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NBA 10 The Inside: Pass. Steal. Conquer.

Sony's NBA franchise has made a lot of progress since it was first released alongside the PSP at launch. The first few years were shaky, but then it magically "found itself," arguably becoming the best sports game available on the system.

While NBA 10 The Inside delivers a fantastic slate of core modes like Season and Exhibition, the additional play modes are what make NBA 10 such a fun portable title. All of the play modes from previous years are back, including the mini-game collection, Carnival, and the basketball-themed Pinball game. The biggest addition is the expanded Quest Mode, which now includes three additional games.

All three are variations on Conquest's Risk-style strategy setup. You select an NBA team and attempt to take over each division by challenging other cities. Depending on which of the five Quest Modes you choose, you'll have to play other teams in order to take their territory. With Dodgequest, you'll face off against NBA players in a game of dodgeball. As odd as the concept sounds, games of dodgeball are every bit as challenging and enjoyable as actual basketball games. Okay... so I may be stretching things just a bit, but the mode is really well done.

In Give&GoQuest, you'll play a more "traditional" game of basketball, but with a specialized set of rules. The focus during games is on passing and stealing the ball. Each time you pass the ball, a score multiplier builds up by one. If you can make a shot, you'll earn points times the multiplier. If, however, you manage to steal the ball from an opponent, you'll keep whatever multiplier they built up, giving you a chance for a free point boost. The trick is keeping an eye on the shot clock, which is where the strategy element comes into play. Between games, you'll earn stars you can then use to upgrade your cities. Cities can have up to four stars; 2 or 3 will net you a starting multiplier, while 4 will reduce your opponent's shot clock by a second or two.

Finally there's MiniQuest, a mixture of the other four modes. The challenge or be challenged rules still apply, though the city receiving the challenge gets to choose which of the four play styles is used.

Regardless of Quest style, the strategic elements remain the same. In addition to upgrading cities with stars, you can upgrade your player's abilities. If you manage to capture a city, you'll also need to decide which player to steal. As always, there's a catch. When you add a player to your roster, you must also give one up. Early on, this isn't an issue since you'll always have one or two lower-tiered players. Later in the game, things get more interesting when you have an all-star line-up. Though possible, the scenario doesn't happen often. The A.I. is much smarter than previous years. I found one or two "tricks," though even these weren't guaranteed wins.

If anything else, Sony's San Diego Studio has a handle on portable play. Come for the Season, but stay for the extras. Look for a full review in October.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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