Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 03/15/05 | Genre: Sports
989 Sports has had some bad luck with their basketball titles on the PS2 lately. In fact, they even took the 2005 game off their schedule in order to regroup and figure out how to improve the quality of their NBA Shootout title. Unfortunately, even though the latest offering on the PSP may be much better than their last NBA game, it still needs some major work.
Players control NBA with the Analog Nub. While I continue to read countless reports at how poor the nub works, I haven't had many difficulties with it. It may not be quite as nice or precise as the Analog Stick on the PS2, but it gets the job done. While moving your players around with the Analog Nub, you can select plays on the D-Pad. These plays are all very simple and you aren't given a lot of detail with how they are designed to run. I personally found just as much success running around and trying to get a dunk, lay-up, or open jumper, rather than trying to plan a semi-complicated play.
The one area that I struggled with the most was that no matter how hard you try to get off a shot, it seems that most jumpers can be blocked. The computer-controlled AI has been fine-tuned to reject any jumper you put up. While I understand in some cases shots can and should be blocked, I found that the gameplay in NBA was extremely frustrating because none of my players could get a consistent shot off.
A unique feature has been added into this version of NBA. Each shot you take requires two button presses. You will be instantly rated, by color, on how well you performed your shot. Green is good, yellow is decent, and red is bad. Even if you do pull off green shots consistently, there is no guarantee you will make it. It just means that it has the greatest chance to go in the hoop. While this feature is nice, it does take some getting used to. On top of that, it seemed like no matter what color I was able to pull off, my shot was still blocked. I know that I don't suck that bad!
Like the other 989 games on the PSP this year you can play through a season. However, no franchise mode is offered. I would like to see future incarnations of all PSP sports titles be extensions of the PS2 games. For example, you could take your season off of your PS2 and continue them on the handheld version of the game. Hopefully this is something that Sony and 989 Sports are working on for its next versions of Sports titles.
Visually, NBA looks very good on the PSP (I haven't seen anything yet that doesn't.) All of the players are represented from the NBA and you can really tell them apart during the introduction sequences. However, during gameplay it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish the players by looking at them because of how high up the camera is. However, when a player makes a great play, you see a picture of them come up.
NBA offers a variety of different gameplay modes including a Three-Point Shootout, Skills Challenge, and Multiplayer Options. In the Multiplayer Mode, you can choose to play NBA over the Internet against other PSP owners or against others in your area over the 802.11b WiFi.
Overall, NBA is just an average game that needs some more fine-tuning. 989 Sports has made some improvements to the game but this title is still in need of some more work. I hope that next year's version can improve upon the issues with this game and return 989 back to the great NBA Developer they once were.