NBA 2K21 | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, September 10, 2020

NBA 2K21 | Review | Switch

by Danny Bivens

Maybe we should have just taken the year off.
2K, like many other Western sports game publishers, push out NBA games every year like clockwork and with good reason. People buy them. While the Switch version of the game is definitely not at the same level as its PS4 or Xbox One brethren, it still hits the system every year with more or less the same updates that are found elsewhere. Can the same be said about NBA 2K21 on the Switch, especially if you’re just coming off of NBA 2K20? That’s what we’re here to talk about.

Of course, as with all of the modern NBA 2K games, you know what to expect here. Quick Play will get you right into a game of basketball, while other modes, like the Neighborhood, My Team, My GM and My League also make a return. For me, though, I always spend the majority of my time with My Career, which will be the main focus here. Before I get on to that, it’s obvious that there is definitely something for everyone here in terms of modes - gameplay at its core remains that same no matter which mode you’re playing. The Neighborhood did get a bit of an enhancement, this time be located on a beach front bringing it a different look than what we’ve seen over the years. That’s cool for people that are really into that.
My Career puts you in the role of “Junior” in a story beat called “The Long Shadow.” Here, you are working your way up through high school and then college to get to the NBA all while being compared to your basketball legend father’s legacy. Honestly, when it comes to the story, I think this is the best story mode that NBA 2K has had in a long time. [Just for the record, I really didn’t like 2K18’s story with DJ and his leech friend eating Reeses Peanut Butter Puffs.] Sure, there are some cliche things here and there, but Junior actually seems like someone with his head on straight for the most part. Unlike a lot of the leads from previous games, he just seems like a more down to earth character, which is something many of you and I can relate to. Well done.

While it almost seems like a “no duh” kind of thing, I like the fact that NBA 2K21 puts you on a tradition route to the NBA - high school to college and then on to the pros. In this mode, you’ll get to play a handful of games in both of these, which I found quite enjoyable. The atmosphere on both the high school and college levels seemed pretty realistic and it was generally fun to play. Once you get into college, you do have the option to skip through straight to the draft, but I opted to grind it out over a handful of games and then eventually make it to the National Championship. It’s a great way to make players feel like they’re accomplishing something before getting into the long grind that will be their NBA career.
Player Progression in 2K21 is by and large the same as it was in 2K20, and in my opinion that’s a good thing. When creating your character, you can select from a number of different builds and then expand upon them the more experience you get. While playing in My Career during high school and college, you likely won’t be netting too much experience, but you’ll be raking it in by the time you go pro, which makes playing the game overall just more enjoyable as your ability to make plays increases dramatically.

Controls here are…different. Like many of you, I’ve gotten used to the control scheme when it comes to shooting and timing. This year, 2K felt it necessary to change things up a bit with the Pro Stick. In the past, using the right analog stick was an option to shoot - this time around, you still shoot with the stick, but you are now also able to pull off a variety of dribbling moves as well. To be honest with you, typically my build of players are small, outside perimeter shooters, so I’m one of the guys who would use the face button to shoot. I changed it up a bit this year, though, making a character that I wanted to be more of an inside scorer. While practicing in 2KU with the god level pros and no defense on me, it was relatively easy to pull off the moves. I could see why some of these changes could make playing offense a bit more fresh. However, when I was playing actual games with my character early on, it was tough to wrap my head around the Pro Stick shooting controls. More often than not, my shots would be off balance and just miss. Granted, I’m not the best NBA 2K player in the world or anything, but this system needs a bit of fine tuning before I would venture to say it’s actually good. Defense feels a bit tighter here, though, but to me, mostly the same. Blocking seems to have gotten a bit of an upgrade, but with my small build character, blocks usually aren’t my strong point.
From a visual standpoint, not much has really changed between NBA 2K20 to 2K21 on the Switch. It could even be argued that not a whole lot has really changed much since the release of NBA 2K18 on the platform in the Fall of 2017. Regardless, you probably know what to expect here - a decent looking game that lacks the frills of the PS4/Xbox One when it comes to visual fidelity. Personally, I’m not bothered all that much by this. The game plays fine in both handheld and docked and still gives a great NBA experience on the court.

I did come across some glitches during my time with 2K21 on the Switch, especially during the My Career Mode cutscenes. While the gameplay portions of the experience were by and large fine, there was noticeable lag and stuttering. It seemed worse when there were more characters on the screen, too. It seemed to happen in scenes that were away from the court. Things like this are something that can more than likely be fixed in a patch, but man. Having something look this unpolished at launch is just plain bad.
The Face Scan also makes a return here, and, honestly, while my character kind of looks like me, there is definitely something wrong with the eyes. The eyelids just seem way too thick, crowding out the actual eyes of my character. It’s not a huge deal, but this is something that I would love to see improved. I’m not going to hold my breath for it, though.

As it stands right now, NBA 2K21 is a tough sell on the Switch. I get that 2K feels the need to push out their game every year. That’s something that probably won’t change. I know that this will never happen, but I think it would be great to see 2K go for a two year approach here when it comes to releases. Konami does this in Japan with the Power Pro Baseball and Pro Baseball Spirits series - they release a game, support it for two years with updates, etc, and then move on to the next iteration. This is great for fans as they can get more bang for their buck and at the same time it can benefit developers and publishers as it gives them more time to make a quality product that can bring truly new and innovative features to their games.
The changes to gameplay in 2K21 on Switch (and current gen) feel like they were added to tick a few boxes to give the illusion that 2K is offering something new here. With the possibility of updates fixing some of the issues with the visuals, you may want to steer clear until that’s taken care of. The new shooting mechanics, though, it might just be something that we’re going to have to get used to and I’m not quite there yet. Unless you’re really pining for the new story beats in My Career, steer clear or wait for a sale on this one.

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