MLB Power Pros 2008ESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer – Konami
Publisher – 2K Sports
895 KB – Memory Card for PS2
Just past the halfway point of the MLB season, 2K Sports and Konami deliver MLB Power Pros 2008 for the PS2 and Nintendo Wii. I was given the task of reviewing the PS2 version. Although the MLB Power Pros franchise is relatively new to North American gamers, the series has been around for years as it is part of the traditionally Japan-only ‘Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū’ series of video games. Last years debut, MLB Power Pros, was well received garnering positive reviews and generally favourable feedback from baseball gamers abroad. Having never played the game or even remotely familiar with the series I was very curious to see what all the hoopla was about. The biggest question on my mind: Does MLB Power Pros 2008 live up to some of those great MLB games published by Sony and 2K Sports? Let’s find out shall we.
Visually, MLB Power Pros 2008 is not a bad looking game, but it isn’t great either. While playing I could not help but wonder how it would look in high definition, but unfortunately it is not available on any of the more powerful next-generation consoles. Overall the game on the PS2 is very colorful and vibrant. From the games menus to the players and crowd, MLB Power Pros 2008 has eye popping colors and is a clean looking game. That being said I did have some concerns.
For starters, the players lack any real detail. Although I acknowledge this was done intentionally and many fans of the franchise absolutely love those cartoonish/avatar-like characters. However, no legs and circles for hands? It seems really odd to me and I don’t see the attraction that so many others apparently see. The players remind me of Mii’s that you’d find on the Nintendo Wii. They do give the game that arcade feel and as my wife would say “oh they look so cute”, but is this really an arcade game?
You can recognize some of the players as they manage to have some very unique features of those they are portraying in the game. Manny Ramirez’ character has long braided hair and Chase Utley has his trademark sideburns. However for the most part the only way to tell one player from another is the games announcer or the player’s name displayed on the bottom left hand corner of the screen when he is up to bat. The players move fluidly and smoothly but to be quite honest the players just do not cut it for me, but this is a personal preference.
The crowds and stadiums were another disappointment to me. Although, the stadiums do look similar to their big league counter parts, do not expect much in the way of detail. In MLB Power Pros 2008 you just get the basics and that includes the fans as well. The developers gave the fans some variety in terms of colors however they all move, react and look the same. Unfortunately, MLB Power Pros 2008 barely holds a candle to such games as 2K Sports The Bigs and Major League Baseball 2K8 in terms of the stadiums and crowds.
As far as the sound is concerned, MLB Power Pros 2008 is satisfactory however there are some concerns which left me a little disappointed. After having been thoroughly impressed with MLB 2K7 and 2K8’s audio, MLB Power Pros 2008 doesn’t deliver on the same level. The commentary for one is simply boring and un-entertaining. Granted, it’s pretty hard to live up to the work of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on MLB 2K. Nevertheless, the commentary in MLB Power Pros 2008 gets old and repetitive in a hurry.
The in-game music and soundtrack is also very uninspiring and forgettable. Unlike other 2K baseball offerings which feature recognizable recording artists, MLB Power Pros 2008 has none. Instead, you just get dated sounds and dated arcade music. At the end of the day the music is forgettable and similar to the visuals we have just heard so much better as we move closer to the year 2010.
On the flip side, the sound effects and in-game baseball effects in MLB Power Pros 2008 is remarkably good. The sound of bashing a ball or sliding into third sounds great in 5.1 Surround. The fans also sound realistic albeit generic and the umpire's voices when calling a foul ball for instance is very clear.
Overall, the gameplay in MLB Power Pros 2008 did take some time to warm up to, but by the end of the third game I was having a blast. Bottomline, MLB Power Pros 2008 is lots of fun and I can see how this has become such a big hit overseas. The first thing which caught me off-guard when I fired up the game is the fact MLB Power Pros 2008 has incredible depth. I could easily bore you to death or write a novel outlining all the games modes and features. But I will save you from the pain. Simply put, MLB Power Pros 2008 scores full points for features and depth but I do question whether the series will take off in North America.
The biggest problem as I see it is that MLB Power Pros 2008 suffers from an identity crisis. On the surface the game wants to be an arcade game and accessible to casual gamers but yet it has all the features and modes we would typically see in a baseball simulation game. True baseball simulation gamers likely won’t care for those cute and cuddly characters preferring a more realistic approach; while others may find all the modes, stats and options in the game simply too overwhelming. MLB Power Pros 2008 is attempting to appeal to a wide audience but in doing so it is unintentionally isolating an even wider audience.
MLB Power Pros 2008 features over ten different game modes. For those that have played baseball games in the past you will be familiar with modes such as Practice, Exhibition, League, and Home Run Challenge. All are very much self-explanatory and modes we have seen time and time again in other baseball games. One the great little aspects of the game is the ability to act as a general manager and control the destiny of your own franchise in Season mode. I only played about a couple of months into the Season mode and I could not believe how deep this mode truly is. You can do everything from trades, contract negotiations, free agent signing. Virtually anything you can do in the big leagues is at your disposal in MLB Power Pros 2008. Heck, you can even purchase new equipment. MLB Power Pros 2008 also offers some role playing story modes such as Success and MLB Life. It is downright overwhelming and I really question whether this was all necessary. Then again, many hardcore baseball enthusiasts will most likely love all the depth.
One of my favourite modes in MLB Power Pros 2008 is the Success mode where you can participate in a story-based career of rising players in the Double-A Minor League system. Your goal is to improve their baseball skills and make an impression on baseball scouts while also having to balance various situations in their personal lives. The game offers a variety of amusing training and game challenges. When you complete Success mode, you can also take your created player into the MLB Life mode as well. But it does not stop there as you can play as either an existing Major League Baseball player in Dream Mode, or start as a rookie in Major League Career mode.
New to 2008 is the aforementioned MLB Life mode which is another story-based mode that allows gamers to simulate the life and experience of being a Major League Baseball player over the course of a 20-year career. If you only had one game to play for the next year you could probably spend countless hours playing through all the MLB Power Pros 2008 modes.
The controls are relatively easy to pick up however I did need to refer to my instruction manual on several occasions. By the way, the instruction manual is impressive as well and it really is one of the better manuals that I have seen in quite some time. Ok, back to the controls. Hitting and pitching are quite straight forward. Playing defence and base running however can be an absolute ‘gong show’. On easy/novice difficulty everything is a breeze and the AI takes care of the fielders for you. In fact, the AI will even pull your pitcher when they feel the time is right. Things get a little trickier once you bump up the difficulty though. Controlling the defence is difficult mainly because it is tricky to gauge the player's depth and their abilities on the field. What looks like a routine fly ball turns into a double as the awkward looking players don’t run as fast as they should or react as baseball players should. Also, whenever they make a catch it looks like they are holding the glove underhanded and the throws often look like they are thrown underhanded as well.
A final drawback is the lack of multiplayer modes. In fact I could have done without three of the regular modes and had them replaced with a solid multiplayer mode. Going head to head with a buddy online would have been phenomenal. Sadly, no online multiplayer component is offered.
Continue to Page 2