Sometime between 1996 and 2000, Sony lost the rights to make ESPN video games (they'd made games like National Hockey Night on the Genesis and the Xtreme games on the PS1 with it), then somehow Konami gained this license. I'm not sure who decided this was a great combination, since Konami had been a bit player in the sports game for some time (they released hockey and basketball games in the fifth gen, but not regularly, as well as their Winning Eleven/International Superstar Soccer/PES series of soccer games). But they made 2 ESPN games for the DC, and here's one of them. A video review is embedded.... here!
ESPN 2Night is obviously named after ESPN’s flagship NBA centric show. The presentation is pretty decent. With menus based off the company’s branding of the time, and same with in game scoreboards and the like. The game also makes use of ESPN’s talent for the voices, with play by play by the legendary Brent Musberger (who you may remember from basically any college football game in the 90s), and the color commentary is done by longtime Sportscenter host Stuart Scott. Scott’s soundbytes are great, he hit all the popular bits, but there’s so few of them that they repeat sometimes multiple times in a quarter, a quarter that could be as short as 1 minute long. Musberger’s play by play is adequate, especially for the time. Every player’s name was recorded which was not a given in the turn of the millennium.
However, while the graphics are good, but not great, everything else is not good. The gameplay modes are limited to Pre-Season (basically exhibition), Practice, Season, Playoffs, and the All Star Game. You may notice the lack of any franchise mode at all. This game came out a few weeks after NBA 2k1, which had a GM mode, as well as a bunch of other options like customization and the addictive street ball which are nowhere to be found here. The modes do allow you to customize things like how long each quarter is and how long the season or playoff series is, which is a nice thing to have, and lets you play through an entire playoffs in half an hour.
The gameplay on the other hand, which is the most important part of a game, is flawed. I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s leading expert on basketball, but there’s so many problems that accumulate when you play a game of NBA 2Night. For one, sometimes the game won’t let you pass. It’s probably a glitch or bug, but it happened multiple times in the hour or so of video I recorded for the review. You’ll just throw the ball in some direction and start running into your closest teammate.
Another is the much higher than realistic chance of a buzzer beater going in. When I played my season opener with the Grizzlies, I was hanging with Seattle pretty well, but at the last second, the Sonics toss up a prayer from the other three point line and it goes in, and I lost by 3 points.
I’m not joking.
The most odd bug/glitch/feature/poor bit of programming is when players dunk from anywhere in the paint. But it only works with some players. Some guys just can’t dunk or layup at all. Other players, usually centers and forwards, will dunk from practically where they line up in a free throw. It’s mesmerizing.
Speaking of free throws, the mechanic is actually not that bad. Basically a cursor flashes on zones of the backboard in sequence, and if you select it at the right one, you make the bucket. It reminds me a bit of the dart minigame in Shenmue, which is THE ONLY TIME I WILL RELATE SHENMUE TO A BASKETBALL GAME. I prefer the system in NBA 2k1, but neither is terrible.
Also, the computer AI will not foul you or call timeout. If there’s less than 24 seconds in a quarter/game and you’re up, you can just hold the ball for the whole time and the AI won’t care a bit.
The more time I spent with the game, the less I liked it. It lacks a lot of the features I’d come to expect from a game in this timeframe. It didn’t have internet play either, even though Sega’s NBA 2k1 did have it. The gameplay makes it even worse, and the cherry on top is when I won the NBA Finals, there was no confetti, no trophy, just “Congratulations, Vancouver Grizzlies, NBA Champions” and the credits.
NBA 2Night gets a 3/10, it slid down further and further, and 2k1 is a far superior game that’s also more common and usually cheaper.