One of the things that set NBA 09 above some of the other portable basketball titles is the amount of extra content that is provided. Sure you have all the normal modes and player extras that you would normally find in a NBA game, but San Diego studios went the extra mile by adding other wonderful fillers that makes the game even more enjoyable. Some of the things included were Carnival games like Shooting Bricks (Breakout type game), Big Shooter (Skee Ball), Hot Shot (Arcade Hoops w/ moving backboard), etc…; Team Games like Dodge Ball, Fast Break, Elimation; Quest Games (Conquest, Elimiquest), Solo Games (Horse, Own the Court, Bang the Boards) and even Pinball games (7 of them). All this extra stuff is on top of the regular Exhibition, Playoffs, Franchise and All-Star Weekend modes. I found myself playing more of the bonus casual games, then the regular season games.
The games look decent enough for the small screen. The players move smoothly around the court, but you can tell that the animation is limited, especially when you watch the lay-ups and dunks. The courts are well design and even has some gloss to them. The crowd is nothing special and for a game like this, I wasn’t expecting them to be perfect. Shooting, rebounding, blocking, steal, etc… aren’t as smooth as they could be. Everything looks a bit mechanic in their actions. Players don’t look exactly like their real life counterparts. That’s not surprising. The ball physics is far from perfect, especially once it hits the ground, but it’s not bad above the rim.
The sound effects were done well in this game. From the dribbling, dunking, blocking to the backboard banging and hard fouls, everything is heard on the court. Ian Eagle and Kenny Smith provide the commentary and there is a lot of cool music throughout the game. Most of the music is played while flipping through the menus or during timeouts, but at least it’s not terrible.
Of course the main portion of the game is the Franchise mode, which delivers most of what we expect. You get your full 82 game schedule, trades, performance improvements, on the fly plays, managing your roster, signing free agents and everything else you would normal do in Franchise. One of things that was missing from this game was a create-a-player. I’ve always created an image of myself and added it to every b-ball game, but I couldn’t do it here. Even though you could see your player’s contracts, there wasn’t a way to see your team’s budget. So there were a few things missing from Franchise mode. Exhibition and All-Star Weekend were pretty much what you’d expect. In All-Star weekend, they did include the Skills Challenge and 3Pt Competition, but no Dunk Competition? Why not?!? It upsets me that then added all the extra mini-game stuff, but couldn’t even add a create-a-player option, which is critical. There are a lot of missing things that should be in here. At least we got downloadable rosters, which is a nice extra. I do like the highlighted basketball to help you shoot. What’s interesting is that players who shoot from cold spots or take shots from outside their range will never get a green highlight around the ball. So there is some strategy it terms of where you need to shot to score. What I didn’t like was the ball missing often from within 2 feet of the basket with a center or power forward. The ball should be green at least 70% of the time with the big men down there. I saw a lot of red highlights, even when no one was guarding me. It didn’t happen all the time, but hopefully they’ll fix this for the next game.
Overall NBA 09 is worth a look. I still enjoyed the game and all the extras will definitely keep you playing all night. The next NBA game should have everything in it. They can leave out some of the mini-game stuff, like the 7 pinball games and bring back create-a-player and a Dunk Competition. They are heading in the right direction with this game. I look forward to NBA 10 next year.