We had an opportunity to go hands-on with a copy of NBA Live 06 for the PSP at a recent Electronic Arts press event. One of the nice things about the portable version of the game is that the developer has taken steps to include the same major feature addition that's being included in the console and PC versions of the game: freestyle superstar.
For those who haven't been following the development of NBA Live 06, freestyle superstar is EA's attempt at getting the game's superstars to play more like the dominant players that they are. To do that, the developer has labeled certain stars with specific tags, such as "playmaker" for slick point guards like Steve Nash, "high-flyer" for dunk artists like Jason Richardson, "scorer," and "power." Each of these freestyle superstars has eight special moves at his disposal, relating to his unique skills. These are accessed by holding down the L button and then pressing one of the four face buttons. A tap will yield a different result than holding the face button down, resulting in eight different animations. So a playmaker like Nash would be able to unleash eight fancy passes, while a power superstar like Shaq would have eight different power dunks at his disposal. It's worth noting that two of the superstar classes from the console versions of the game didn't make it into the PSP version of NBA Live 06. So unfortunately, you won't get to take Kyle Korver's sharpshooting skills with you on the road.
We also got a chance to try out some of the NBA All-Star weekend, which was one of the primary features in NBA Live 2005 and has made it into the first PSP version of the game. The rookie challenge and East-West All-Star game are intact, as is the three-point shoot-out, which makes much more sense as a fun minigame on a portable platform like the PSP than it did on home consoles last year. The Slam Dunk Contest is also available, and it seems as though the mode has been tweaked some to make it easier than it was in NBA Live 2005. It feels somewhat less frustrating to get the timing down on gathers, takeoffs, and slams than before. Ernie Johnson and Kenny "The Jet" Smith handle commentary during the All-Star weekend festivities and offer up some really funny quips, especially if you throw down a weak dunk.
The last major feature in NBA Live 06 for the PSP is superstar challenge, which is also an exclusive feature. In this mode, you'll take control of a team in the middle of a game. All the scenarios are taken from actual NBA games from the past year. So you may find yourself in control of the Miami Heat against the Phoenix Suns in the fourth quarter of a tight ballgame as you try to not only win, but also get Dwyane Wade to score 10 more points in the last three minutes. Or perhaps you take control of Shaq in the infamous Christmas Day 2004 reunion against Kobe Bryant's Lakers. As you successfully complete five tiers of challenges, you can earn medals to unlock retro jerseys and vintage all-star teams of the '60s, '70s, and '80s.
Rounding out the list of features to look forward to in NBA Live 06 are head-to-head wireless multiplayer in both ad hoc and infrastructure modes (so you can play your friends across the country), and a full-season mode that lets you manage a team in a single year as it strives for a championship. NBA Live 06 for the PSP is currently slated to ship this fall. Stay tuned to GameSpot Sports for more information as it arrives.