It’s a sad reality that arcade sports games are a dying breed. While genres come and go within the industry, it’s odd that arcade sports are almost extinct rather than continuing to thrive. Sport sims such as NBA 2K17 may satisfy players at the moment, but others yearn for over-the-top action. Players looking for some fresh arcade action can thankfully look towards 3on3 Freestyle as a potential title to sink some time into.
NOT ANOTHER IMITATION
At first glance it may seem like 3on3 Freestyle is an obvious copy of the classic NBA Street franchise from EA. Perhaps, first drawing shades of those mobile games which are carbon copies of hits such as Call of Duty, 3on3 Freestyle isn’t another poor imitation.
There are obvious similarities between 3on3 Freestyle and NBA Street such as the robust colors and cartoon inspired visuals, but other than that and the shared 3-vs-3 set-up, the similarities aren’t quite as clear. Players with high expectations may construe the differences as a negative element. Though, ultimately the unique approach taken with 3on3 Freestyle helps carve a true identity for itself.
A DIFFERENT DIRECTION
While NBA Street was built upon the principle of performing tricks to unleash a beastly GameBreaker, tricks are omitted in 3on3 Freestyle. At first, this is odd since it’s the primary thing that people associate with arcade basketball games, especially those released in the modern age. The lack of a trick system is both a blessing and a curse to how 3on3 Freestyle is constructed.
The action of 3on3 Freestyle takes place on a half-court rather than a traditional full court. The smaller place space did feel odd, but it quickly revealed what 3on3 Freestyle is all about – playing basketball with a somewhat realistic basis.
The visual direction may not depict it, but 3on3 Freestyle is ultimately about playing team based basketball. This is where things get interesting based on what players personally wanted. While the direction taken with 3on3 Freestyle is good, not having any absurd tricks does feel soul-crushing at first since it’s a huge genre change up.
At it’s core, the actions within 3on3 Freestyle are fairly simple. Players can perform the basics such as crossovers, dunks, and even screens to help set up plays. So with this simplistic foundation the core principle of 3on3 Freestyle is playing smart basketball with your teammates.
NO BALL HOGS ALLOWED
In order to be successful at 3on3 Freestyle, it helps to be on a good team. That may be an understatement, but unlike other arcade sports games it isn’t helpful to be a ball hog. So players who favor the style of the retired Kobe Bryant won’t have much luck in the game. Moving the ball smartly is key within 3on3 Freestyle as is opening up teammates for shot opportunities. Thinking of strategies in an arcade sports game may sound odd at first since it isn’t what people expect, but as the action goes on it becomes rather enjoyable to plan plays with teammates.
At this point it may not sound like 3on3 Freestyle has the unique gimmick that most players associate with arcade sports games. The game however does have such a feature and it’s interesting to say the least. At any point during a match the player can select another character on the ten person roster to play as. Yes, there are proper substitutions in an arcade sports game.
During matches, player stamina will slowly decline, thus requiring an actual substitution. Even more, the player sub mechanic allows quick on the fly changes to account for the tactics utilized by the opposing team. Playing through the game, it was interesting to see how teammates would suddenly change from a point guard to a power forward to help balance the match out better.
The one issue with the sub mechanic is that it doesn’t feel as streamlined as it could be. Utilizing the right analog stick, players can then scroll through the characters and then press up on the stick to select them. It would be interesting to perhaps see the directional pad used as quick select of sorts between pre-selected characters.
COLORFUL, YET NOT ANNOYING
3on3 Freestyle upholds the arcade game tradition by featuring an eclectic cast of characters. Character personalities in the game range from the crazy British thug, the beautiful gal, and a suave dude. The personalities are far from being embarassing and are executed well for the most part.Character design strikes a nice balance in being cartoony yet not entirely derivative to the point of boredom. Established art motifs are present in the game so there’s a sense of familiarity. But other artistic choices like the blocky audience are a neat addition as visual variety. Joycity, the developer, has done an impressive job since the art and visuals are sharp overall.
Currently as a closed beta 3on3 Freestyle is in good shape. Being different rather than a carbon copy, it’s impressive that there’s a good groundwork within 3on3 Freestyle at the moment. Upgrading character stats will be a mechanic in 3on3 Freestyle, but isn’t included within the beta.
Players right now are listed at being Level 10 upon being selected. If grinding plays a big part in 3on3 Freestyle then that could turn certain players away.
Besides the leveling concern, the only other question is whether or not a community will be present. Being a free-to-play game people will no doubt give the game a shot at launch. Will there be enough of a hook to keep players around so the community can thrive? It would be disappointing if the community takes a nose dive post launch since 3on3 Freestyle is a fun multiplayer romp.
3on3 Freestyle is shaping up to be a good alternative for the void in the arcade sports genre. If 3on3 Freestyle receives some design tweaks it may be the new game to get an arcade b-ball fix.
3on3 Freestyle will be released on the PlayStation in 2017.