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July 16, 2017 / Jett

Thoughts on NBA Playgrounds Ver. 1.1.3 Patch on the Nintendo Switch

Saber Interactive and Nintendo left NBA Playgrounds players in the cold as their squabbles over patching policies caused a major update to be left hanging for months. With the NBA season having wrapped up weeks ago and with other Nintendo Switch games available to keep players occupied, I would imagine that any interest in this game died long ago. While it’s great that Saber Interactive finally did right by Nintendo Switch gamers, is this a case of too little, too late?

Let’s run through these updates one at a time.

15 new players

New to the game include a few players that should have been in the game in the first place, such as Klay Thompson and Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s crazy to me that players of this caliber were left off the starting roster, but I’m glad they’re here now, along with a few legends such as Dennis Rodman. That said, you’re still going to have to get them through card packs, which means it might be a very long time before you see any of them.

Reworked shooting system

The gameplay of NBA Playgrounds was completely undermined by its wonky shooting system. Layups were too hard to hit, while 3-pointers could be scored with your eyes closed. Worst of all, there was no real mechanism in place to tell you when to let go of your shot.

All of this has been addressed. Shooting balance has been adjusted. Also, a nifty shot meter has been implemented to make the appropriate timing clearer. That said, I take issue with where the bar is placed. Currently, it’s centred at the bottom of the screen, which feels especially unintuitive to look at if your character is shooting from the top of the screen. Instead, I hope it’s moved directly under the shooter in a future update.

Faster inbounding

After each basket, there was a pregnant pause before the ball would be inbounded again. This was particularly problematic after signature baskets, as players would go into a dance routine and further delay the action. The dance routines still slow the down the game more than I would like, but the pauses are notably less severe now.

Inclusion of ranked and casual online play

Finally, you can play online with friends in a private match, or against random opposition in ranked. There is a ranking system in place to give each match meaning. However, I found the netcode to be inconsistent. Many jump balls featured the ball rising upwards in a choppy manner, while rollback would cause all sorts of weird stuff to occur on the court. Oftentimes, delays in blocking will show balls being swatted back long after they’ve passed defenders. In the silliest of instances, I watched a ball go into the net, and then pop back out and go into the net two more times before finally registering as a made shot. Does that now count as nine points?

When it works, its serviceable at best. When it doesn’t, the experience is far from pleasant. With the online play performing as poorly as it currently does, it greatly hampers the game’s already questionable replayability.

Can’t buy a bucket

NBA Playgrounds is certainly better today than it was prior to the patch. Saber Interactive has attempted to fix some of its biggest issues. Playing locally, the game is a noteworthy improvement that makes it worth playing with your friends again. However, the poor online experience cuts this game’s lifespan considerably. Fingers crossed that further updates will iron out the remaining issues I have with the game, but I’m certainly not holding my breath after this last go-around.

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