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NBA 09 combines EA strong basket balling franchise with their solid controls on the Wii. We see this more clearly than ever with the family friendly controls that, along with FIFA 09 Wii, Madden 09 Wii and Tiger Woods 09 Wii, complete the All Play set for 09.
Sports games recreate a wide variety of real life competitive activities. Depending on the sport, these will either have an action or strategy focus. Popular sports games are often released on an annual basis, each year the game receives new player rosters and game improvements.
NBA 09 takes last year's game and enhances the Wii controls. The All Play feature enables up to four players of all ages and abilities to play together. Beginners and the young can use just the Wii-mote to control shots, charges and blocks, whilst the computer dictates the movement of their players. Intermediates can keep the Nun-chuck plugged in, and take advantage of a reduced set of moves. Experts can then use the whole gamete of gestures and plays through the nuanced gesture controls.
All levels of control offer a point-and-pass system that makes it a lot easier to pick out the required team mate. Although this is a welcome addition it is not as effective on a crowded court as it was in the wide open spaces of FIFA's football pitches. Those that want more precise control, or who possibly don't get on with the sometimes-fiddley Wii-mote pointing can opt for a simple D-pad button based pass mechanic.
The game offers a slightly expanded set of modes to last year. Making a strong showing are the 5 on 5 and 2 on 2 modes that will remind many of the days of NBA Jam in the arcades. Each mode enables you to select from a full roster of real world players, that those who follow basketball closely will appreciated.
A number of party games provide a good way to introduce new players to the basics of Basketball. They also function as amusing after dinner entertainment. The only notable absence is the ability to play as your Mii, a feature that has popularly appeared in both FIFA 09 Wii and Madden 09 Wii.
Basketball, as American football, is a physical game. Something about the physics of shooting a basket lends itself to gesture controls. This throwing experience is a real draw for NBA 09 on Wii, and will stay with players at the end of a session.
Coming to the game as a Basketball virgin, apart from dabbling in some old arcade games, I was impressed that NBA 09 soon had me locked into the finer points of game and shot clocks, tactical plays, lay off's, dunks and making penalties count. Along with this the experience of using gestures to jump and throw the basketball connected me to the action. At the end of the session I'd learnt a lot, but more than this, I had the feeling of having physically played basketball.
The game provides an array of play modes that can fit into a spare twenty minutes (if you include loading and setting up time) to longer session of an hour or two. Those wanting to progress in the main career oriented mode will need to invest longer to raise their skill level, and simply play through the number of games in a season.
Even super young or beginner players should have no problem taking part in a game of NBA 09. Admittedly this is at the price of a degree of control. The All Play scheme has the players influencing rather than dictating moves - but it is a compromise that works well.
Those a little older and intermediate experience will find plenty to stretch their experience. Plug in a Nun-chuck and you can take direct control of your team. Engage with the expanded range of Wii-mote gestures and you have an arsenal of options to be drawn upon.
Provided expert players are happy to compromise on visual fidelity (the Wii simply can't visually impress like the 360 or PS3), there is a solid basketball game here for the learning. The fact that experts and novices can team up on the same court - each using appropriate controls - should compensate for any other shortfall.
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