NBA Live 06
EA steps in and delivers a good basketball title for the PSP.
The last time that I actually enjoyed an NBA Live was way back in 1995, so you can't even begin to imagine my disgust as I slid the 06 UMD into the back of my PSP. You see, I'm a huge basketball fan and Sony's games are rancid garbage, so NBA Live had to do, but let me tell you; this is without question the most enjoyable portable basketball game that I've ever played. Live's back baby and it's better than ever. Not perfect, but pretty damn enjoyable. In fact, it's even better than the console version.
I'm back flipping over this game because EA made some necessary tweaks to make it more accessible to PSP owners starting with the simplified controls. Shooting's been mapped to a single button and making shots, whether they be rainbow threes or rim rattling slams is just a lot easier than in the Xbox/PS2 version (that force me to use two buttons to score points). This is made especially sweet by the game's pure, arcade nature, so while defense wins ball games, so do off balance fade aways from the top of the key. But that doesn't mean I score over 100 plus points each and every game. It's still possible to strip the ball or block an attempt.
As for the NBA Live 06 specific Freestyle Superstar feature, all you need to do to take advantage of a player's special skills is press and hold the L trigger, then tap Triangle, Circle, Square, or X. Each superstar player has signature moves tailored to his history and position, so Jason Kidd will execute amazing passes and Tim Duncan's shots will kiss the glass. All of this stuff is pretty easy to execute, and other things, such as alley oops, are also a button press or two away.
Unfortunately, what EA giveth, EA taketh away in the form of freestyle control. Since the PSP doesn't have a second analog stick the developers stuck crossing over and what not to the square button and it's nowhere near as fun to use. It's still possible to break someone's ankles, but...well no...it's not. Each time I use it my player stops, does a little move, and the opposition doesn't fall for it.
Then there are tiny glitches that pop up, the most odd being the epileptic seizures that players sometimes have after a whistle. This doesn't happen a lot, but when it does it's a bit unnerving. However, it doesn't impact gameplay. That honor is reserved for when a ball is on the floor and my players are just staring at it or walking as fast as half melted fudge to pick it up. There's also some defensive lapses, times where no one on my team can grab a damn rebound.
Aside from those minor annoyances, NBA Live is golden. Dunks look fantastic, the replay system rocks, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr do a wonderful job calling the action, and the animation is, for the most part, fluid. But that's just exhibition games. If all you're after are some quick five on five scrimmages this game satisfies that desire, but there's also plenty of extras to dip into including full season modes and wireless multiplayer that allows you to play online with people across the globe. Then there are the All Star Weekend festivities such as the three point shootout, dunk contest, and the All Star game, all of which are called by TNT's Ernie Johnson and Kenny "The Jet" Smith. Plus, there's the PSP exclusive Superstar Challenge mode, a series of mini games that require you to meet certain milestones from 2005's most memorable games.
EA knows what to do when it comes to presentation, so I'm not surprised that Live looks and sounds great. The player models feature some jaggies but that's not a huge deal since by and large everything looks quite impressive. As for the aural stuff, the announcers do a fine job, the crowd's always fired up, and the dunks/swishing jump shot effects are very cool.
When it comes to basketball I prefer Visual Concepts' NBA 2K series because it's a lot more technical, but such games don't exist on the PSP, and with Sony stinking up the hand held gaming ghetto with its hoops titles, Live 06 winds up being the only portable b-ball title you and I need. It's not without its faults, but those faults are overshadowed by the quality. No matter what your heart desires (dishing and swishing, hacking and whacking, or posting and toasting) this game has it all.
What's Hot: Pure arcade goodness coupled with a decent amount of addictive gameplay modes.
What's Not: A few nagging glitches