May 1

Written by: Thryon
5/1/2009 1:23 AM  RssIcon

Box Art
52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 17
NCAA Basketball 09
Release Date: November 17, 2008
Developer: EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Prior weeks I have many sports games such as soccer, baseball and hockey, all developed right here in Canada. This week it is time to tackle some basketball.

While I do enjoy following the ups and downs (mainly downs) of the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies (when they existed), I am simply not a basketball fan. I do have a great understanding of the rules of the game, but I fail to understand the logic behind the game. You are supposed to stop the opponent from scoring, but you cannot touch him. What kind of logic is that? Basketball players end up doing a crab dance in front of the shooter hoping to distract them long enough to make them miss or steal the ball. Why not simply allow players to body check the ball carrier into next week. It would bring the score down, and the excitement level up (but that is just my opinion). So as you may have figured, I am not looking for a ultra-realistic basketball game, just one that is fun (I loved the old NBA Jam arcade game).

Graphically the game looks great. This is not surprising as it shares the same game engine as the NBA Live series, but this is a double edge sword as it also shares some of it’s drawbacks. The players animations are still a bit jerky and at times totally unrealistic, mostly if the way players can change direction on a dime without being carried by momentum. Collision detection has improved over past outing, but still needs plenty of tweaking. I have seen occasions where the ball clearly hit the rim of the basket, just to proceed through it and into the basket for 2 points.
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Sound quality is not something that is talked about much anymore in games, as all games do tend to have great sound quality, but NCAA Basketball 09 appears to have lowered the bar with this game. All sounds are generic and bland. Where is the rule that says that college sports games require the same boring marching band music all the time? Heck when watching some University football at Mount Allison, they were cranking some Ozzy on the speakers. OK, I will accept that in the US, there is a rule that indicates that they must play marching band music during games, but why torture us with it during the menus? Also it appears that EA replace the college crowds with some bridge club. College crowds are renowned to be quite fanatical chanting loudly even while their team is losing. The crowds in this game are tame and will only cheer when their preferred style of game is being played, indifferent of the actual score. If fact this tame bridge loving crowd do play an important part of the game. If they enjoy your style of game play, they will cheer which will impove your tempo meter, and your players skills, but if you play a style of game the crowd does not like, be prepared to suffer with a loss of skills. So if you prefer to play a quick run and gun game with a school whose fans prefer a more conservative approach, be prepared to suffer the wrath of a low tempo meter, even if you are winning. Now I know basketball is not hockey, but fans are fans and they will always cheer a winning team.

The games borrows much of it's controls from NBA Live as well as they two play almost identical with a few exceptions. There is no timming required when making an attempt for a basket. Pressing the B or X button quickly or holding them down will result in the exact same shot, with the exact same chances of making a basket. The other big change is in free throws. To make a free throw, you need only hold down the B button while a power bar just above the basket moves from left to right passing through a small green "good" zone. Release the button while in the good zone and you will score a basket.
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The game offers the regular play options such as the ability to enjoy a quick game, a tournament or to play a dynasty (30 seasons). All fine options for game that came out in 2007. Where are the online team play or online leagues? Why was the “Be a Pro” mode not implemented? Would it not have been great if you could create a player that improved in stats moving up the ranks to finally gets drafted by an NBA team. The game would actually end here, but his career would not as you could then import him over to the NBA Live “Be a Pro” mode and continue his career. That would absolutely rock (again in my opinion).

NCAA Basketball 09 feels like a budget title released as a full priced game. The developers must save a small fortune by not having to pay royalties to musicians for the rights to include their song in the game or by not having to pay unions fees to allow them to include the likeness or the names of actual professional basketball players. Why have these cost savings not been passed on to the consumer?

Unfortunately I did not find NCAA Basketball 09 to be very fun. Maybe it's a little to authentic (I have a basketball friend that would strongly disagree to that statement) for my taste, but when I get the urge to play a basketball game, I will keep reaching for the NBA 2K series every time. The best thing I can say about NCAA Basketball 09 is that the achievements are quite easy to obtain so it will be appealing to achievement junkies everywhere.
--Brian Wray

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