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NCAA March Madness 06 Review

Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: October 11, 2005 Also On: PS2 and Xbox

EA Sports served up a pretty disappointing game this year with their NBA basketball title, NBA Live 06. The gameplay was still too fast and as a result it really took away from the simulation experience. However, EA Sports’ college game, NCAA March Madness 06, is one of the best basketball games ever to come from EA Sports. March Madness improves on almost everything that disappointed me about Live, and I had a much better experience with it.

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The focus on the gameplay with MM06 is on the defensive side of the ball. EA Sports implemented the Lockdown Stick, which utilizes the right analog stick in order to press up against opponents and pressure them towards traps or the sidelines. The Lockdown Stick is a very successful addition, as it very often worked for and against me in forcing steals, intercepted passes, and out-of-bounds calls. The opposing defense is no longer a pushover, but then again, neither was I. Also, each team has a Senior Leader that has a pivotal role in terms of momentum and excitement on the court. If your leader is having a good game, the rest of your team will feed off of his success and play much better than usual. Conversely, if your senior leader is slacking, the rest of the team may not do as well. This effect is actually evident on the court, but it is still possible to pull off a win with a slacking senior.

These gameplay changes are just the on-court additions; EA Sports didn’t stop there. The Dynasty Mode is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The first thing I noticed when starting up the mode is that the interface is easily the most attractive so far, with videos going in the background and simple, easy-to-read menus. Next, I noticed that for the first time, I cared about coaching options like recruiting and training. I also noticed, and perhaps this isn’t the first time they’ve done this, that the Campus Challenge points actually serve a purpose. With accumulated points, it is now possible to buy special coaches like rebounding coaches, conditioning coaches, and shooting coaches that will boost stats and therefore enhance the on-court performance of players. I really like what EA Sports did here, because almost everything in the Dynasty Mode’s menus directly influence the on-court gameplay, making the simulation much more impressive.

Overall, the gameplay itself is pulled off well and EA Sports did a great job on the superficial aspects to boot. Based off of the Xbox version, the graphics are more impressive than before. The character models are slightly better, the arenas are more detailed, and the student section of each stadium is now animated for when the game gets really exciting. Also, taking from the NCAA Football franchise, each arena now has a pulse that will decompose the away team and cause them to have limited success.

As far as the audio, Dick Vitale is still an annoying nuisance to my ears but there are finally some new lines. The arena pulse makes for really loud crowds as well. In the end, though, my favorite technical aspect as a whole is the menu soundtrack. EA Sports called in the Georgia State band to play classic songs rather than throwing in a bunch of rap and rock songs like they did in Live 06 and Madden 06.

NCAA March Madness 06 has great gameplay, improved graphics, and as much replay value you could ever get out of a college basketball game. It’s easily the best in the series and the improvements that have been made fit the game well. The only thing I can ask of EA Sports is to continue improving on the graphics engine for the next-generation consoles.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.6
Written by Cliff Review Guide