NBA 10 The Inside

In the Portable Paint

Sony's NBA franchise has gone exclusively handheld. We take a peek at the latest PSP outing.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 16, 2009
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It's been an interesting road for Sony's sports game division. What began as a genuine contender and in some cases a better bit of competition for EA Sports saw a rather precipitous drop in the quality and regularity of releases heading into the end of the original PS one and the start of the PlayStation 2. Just a few years into the PS2's life, and football games had gone kaput (which may have been a good thing considering their weird trip into trying to make a kind of NFL RPG/fighting game hybrid), hockey was standing only on the strength of Gretzky's name and soccer was had taken a back seat to the power of the almighty Pro Evo series.

Today, Sony concentrates on replicating just two sports: baseball and basketball. In some respects, it's been a wise move; rather than trying to tackle everything, they've stuck to what they do best. The Show has emerged as the hands-down best baseball game on the market year after year (it was actually the best rated sports game period this year), and SCE San Diego's take on basketball... well, that hasn't been quite as good. Despite an interesting, RPG-like take on an up-and-coming career rookie-turned superstar in The Life, the console versions of NBA have struggled to stay relevant amid bigger competition from both 2K Sports and EA Sports' offerings.

There's a bright spot to all this, though. Sony's need to differentiate the three different versions of the series often meant just a single bullet point for each of them; the PS2 one (up until last year) was the only place to get the RPG/story bits of The Life, the PS3 one ran at 60 frames a second and 1080p resolution, and the PSP was gifted with a handful of increasingly addictive basketball-themed mini-games. While the console games slowly melded into one, the PSP ended up gaining some seriously entertaining side modes to distract from the normal game of roundball (which, for all the technical or narrative bonuses, was widely considered to be the weakest part of the series).

With the 2010 release of the game, though, Sony has apparently seen the light; gone are the console versions, and in their place is an absolutely packed-to-the-gills version of portable hoops that we've been spending the past few weeks with. Curious what we think of things? Read on, friends.

Before we dig into the typically awesome mini-games, we should probably give you a quick heads-up on the vanilla roundball found in NBA 10, given that it's the only way you're going to be getting the Sony-flavored take on things this year. Exhibition Mode carries with it the usual one-off games (though there's also a Quick Play option on the main menu) plus the ability to set up a new ladder that lets you work your way up a progressive series of teams rather than doing a full season or a truncated one in Playoffs Mode. You can get that full season (and more) in the Franchise Mode, of course, setting all the usual difficulty, injury, foul and length options, as well as Free Throw and Shootaround Practice Modes if that's your bag. The usual All-Star Weekend options like the PlayStation Skills Challenge, 3 Point Shootout and an actual All-Star Game, naturally, are all included.

The game itself plays pretty much like last year's entry, which is to say it's fairly serviceable, but the speed, sense of momentum and overall animation leaves a bit to be desired at this point. One thing to note: SCE San Diego poured a ton of in-game trophies into this year's entry (not Trophies with a capital T, we're talking purely NBA 10-only rewards here, though the icon is definitely similar). Awarded for doing everything from just nailing your first three to keeping the opposing team's accuracy down to a low percentage to racking up a hilariously huge 186 points, the trophies seem to follow the same bronze/silver/gold grades as their more over-arching PS3 cousins, so there's some interesting stuff in place, we just can't say the same yet about the actual game of basketball.
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