FreeStyle Street Basketball - first impressions

We have to admit that the idea of melding online basketball matches with role-playing game elements like leveling up, learning skills, and stat-boosting piqued our interest when we first heard about FreeStyle Street Basketball. With over 32 million registered users throughout Asia, this funky title is already a smashing success. Now, Sierra Online has hoop dreams to bring this part basketball, part online RPG to the states.

You won't find yourself setting up overly complex plays or getting called on goal tending or double dribbling. Instead, FreeStyle's intuitive gameplay keeps things simple, yet fast-paced with that "pick it up and play" quality found in arcade hits like NBA Jam. But the online RPG elements promise to add depth to the basic "pass it to the open person and shoot" feel to the game as you learn new skills and level up.

And it's these RPG elements of FreeStyle that really caught our attention. When creating a character, you'll choose one of three positions: forward, center, or guard. Each of the positions will have their strengths and weaknesses, much like different professions or classes in traditional RPGs. For example, centers will dominate the area near the basket and will excel at dunking skills, but will move slowly. On the other hand, guards will move faster, and be more accurate outside of the three point line.

There will be no single-player mode in FreeStyle. You'll have to create or join 1-on-1, 2-on-2, or 3-on-3 online matches to earn experience, which will level up your character and allow you to wear better stat-boosting clothing and accessories. Playing matches will also reward you with points, which can be used to acquire new skills and the fore mentioned clothing and items. Even if FreeStyle only enjoys a margin of the massive success it's achieved throughout Asia so far, it seems likely that making friends, forming teams, and joining matches should never be a problem in your quest to level up for better gear and skills.