While some of the games have not been strictly necessary (being outclassed by later updates/instalments in their series) and there’s been the odd dud, but HAMSTER’s ACA Neo Geo series has been a continued source of classic arcade thrills on the Switch, almost making up for the lack of a Virtual Console on the system. The latest release is Street Hoop and just as SNK’s Super Sidekicks provided a simple pick-up-and-play football simulator, this title from Data East does the same with basketball (more specifically three-on-three basketball). There’s a lack of modes and options, but the matches in Street Hoop are fast and fun.
By default the matches are split in to two-minute halves with a period of overtime if necessary. Dive in to the options menu and halves can be adjusted from one to four minutes, or (by setting Continue Mode to C) you can have the matches take place over just one (one to four minute) period. In-game there’s no team adjustments that can be made, nor a pool of players to pick your team from, you simply pick a country and play.
As is standard with these ACA releases, the Japanese version (Dunk Dream in this instance) is also available to play, but it’s a pity the North American Street Slam version couldn’t also be included. Though offering nothing different gameplay-wise, the teams are US cities rather than the countries featured in the other two versions. Admittedly this is not a deal-breaking omission, but it would have been a neat inclusion.
There are ten countries to pick from, each with different stats for speed and defence as well as their scoring abilities (both dunks and three-pointers). A team that’s good at getting three-point baskets has obvious appeal, but should your shot miss, you are less likely to get something on the rebound.
Street Hoop works best in two-player mode, whether playing on the big screen or in tabletop mode with a detached Joy-Con each. Thanks to quick movement and small courts, matches are frantic clashes with end-to-end action; missed opportunities leading to panic when a moment later your opponent is at your end of the court.
The game uses a simple two-button setup that works well. When on the offensive there’s a button to pass and a button to attempt a dunk or shoot from distance (your positioning determining which). If you’d like to try and outsmart the opposition, feints are also possible. When defending those buttons are used to steal the ball or jump to block shots. As there are no fouls in the game you can also dispossess them with a well-timed shoulder barge. One thing that can be problematic when defending is that you cannot choose which of your trio of players to control. It’s far from a constant problem, but on occasion you will find yourself failing to get possession of the ball, then realise that the player you are actually “controlling” is running up against the side of the court.
With each basket you get, a “Super Shot” meter builds and once full you can unleash an unstoppable shot. It’s a little strange to award someone who is already scoring well this move, but the shots are spectacular looking with a flame trail following the ball or the basket sent rocking back-and-forth from the impact of the player who has come crashing down from high in the sky. The meter resets at half time, so you’ll want to be sure to use it when you have the chance. Similarly if the opposition’s meter is full, you’ll be looking to keep possession to prevent them adding to their score tally.
Sprite animation is smooth which enhances the fast-paced gameplay. Visually the game is bright with a good selection of courts to look at including a park and a beach. Some spectators are static, with others animated to varying degrees and there are some good touches such as the way a cheery dog will run on the park court and circle the victors. The onscreen action is backed by a funky hip-hop soundtrack and an excitable commentator who will shout out various things during games such as “down town”, “three point basket” or “kiss the rim”.
As always there is the standard ACA Hi Score mode (points scored determining your place on the online leaderboard), that challenges you to clear the arcade mode on a single credit. This is tricky as not only do the nine other teams get tougher as you progress, but should you be loosing (or even drawing) at half-time, this results in a game over. The standard arcade mode features a more manageable challenge due to adjustable difficulty (the usual 8 settings available) as well as the fact you can continue should you fail. You can even pick a different country if you think they are better suited to defeat your current opposition. The ACA Caravan mode is also present, giving you five minutes (one-and-a-bit matches) to try and score as many points as possible then try again as you attempt to move up that leaderboard.
Street Hoop is a game that offers a quick basketball fix: you simply choose a country and then play commences. Despite the lack of options and the fact there's only ten countries available, the simple pick-up-and-play approach works well. The game therefore shares similarities with Super Sidekicks, but it works better here thanks to the fast-paced high-scoring nature of the matches. There's lots of enjoyment as the action moves from one side of the court to the other, shooting, dunking, feigning moves and players shoving each other out of the way. Further entertainment is provided by successfully keeping (or winning) the ball to prevent your opponent unleashing a super shot and winning with the last throw of the game is thrilling. Playing through the arcade mode entertains, but the game works best in two-player mode and Street Hoop is a good option when looking for a quick bout of two-player fun.