Review: MLB Power Pros 2008 (Nintendo Wii)

MLB Power Pros 2008
Developer: Konami
Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 7/30/2008

Last year I raved about the very under the radar title known as MLB Power Pros. Most American Baseball gamers turned a blind eye to it, at least at first, because of the wonky super deformed graphics.

Oh my, how things have changed in a year. Now that people have actually played the game, Americans have come to realize why MLB Power Pros under its Japanese title of “Live Powerful Pro Baseball” is not only the most popular baseball series in Japan, but arguably the best baseball series since SNK’s Baseball Stars. Americans saw the amazingly deep game play, a level of stat tracking that had never been done before and also included an RPG Mode.

The game sold well through second hand buzz and now it’s back for a second year with a SECOND RPG mode on top of the first and the same amazing engine with nearly perfect physics the series is known for. However 2008 also brought us a vastly improved version of MLB: THE Show ’08. Can MLB Power Pros prove itself to be the best baseball game on the market for the second year in a row, or has Sony learned from last year’s mistakes?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

Power Pros 2k8 has the best selection of modes I’ve ever seen in a Baseball game. I could write pages on just the various modes. Instead I’ll try to give merely a brief synopsis of them all.

“¢ Exhibition Mode. Pretty cut and dry. Just a quick simple ball game between two teams
“¢ Success Mode. This is the first RPG Mode. You create a character and take him through AA to AAA and hopefully to MLB itself. Each week you’ll be able to take several actions ranging from increasing your characters stat, impressing coaches and scouts, wooing one of several young ladies, making new friends, and of course, playing in baseball games. There are no full baseball games in this mode as it is just your character, but you do bat for your character when games are played. You have one year to go from AA to AAA and another year to go from AAA to MLB, so the time frame is quite short, and it can be challenging to get your character to where you need them to be the first few times you play. Still, it’s amazingly deep and it’s neat to watch your character grow in power and abilities.
“¢ Season Mode. Pick a team and play a full season as them. You can also play as a team you created.
“¢ MLB Life. Here you play as a single character and it’s a much more expanded version of success mode. You play with your character for ten years, or less if you want to retire sooner. You manage your skills, relationships, home, purchases, travel arrangements, EVERYTHING. You can even star in commercials and turns your fans into a raving cult that will refuse to let you be traded or fired!
“¢ Home Run Derby. This is pretty self-explanatory.
“¢ League. Created a league of 2-6 teams. It’s like a mini-season mode.
“¢ Practice. Practice fielding, hitting, pitching, etc.
“¢ Shop. Buy baseball cards, new outfits for professional teams, and even new stances, pitches and styles you create in MLB Life or Success Mode.
“¢ Arrange. Create your own team using a real MLB team as the base.
“¢ Wiimote Exhibition. Play a full baseball game using PP characters or your Miis with Wii Sports Baseball controls.
“¢ Wiimote Homerun Derby. See above.
“¢ My Data. You can edit any player in the game here.

As you call tell, the game is arguably the deepest MLB game ever and offers modes you can’t find outside this series. You could honestly play this game for months and still have not hit everything possible in the game. Compare this to the pretty broken MLB 2k8 also by 2K Sports whose Wii version is missing a bunch of stuff compared to the 360 and PS3 versions, and there’s no reason for any Baseball loving Wii fan to not pick this up.

Modes Rating: Unparalleled

2. Graphics

on your own personal thoughts about super-deformed characters, you will either find this game’s graphics repulsive or adorable. Either way though, the graphics would be considered good back in the days of the N64 or PSX. In 2008, the game is pretty ugly, and this is coming from someone who loves the series.

Characters are pretty nondescript and lack any real detail outside of the anime characters you encounter in the RPG mode. The in-game graphics have nice stadiums, but that’s about it. There are jaggies and poorly rendered baseball players whose lack of facial features and character designs that make Miis look impressive will no doubt turn off the far too serious for their own good gamer who wants their baseball players to look realistic.

More’s the pity for those gamers however, because as we’ll see later on, it’s the engine and it’s respective physics that matter for a baseball game, not the graphics.

Graphics Rating: Bad

3. Sound Rating

Thumbs in the middle here. There’s not a lot of sound here. There’s your typical generic announcer. I have nothing good or bad to say about him. He’s just a commentator that neither adds nor detracts to the game.

Music is sparse, and generally appears outside of the game or in instant replays. Again they’re generic background tracks that simply give you something to listen to while you’re reading stats or looking over results.

Sound effects are quite nice. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a bat break for the first time thanks to my created player BIG VAN VADER.

There’s not a lot to say in terms of sound here, simply because it’s a secondary (at best) aspect of the game. You won’t be offended by anything you hear, but there are only a few tracks in the game and sound effects like balls being hit or a big whiff when you strike out.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

Much like Wii Sports, the Wiimote controls are amazingly solid and a bit more in-depth then one would expect. Unlike the Nintendo made game, MLB Power Pros 2008 lasts for a full nine innings, ensuring you’ll be in for a full game, and a nice 30 minute light exercise routine as well. With the wiimote however, the computer handles all fielding.

The game also supports three OTHER control schemes. The first is the Numchuk and Wiimote dual set up, but I strongly dislike this as it feels unnatural for a baseball game. The other two involve the classic controller and the old GameCube controller. Both controllers are amazingly solid and respond perfectly. I suggest choosing one or the other, as switching back and forth will be confusing due to the slightly different button placement and what button does what.

Each controller has two separate control schemes: one that uses the D Pad and less buttons, and one that uses analog sticks and more buttons. Old school gamers will prefer the D pad controls (as I do) but those who like memorizing a ton of buttons will prefer the analog format.

The physics engine is easily the best I’ve ever seen in a real baseball game and it takes so many different things into consideration ranging from pitcher error or a sinker dropping a little more or less than you expected for realism’s sake, or the need to line up a bat just right to ensure you don’t pop or foul out.

Everything you could want in a baseball game is here, from bringing in your defense when it appears a player is going to bunt, to players climbing the walls or diving somewhat into the stands to catch a ball. The game may look cute, but it’s amazingly deep.

RPG game mode is similar to that of Princess Maker. You take your character through a set of choices and earn stats (or lose them!) for each choice you make. Occasionally you’ll hit some balls. It’s very in-depth and although both Success and My Life have the same plot each time you start it up, results can vary dramatically.

If you’ve played most baseball games, then you pretty much know how to play this game. You throw a ball after selecting from a list of pitches for each pitcher while your opponent tries to line up the bat in the proper spot to hit it. Characters have stamina bars and can be injured, which may take them out of the game or for far longer. What you probably haven’t experiences is how the game captures that retro feel of defunct titles like Tommy Lasorda Baseball or R.B.I. and still have an engine that outclasses the other baseball games for not only the Wii, but this entire generation of consoles.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled

5. Replayability

I think we all already know the answer to this. We’re talking about a game that allows you over 100 created characters, more modes than any baseball game before it, and one of the best baseball engines ever made. This is the only baseball game you NEED to buy this year (Although PS3 owners SHOULD by The Show ’08 because it’s engine isn’t as good, but the graphics blow this title away). Considering it’s only $40 or an INSANE $20 on the PS2, you can watch days go buy where you don’t even think about another game. I’ve had the title for a week in my possession and I’ve logged more time with Power Pros 2008 then I would with an RPG in that same amount of time. That alone should tell you something.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

One of the great things about this game is that, no matter how good or bad you are it, you can adjust the game in some many different ways that there will always be a degree of difficulty. You can set the game so you play as both teams, but all you control is hitting for example. This is a great way to practice hitting. Same with pitching or fielding. You can mix and match the controls and difficulty in any way you imagine.

As well, the engine is so well designed, you can only blame yourself when you strike out, pop up, or even injure your player. Even if you’re going “That was totally a ball! What the hell was the umpire thinking?”, you are given a strike zone layout after the pitch to see in fact, it WAS a strike. Only once in the many games I’ve played was there ever a call I strongly disagreed with after replay and it was in my favor, so hey, what can you do?

The game even gives you warning signs that a character is going to make an error or is getting tired. You just need to learn and then watch the signs.

Perfect balance within the actual game itself.

The RPG modes are exceptionally solid as well, but there is a bit of a learning curve. You’ll eventually learn what you need to do to advance, but the first time or two, you’ll probably be a bit clueless as you are learning how to make a character and get noticed. Still, both modes are solid and again, you have only your ignorance or lack of skill to blame in MLB Life or Success Mode.

Balance Rating: Unparalleled

7. Originality

Well the series has been going strong in Japan for a long time, but here in the US, this is only the second game in the series. As well, baseball games have been around as long as gaming has, so it’s hard to call anything about the genre original in this day and age. After all Baseball Stars on the NES had done everything possible for the genre back in the 8 bit era’s and games are still trying to live up to that standard bearer.

However, the two RPG modes? They are both brilliant and entertaining and breathe new life into the genre. I haven’t bothered to buy a baseball game since Sega’s Home Run King, but Power Pros brought me back into the fold by thinking outside of the box in addition to including quality gameplay.

So at least there is SOMETHING original here, but the majority of the game is a carbon copy of what we’ve come to expect from any baseball game on the market for the past FIVE console generations.

Originality Rating: Bad

8. Addictiveness

One of the things I love best about baseball games is they take between 25 and 45 minutes to play, rather than 4 hours for a real life game, plus the pain or parking and leaving the stadium. All the fun, without the eight dollar hot dogs or the awful stadium seating. MLB Power Pros takes it to the next level by letting you edit just about everything, and create things to boot. It’s quite easy to pick up the game and find three and a half hours have passed in what feels like only a few minutes.

Even casual sports gamers or people who don’t even follow modern day baseball (like me!) will have a lot of fun with this game. I made a team of all our DHGF staffers, a team of old WCW wrestlers, a team of Universal Movie Monsters, and a team of Celebrity chefs and then had them all duke it out in league play. You have only your imagination as your inhibitor with this title.
That being said, after a week of the game, I probably won’t pick it up for some time now. I played the hell out of the thing and got my yearly baseball fix. It’ll probably sit on the shelf for a while as I play other games coming out this month like Bangai-O Spirits or Murder in the Abbey. It’s a wonderful game, and other baseball fans like Bowen will be sucked in far more than I was, but for most gamers, it’ll fill that need for a quick fix and then gamers will go on to other things.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

The look of the game will bring in a lot of new people to baseball gaming, but the uppity taking themselves serious crowd who wants realistic graphics and have no sense of humour will be turned off. Those that play will be rewarded with some cute animations in addition to an amazingly deep and highly enjoyable baseball game. It probably won’t sell as well as the inferior MLB 2k8 or the almost but not quite as good The Show ’08, but hopefully with word of mouth, Power Pros 2008 will get the audience it deserves.

Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre

10. Miscellaneous

Although you can’t edit your characters as deeply as you could in the now twenty year old Baseball Stars, MLB Power Pros is the second best baseball game ever made in this regard. It has one of the deepest and most realistic engines I’ve ever played, even if the graphics are a bit pants. I love the two different RPG modes and feel these alone are sellers for the title, allowed RPG only gamers to branch out a bit and try something new. For straight sports gamers, you too have been given an opportunity to try something a bit different and yet stay completely in your comfort zone of BASEBALLBASEBALLBASEBALL.

It’s the best baseball game of the year, and also the cheapest in regards to MSRP. How could you not want to give this a try?

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Modes: Unparalleled
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Unparalleled
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled

Short Attention Span Summary

I may not be a sports aficionado, but I’ve always been a big baseball game fan. I can honestly say MLB Power Pros 2008 is a bit better than last year’s version, and it was the best baseball game I’ve played since SNK was making them. Konami and 2K Sports did you all a giant labour of love by bringing Power Pros to the states. Come see why everyone who has purchased this game has fallen in love with it. You owe it to yourself to see how good a sports game can be in this age of slight changes and a roster clean up for a price tag only the mindless sheep are willing to pay. Thanks for showing us there is still life and style left in this genre 2K!



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One response to “Review: MLB Power Pros 2008 (Nintendo Wii)”

  1. […] to training. It’s very cool and it’s the best Sports RPG I’ve encountered since MLB Power Pros. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t permanently cripple Michael Vick, but at least I […]

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