NBA 06 - PSP - Preview

You know it's Christmas when Sony plans to release two brand-new NBA games in the same year. Wait, you mean it's not Christmas yet? Then what were they thinking, giving us so much for so little? I didn't get them anything. (Reaches into pocket.) Uh, can I interest you in a piece of lint? An old sock, perhaps? It's not much of a stocking, but...

NBA '06 comes to the PSP with a host of improvements that will hopefully alleviate the problems introduced in the original title that launched with the console. Right now I can't pick out a significant difference in the graphic quality – but the fact that the graphics are already comparable to the first game is an excellent sign. That means that artists have time to make it look even better than what we've seen in the first game, and better than what we've seen in this preview build.

The animation has been given a major push thanks to the 60 frames per second that the game is now running at. I didn't notice a difference immediately, but over time all the little tweaks became apparent, along with the massive ones that mean better player movement.

What really stood out to me and I'm sure will stand out to you is the controls. Again, they're not finished, but the preview build played great. NBA '06 is labeled a simulation basketball game, the controls are more like that of an arcade game. The five-on-five gameplay holds onto the intensity, while the passing mechanics are practically automatic. Passing is about the same as before, but the play setup is definitely better. The hold-the-button-till-it-turns-green shooting style is still in place, and it too felt a lot more responsive. I'm beginning to see where the developers were going with it, and why they believed it's the ultimate, innovative way to bring basketball into the next generation of gaming.

NBA '06 has tons of game modes, a feature that's sure to strike fear in any under prepared competitor. At least five mini-games will be included in the final version: HORSE, Dodgeball, 3-Point Contest, Own The Court, and Skills Challenge. Dodge Ball is pretty cool as a small-scale version of something that has been sold as a single game (not by Sony, but other publishers have released Dodge Ball games). The other mini-games are fun but my current favorite is Skills Challenge. It's not the most complex game but it lets then player go through a series of training motions.

Play-offs, Season, and Exhibition modes are here, along with Ladder Challenge. Ladder is a competition of mini-games or exhibition games. Winning either rewards the player with virtual trading cards. It'd be cool if these cards unlocked a bonus team or player, but as far as we know they're strictly a collector's item.

For those of you who grew up on NBA Jam, NBA '06 packs a simulation game-defying feature that you'll love: turbo boosts! No crazy NBA Jam dunks, but at least now you can give your opponents the slip and run in for a two-pointer without breaking a sweat.

There's also a new mode that allows you to turn dunks, shots, passes, etc., into virtual trading cards during highlight-reel plays. Knowing what was done with Gran Turismo in Japan, Sony could take this one step further by allowing players to connect their PSPs to PCs and print out these collectible cards. We probably won't that for a year or two, but you can bet Sony is already pondering that and many other possibilities.

Multiplayer is in full force with ad hoc and infrastructure modes, the former of which allows for more than two PSPs to dribble simultaneously. Look forward to some ridiculous competition once gamers are able to get their hands on it.

Not surprisingly the NBA license is fully intact with 41 authentic NBA teams.

The music is (entirely?) hip-hop, and although the sounds are a bit catchier than your average MTV countdown, I'm not sure it'll garner the attention that other sports game soundtracks have. As far as hip-hop soundtracks go this is one of the best.

Scheduled to hit the court (store shelves) in October, NBA '06 is turning into the basketball game everyone will want to check out. New challenges are around the corner thanks to the new artificial intelligence they've developed.

Gw
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