NBA 07 - PSP - Preview
When it comes to a fast-paced game of basketball for the PSP, SCEA gave us a decent game with last year’s NBA 06 and while it had more than its share of flaws it showed much potential. So it didn’t come as a surprise that this year’s NBA 07 made some improvements in the areas that didn’t work last year as well as include a slew of new mini-games that will make this a basketball game good enough to give EA Sports’ next NBA Live a run for its money.
While Sony promises that the PlayStation 2 version of the game will feature some very interesting game modes, NBA 07 for the PSP has its own share of interesting extras that come in the form of Conquest and Carnival mode. Conquest mode, for instance, is an interesting mix of a street ball tournament mode mixed in with a healthy dose of strategy. Imagine a Risk-styled map with every team taking up a territory that will have you invading your opponent’s territory or defending it from the opposition. You start by picking a team to play a five-on-five game against an opposing team to not only claim their territory but also “steal” the opposing team’s star player (like Kobe Bryant) and trading them your weakest player (think the Clippers own Quinton Ross). Instead of playing for points, each team has a life bar meter that goes down each time a team scores. The more teams you beat the more your side dominates the map. This is not only a fun game mode but also a thinking gamers’ mode and a wonderful distraction from the usual Season, Exhibition and Playoffs game modes also included in NBA 07.
Carnival mode is comprised of a variety of games you would find, well, at a carnival (or a Chuck E. Cheese) including Skee Ball, Pop-A-Shot as well as Pinball. Imagine playing a game of Skee Ball as Laker star Kobe Bryant, tossing balls into a series of tiny baskets or making baskets in a Pop-A-Shot as LeBron James. You can also earn some points playing the pinball machine in Pinball. With each point you earn playing each of the Carnival games you can use them to unlock extras such as vintage jerseys for your favorite team, video clips and other surprises. Another cool feature is that a friend can download or “Share” Carnival mode for some multiplayer fun.
Speaking of mini-games, this year sees the return of Dodgeball as well as some new additions like HORSE, Skills Challenge, Own the Court, 3 Point Contest. HORSE is an ode to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater mini game where you try to outscore an opponent in a two-on-two game and force your opponent to spell out the word HORSE. The PlayStation Skills Challenge has a player running through a sort of obstacle course, scoring points by completing each task such as throwing balls through hoops and making difficult shots at the basket. 3 Point Contest allows you to go up against the likes of Allen Iverson or Yao Ming in a contest that has you making as many 3-point shots before the clock runs out.
Yet what caught my attention while playing a Season mode game as well as an All-Star Game is the opponent AI that has become a lot more aggressive and is able to put up quite a defense as well as come up with some unpredictable offensive plays. The controls feel a tad tighter as well while keeping the game’s fast pace and color-coded halo around the ball for free throws (red means your chances of missing is high while yellow means it’s a 50-50 chance it goes in and green means you’ll definitely make the shot).
There are even more player animations this year, making player and team introductions vary from team to team. The game’s visuals are sharper, allowing the players to move more naturally on the court or while making slam-dunks. Even the game’s sound, from it’s two-man commentary team to the sounds of the fans going wild sinks in the feeling that you’re sitting courtside during a game whether it’s a friendly exhibition game or the Playoffs.
In the end, the new mini-games, gameplay improvements and sweeter visuals all point to the fact that NBA 07 for the PSP is already shaping up to be a portable basketball game fans of the sport will definitely enjoy and it certainly is a game that has what it takes to go head-to-head with EA Sports’ upcoming title. Look for NBA 07 this September.