The NBA Live series has produced basketball's proverbial "game to beat" since the days of the SNES and Genesis. While the 32-bit offerings have been good, they haven't really captured the fun of the old 16-bit versions. NBA Live 99 is a ton of fun and has enough options to ensure that players of all skill levels will be able to play proficiently.
Like previous Lives, you can customize just about every feature, right down to which fouls get called and which are ignored. So you can make the game as complex as the real thing or strip it down to the basics and play it like a five-on-five version of NBA Jam. Aside from the usual exhibition, season, and play-off games, there is also a three-point shooting contest, reminiscent of the one found in EA's classic Jordan vs. Bird: One on One. On the managerial side, you can trade and release players, making them free agents, to build your own superteam. You can also create players at will to place on your modified teams.
The gameplay is standard for the genre. You can play it with two or three buttons, but every single button on the controller does something. So if you want to pull off advanced maneuvers, they're reasonably easy to execute. Icon passing and defensive-player selection are in the game, and you can call different offensive and defensive sets. You can, of course, leave the play calling to the computer if you wish. The AI of your teammates is pretty good. They'll shuffle around the court in an attempt to get open, and they'll defend the basket pretty well, though they aren't aggressive enough to get many steals. The opposing team AI ranges from moronic (rookie) to "just set the controller down, because you don't have a chance" (superstar).
The graphics in Live are good, and the animation is nice and smooth. In replays you can see the players' faces really well, including their changing expressions. The game's frame rate is also very solid. Sound-wise, Live is great, and the commentary is well timed and frequent.
NBA Live 99 has enough options and tweaks to allow anyone to play it. New players can pick it up, learn a couple of buttons, and do reasonably well against the computer, while longtime fans of Live can pick this one up and fall right into their old ways. The NBA season may still be in jeopardy, but Live is open for business and always ready for a game.