a pretty decent game of B-Ball, but it simply doesn’t try to push any envelopes for both basketball video games and with MMOs in general. It may be enjoyable to play every now and then, but if you’re looking for a deeper, richer basketball game experience, you can do far better than FSSB.
*Great OST for Rap, Hip-Hop and Jazz lovers
*“Marketed” urban style
*Gameplay mechanics are basic and uninteresting