Review: NBA Live 09 All-Play (Nintendo Wii)

NBA Live 09: All-Play
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: EA Canada
Genre: Sports – Basketball
Release Date: 10/7/2008

Sports and the Wii, it started out so promising, didn’t it? The Big N’s first release Wii Sports was an outstanding introduction to the unique new system, and provided more than a glimmer of hope to sports gamers everywhere that the way we were going to play the genre was about to change forever. In many ways, it has changed. The Wii has tons of unique concepts, but the more “traditional” sports games that can be seen on other consoles have had a hard time catching up with the unique controls, and the gameplay has suffered because of the transition.

Enter All-Play EA Sports’s way to push its traditional powerhouse games on a new, casual audience on the Wii. It promotes that gamers can simply pick up and play, no complicated control tutorials necessary. While it seems like a good idea, in theory at least, unfortunately NBA Live 09 has a lot of work to do before you’re going to want to gather up your friends and “All-Play.”

The controls are extremely simple to learn, a simple flick of the wrist handles the shooting, while passing and moving around are a matter of pressing “A” and moving the analog stick on the nunchuk, respectively. That’s all you really need to know to get into the action – getting a solid gameplay experience is a completely different story.

My biggest complaint is that its practically impossible to rebound the basketball. More shots make than miss, thanks to the easy settings, but when the ball actually bounces off the rim, it’s a total crapshoot as to where the ball is headed – it might even roll right between two of your players, and although you’re standing right in front of the ball, it’ll just keep rolling right on by, out of bounds, down the court, wherever it feels like going. It’s a glitch that seems to happen all the time, and it breaks up any slight chance of feeling like you’re playing an actual game of basketball!

If the gameplay doesn’t remind you that you’re attempting play basketball – the graphics won’t help either. The visuals are surprisingly lagging in practically all areas. From the moment you turn the game on, you’re greeted with an ugly light blue background and old-school looking basketball hoops to shuffle through your settings. It reminds me of a Super Nintendo game in the pre-game presentation, and the graphics for the actual action on the court also feel like a throwback to the PSX-era.

We’re spoiled in the HD era, and we’ve come to expect certain things, and while I understand the idea and philosophy behind “All-Play” I can’t understand how the graphics had to suffer so much. I’ve played some good looking Wii games, and I just KNOW this game can look better than this! I’m a long time EA Sports fan, and they’ve always been on the cutting edge in graphics and presentation, and to see this is just disappointing. My only hope is that the focus was on attempting to implement “All-Play” and not worrying about the graphics because the potential really is there, it just needs a lot of work heading in to next season.

The good news is that the audio is closer to the standards of its other counterparts on the 360 and PS3. The commentary team led by legendary announcer Marv Albert sounds good, and while it might not be as detailed on certain players as other systems, it at least sounds like a next-gen basketball title. The in-game music is cut down, but not bad either. The whistles and crowd action are also there and overall the experience is just fine in this area, where the others lack, this at least keeps up.

If you’re looking for a deep basketball game, forget it. There are no dynasty modes, no create-a-players, and not much else to be found. The new addition this year is two-on-two, but its appeal is lacking unless you and three other friends feel like controlling all the action, but again, that has nothing to do with adding depth to the single-player experience. A slam dunk, 3 point contest, and other “quickie” side-modes are around but the fact of the matter is you can do all this stuff pretty simply by just playing an actual 5-on-5 game, the controls are so simple you can dunk or shoot 3s all day long in an actual game!

It does have an online mode, its simple but it does have rankings if you feel like getting in the action to work your way to the top of the leaderboard. It does not have the deep multiplayer options or the “Made Fresh Daily” features you see on the other versions. The Wii version is all about the “All-Play” and really nothing more.

Believe it or not, I do think there is an audience for this version of Live. Nintendo Wii’s have been scooped up by everyone, including families of extremely casual gamers. If I was a kid, around 7-13 years old and all I had was a Nintendo Wii, and was an NBA fan, I could see some value here. Its very easy to play, despite all of its flaws, and to a not-so-picky, younger audience that doesn’t know any better could have some fun with this, especially given its lack of competition on the Wii.

For the rest of us, there are better options out there this season. I also own the Xbox 360 version of Live, and while I won’t go into details here since this review is a “Wii Exclusive” – let’s just say there is fun to be had on this game’s sister editions.

The Scores
Modes: Poor
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Mediocre


Short Attention Span Summary
The All-Play concept is the right idea to give the EA Sports franchise a unique feel on the Wii, but right now it just simply isn’t ready. The presentation and graphics need attention, and the mechanics need a lot of tuning up, but maybe with another year under its belt next season, maybe All-Play will make the strides to give Wii owners a legit NBA experience. For now, check out versions on another console, or wait “Ëœtil next year!



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