NBA Ballers: Rebound represents things we love and hate about the PSP catalogue. On one hand, it's a thin repackaging of the original PS2 NBA Ballers title, with little more than updated rosters to distinguish it. On the other hand, it's a super-playable port. These short 1-on-1 roundball competitions are almost more suited for a portable system. If the PSP hardware didn't lead to fewer control options, Rebound would be a slam dunk.
Though changes are in effect, the core game is identical to the console releases. Play 1-on-1 against the league's best. Slam dunks are priority, but there are buttery lay-ups and alley-oops as well. Juke to make your opponent look like an idiot, and impress the local crowd with combos to get a momentum boost. The graphics are impressive, with very recognizable faces, excellent and varied animations, and a smooth frame rate. The in-game audio is just as good, with a fantastic suite of sound effects and just enough commentary to keep the game live.
The meat of the game is the Rags-2-Riches mode, which attempts to simulate a reality TV show where a no-name baller makes his name on courts against NBA stars. In truth, it's just another ladder tournament with unlockable skills, items and so forth. But the framework is a good one, especially since the character creator is solid and the increasingly difficult tournament events will challenge most players.
The primary problem with Rebound, especially if you're migrating from the PS2 version, is the reduced control set of the PSP. Without a second analog stick, your juke selection is limited to a random sampling of moves; the same 30 jukes are still possible, but there's no control over which will occur when you actually tap the button. Repetition can set in fast. The basic controls are rock solid; the details just aren't as flexible as before.
And due to the reduced storage space of the UMD disc, there's also not as much stuff to unlock. (We'll also blame the UMD at least partially for the excruciating load times.) New players will never notice, but we'd have preferred Midway to lose some of the music (who keeps streaming music turned on in PSP games, anyway?) and keep all the unlockables. The two PSP exclusive courts and new modes like Dunk Fest almost make up for them, but not quite. The game is about bling, after all.
Midway's nailed 75% of the requirements for a great port with Rebound; new content and a less annoying consolidation of controls would have put it over the top. Even so, the basic mechanics are fun and super smooth, and the ad-hoc multiplayer matches are exactly the sort of fast competition the PSP was born to serve. For the time being, we'd rather play Ballers than EA's NBA Street, and that's really all you need to know.