With the new found power of the PSP, it is now possible to develop games that look a lot better. For the first time since handheld gaming began it is also possible to port a console game to the PSP without losing the spark that console games possess, which is basically what EA have tried to do with NBA Live 06. Have they succeeded or is the PSP just not powerful enough?
NBA Live 06 is the second basketball title available on the PSP, the first one being NBA Street Showdown. WhileNBA Street was more of an underground basketball game, NBA Live 06 is a lot more serious, and contains all the rosters and stadiums from the official NBA series. Despite the popularity of basketball, there haven't been many basketball games released lately, (except maybe the NBA2K series), so there isn't much competition in the basketball field. However, the Live series is consistantly evolving.
EA have done their best to try and put as much of the console versions' content onto the PSP's UMD as possible. Most of the options from the console versions have thankfully made the transition to the PSP, including the season mode and the mini games. The freestyle superstars mode (which took the best players of each team) has also carried over, but some of the superstar classes, such as the defender class, have been removed. We're unsure why this would be but it doesn't affect the superstar freestyle option enough to be an issue.
In Tiger Woods and FIFA EA included a PSP exclusive mini game, for NBA Live 06 EA have included an entirely new mode, which is an extremely good addition. This mode is called Superstar Challenge, and puts you in real life scenarios from previous NBA series'. Whilst the challenges themselves only take a few minutes, this mode definitely feels lot more fleshed out than the mini games that were included in the other 06 sports titles.
NBA Live includes a wireless ad-hoc mode, for playing with friends in wireless range. Apparantly the American version also included internet play, but it required a small fee to play, we searched through all the menus and couldn't find mention of the online play, which would indicate to us that it has been removed for the localised PSP version. However, since the online mode for other regions of the game has forced players to pay a fee to use it, the omission isn't such a bad thing.
Gameplay-wise, there have had to be some omissions and this primarily concerns the controls. Due to the lack of a second analog stick some of the moves have had to be relegated to the four PSP face buttons, with each of them being context sensitive. Sometimes the move you were hoping to execute won't be the one that your player will perform, which is extremely frustrating. The control restriction has also meant that the same button is used for shooting and dunking, so if you're closer to the basket your player will dunk. It's not too much of an issue, but it does highlight some of the restrictions that the PSP controls can bring.
Navigating through the menus isn't as fluent as we'd hoped either. It is common to wait a few seconds for the UMD to keep up with the pace of what is happening through each of the menus. This isn't a major distraction, but it did catch us a bit surprised when we were trying to navigate through the menus and there was no response. The loading is also in excess of twenty seconds, which doesn't make the game the ideal "pick up and play" title like we'd hoped.
The console versions of NBA Live 06 did have a few issues, and for some reason EA haven't taken the opportunity to fix up some of these issues with the PSP version. NBA Live 06 is trying for a realistic look, and yet the movement of the players isn't very fluid, and actually comes across as looking a little fake.
Graphically, the game has a bit of polish, and for the most part of the game the graphics are fairly decent. Some of the character models had some jaggies on them, but this is barely noticable, even more impressive is the fact that we didn't experience any slowdown, even when things began to heat up a little. The courts are well modelled as well, so the visuals are fairly impressive.
The sound is also fairly reliable, the commentary is provided by Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith, so EA really have gone all out to secure a fairly decent commentary team. Most of the commentary is fairly accurate in comparison to what is happening, although after playing through the game a little while the commentary can become repetitive.
Whilst the wide range of game modes should ensure the game will last a while, they ultimately don't take as long to go through as they should. It's quite possible to complete most of these modes without too much trouble. The multiplayer is where the real lifespan of the game lies, but the fact that we don't even get the option to play online is kind of disappointing. The gameplay modes also aren't too varied, they feel like more of the same except with a few different options.
NBA Live 06 isn't as good as the console counterparts, but if you're after a portable basketball game that puts the emphasis a lot more on real life basketball, then you've really got no choice with NBA Live 06. It is disappointing EA haven't taken the extra development time on the PSP version to improve some of the shortcomings of the console versions. The controls are an issue to consider before deciding to purchase this game as well, because although it may not seem like they will make that much of a difference, they do.