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NBA 09 The Inside REVIEW

NBA 09 The Inside Review (PSP)

NBA 09 is a full-featured loosely-based basketball simulation. I say loosely-based because NBA 09 rewards you for playing a herky-jerky, frenetic style that would make most "sim ballers" squirm. This arcade-like approach isn’t a new development when it comes to Sony’s PSP title, but it’s still a bit strange to go that route in a simulation game. Regardless, it’s the actual game mechanics of the game that are the issue, not the style of basketball.

First-time players will probably be in awe of this game, at least at first. A quick browse through the menus and a glance at the in-game graphics will make first timers think this game is a dream. And yes, while the graphics are beautiful and the game modes are seemingly infinite, the beauty is mostly skin deep when it comes to the actual in-game action. The core mechanics of this basketball game (rebounding, shooting, passing) are just not as sound as they should be in a basketball title. This is a shame really, because for a handheld game, it does so much that no other handheld sports game is doing presently.

I’ve seen no other handheld sports game that pulls off presentation quite like NBA 09 -- not even MLB 08. Within games there are post-game highlights, in-game cuts to player’s stats, and it’s all held together by solid commentary -- there are even replays that play during stoppages that are from earlier in the game rather than just the previous play. NBA 09 has it all when it comes to presentation, and that carries over to the graphics as well.

Obviously not all the faces are spot on -- it’s a handheld after all -- but the graphics are sharp, the framerate only tends to bogs down on free-throw rebounds, and everything looks smooth in motion because the animation system is up to the challenge. You will also see impressive dunks, varying types of blocked shots, and nice looking moves because the animation system is quite solid.

But returning to the original point, this is why it’s so frustrating to play the actual basketball portion of the game. Yes, playing some whack-a-mole type mini-game, skee-ball, pinball, etc. are all more fun than they probably should be, but that doesn’t change the fact that rebounding, passing, and shooting are all incredibly frustrating during a game of actual NBA basketball.

The rebounding issue is the most glaring gameplay negative because a wildly inconsistent system is in place in NBA 09. Like many basketball games before it, there’s an icon that shows up on the court that tells the user where the ball will head after coming off the rim. The problem is your players are oblivious to the ball once it gets to that icon on the floor. On a routine basis your user-controlled player will jump and miss the ball, or a ball will hit the floor and it will be there rolling around until some player eventually picks it up.

Shooting is just based on an odd color-coded system -- a series stalwart. The system that’s in place is all about color-coded release points, which takes into account the shooter, what type of shot is being taken, etc. This is fine, except for the fact that when the release point is green your shot will seemingly always go in -- it’s a skill that isn’t the hardest to master either. In addition, this system takes a lot of the chance out of the game, or the need to get ready for an offensive rebound because you know what will happen if the release is green.

Lastly, the passing system is just cumbersome. There is icon passing, which will alleviate some of the frustration, but the system in place -- plus a poor camera -- makes for an aggravating experience when trying to move the ball. The X icon is always located above one of your teammates, which means you will always pass to that teammate if you press X (the pass button). In theory, this is a way to simplify the experience, but really it only slows down the passing game and leads to errant passes. The camera doesn’t help because you can’t always see who is on the other side of the court or along the sidelines; so, even when you want to do icon passing you don’t always know where all your teammates are on the court.

These issues surround the arcade-style basketball action on the court. However, I’m not going to say it’s a negative that the game plays very "arcadey," because NBA 09 is a pick-up-and-play handheld game and the arcade-like approach is rather enjoyable. Yes, it is a bit odd that a simulation game is going this route, but playing a long-passing fastbreak style isn’t the worst thing in the world because this is a handheld game. The game is supposed to be picked up, toyed with for 10-15 minute spurts, and then put down until later. Now it is a bummer that it’s very hard to play a “sim” style and succeed -- there are a lack of moves, plays, and strategy -- so you almost have to play a Denver Nuggets style on speed to succeed. Nevertheless, playing a spastic style in spurts isn’t a hassle to me.

Simply put, NBA 09 is a game saturated in game modes, while the on-court NBA action is chock full of issues. So really it’s a matter of what you want out of a handheld basketball title. If you want slick presentation, lots of quick and fun mini-games, and other enjoyable modes to spend your time with for a few minutes at a time, then this game is going to be worth it to you. If you’re looking for a polished basketball sim to play on the run, then this probably isn’t that title.

Graphics: A good looking game that has a solid framerate and impressive presentation elements.

Sound: The announcing is solid enough, and in general I didn’t notice anything that stood out as a huge negative.

Entertainment Value: Franchise Mode is the big addition this year when it comes to game modes. It’s a rather underwhelming first showing though, because it’s so barebones. Also, the trading system in this game is very easy to take advantage of. Elimiquest and few new mini-games join the Conquest mode. Elimiquest basically revolves around taking over the U.S. similar to Conquest mode, but now the goal is to score enough points with individual players to get them off the court. As you get players off the court you gain powerups, which makes up for your squad being short-handed.

Learning Curve: New users should have no problem picking up the game and succeeding. At points the CPU A.I. seems to be smarter than your own team’s A.I., which is odd.

Online: There will be downloadable roster updates, and the online play, while laggy at points, never affected how I actually played the game. Hopefully enough people come online, making it relatively easy to find someone to play.

5.5 (Slightly Above Average)


NBA 09 The Inside Score
Graphical delight.
Hands down, best handheld presentation.
Modes and mini-games galore.
Rebounding is a mess.
In general, gameplay needs to be overhauled.
New franchise mode is light on depth.
5.5
out of 10
NBA 09 The Inside Videos
Member Comments
# 1 Mintsa @ 10/21/08 08:32 PM
Thanks for the review....I pretty much assumed the things you wrote. Are you also going to review live 09 for the psp ??? I cant find a review for it anywhere.
 
# 2 DJ @ 10/21/08 09:25 PM
Nice to see a PSP review on here. I'd like to see more portable reviews in the future (I know you had a contest for more writers and I wasn't abel to submit anything at the time, but I'd be willing to contribute to this area).

After playing the Demo, this is about what I expected from the complete version. I think I may wait for a price drop before getting this game, as I'd still like to have a portable b-ball title on my PSP.
 
# 3 ChaseB @ 10/21/08 10:25 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mintsa
Thanks for the review....I pretty much assumed the things you wrote. Are you also going to review live 09 for the psp ??? I cant find a review for it anywhere.
If EA sends along a copy of Live I'd review it. And certainly moving forward we'll continue to broaden our coverage, and handhelds are part of that.
 
# 4 MMChrisS @ 10/22/08 10:03 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaseB
If EA sends along a copy of Live I'd review it. And certainly moving forward we'll continue to broaden our coverage, and handhelds are part of that.
Exactly...if we don't review something or if it isn't in on time, the main reason behind it is the company didn't send us the game on time or at all. We'd love to review every game possible but like a lot of other people, we just don't have the major greenbacks to pull such a feat off
 
# 5 DJ @ 10/24/08 10:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaseB
And certainly moving forward we'll continue to broaden our coverage, and handhelds are part of that.
That's great to hear. I'm just hoping that Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff (DS) lives up to the hype.
 
# 6 number10 @ 10/24/08 01:56 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Djwlfpack
That's great to hear. I'm just hoping that Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff (DS) lives up to the hype.
I havent heard to much about Tecmo Bowl but I used to love that game back in the day. What else do you know about it?
 
# 7 maball @ 10/27/08 05:24 PM
im still playing NBA 09 The Inside PSP version...its a lot of fun, even if its a bit arcadey...and its the only basketball game with online on psp this year as EA dropped the ball wit their live series on psp choosing not to include online
 
# 8 madcap08 @ 10/27/08 05:44 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
im still playing NBA 09 The Inside PSP version...its a lot of fun, even if its a bit arcadey...and its the only basketball game with online on psp this year as EA dropped the ball wit their live series on psp choosing not to include online
How is the online play with it? Do you wish that it had the life mode? Thats almost all I play on the ps3, if it was on the psp it would be much better IMO.
 
# 9 shadowpuppet @ 10/27/08 05:53 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
im still playing NBA 09 The Inside PSP version...its a lot of fun, even if its a bit arcadey...and its the only basketball game with online on psp this year as EA dropped the ball wit their live series on psp choosing not to include online
Yeah I like the online play a lot, its nice it has a franchise mode in it as well and the mini games are great on the way to work. its a shame the life isnt included in it because I, much like madcap, play the life constantly for Ps3
 
# 10 maball @ 10/27/08 06:23 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by madcap08
How is the online play with it? Do you wish that it had the life mode? Thats almost all I play on the ps3, if it was on the psp it would be much better IMO.
the online play is actually pretty good, had lag in only one of the games i played but otherwise played pretty smooth.
 
# 11 number10 @ 10/27/08 07:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
the online play is actually pretty good, had lag in only one of the games i played but otherwise played pretty smooth.
I play online and havent noticed to much lag. I know what you mean with lag..lots of sports games online have that I noticed. So far I havent had to many issues. One of the better sporting games online
 
# 12 maball @ 10/27/08 09:09 PM
I just played another game online...i was the blazers losing to the knicks by 2 points!...its nice to see people using other teams than just the celtics or lakers
 
# 13 number10 @ 10/28/08 01:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
I just played another game online...i was the blazers losing to the knicks by 2 points!...its nice to see people using other teams than just the celtics or lakers
Thats good. Im one of those guys that always play w/the Lakers. Well 9/10 times.
I played last night a few times and I noticed I didnt play the Lakers or celtics either.
I went against the Bulls, and 76ers
 
# 14 maball @ 10/28/08 07:23 PM
I played a few 3 point contests and all star skills challenge online before the cavs/celtics game started, so much fun, i love how you dont have to just play a regular nba game online in this..playing the other mini games online is so much fun when you don't have much time..
 
# 15 Sharkfin @ 10/28/08 07:25 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
I just played another game online...i was the blazers losing to the knicks by 2 points!...its nice to see people using other teams than just the celtics or lakers
I play online alot. People are always the celtics. Everyone on the team is good. Ill play with the lakers most of the time just because lots of players online use the celtics.
I like playing with Chicago also.
Has anyone seen any blowouts online??
 
# 16 maball @ 10/28/08 07:50 PM
I got blown out in a game...I was playing against the lakers, the guy had a real good record and beat me bad...

I like to use Miami in this game, I seem to have great success with them.
 
# 17 number10 @ 10/29/08 01:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
I got blown out in a game...I was playing against the lakers, the guy had a real good record and beat me bad...

I like to use Miami in this game, I seem to have great success with them.
Miami seems like they would be a fun team to play with. Wade has got the best of me in a few games ive played them. Who were you when the Lakers blew you out?
I havent had any games that were outside of 10 points or so. Makes it interesting and fun. Down to the wire games!
 
# 18 maball @ 10/29/08 11:52 PM
If i recall I was Portland...

hey the game froze my PSP while i was in an online game..hmm...happened to anyone else?
 
# 19 number10 @ 10/30/08 01:20 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by maball
If i recall I was Portland...

hey the game froze my PSP while i was in an online game..hmm...happened to anyone else?
I hear of this happening now and then w/alot of games online. It happend to me a few times at most but nothing to worry about unless it does it non-stop
 
# 20 Jonny Toe @ 11/21/08 06:36 AM
The game is good on the PSP......Froze did you say???nope...dint happen to me atleast!!!
 

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