Little League World Series
Developer: NOW Productions
Release Date: 08/19/08
When the Nintendo Wii was first released it was, and still is, bundled with a game called Wii Sports. Wii Sports showed everyone how a collection of simple sports games could be fun and how well the motion control could be used to play these games. Ever since, it seems like several different sports and party games have used the same template to create games for the system. So far, very few have been any good. This hasn’t kept companies from trying however.
Little League World Series is another attempt to utilize the Wii’s unique controls with a baseball game. There have been some previous failures at this, most notably Backyard Baseball. Little League tries to separate itself from pack of other baseball games by not focusing on Major League Baseball and instead focusing directly to a younger audience. Does the game knock one out of the park or does it strike out? Read on.
Little League World Series includes a basic amount of modes for a baseball game. You can play a standard exhibition game, but the main mode of the game is the World Series. World Series mode will first ask you to select a team from either regional or national offerings. You also have the option to create a team using one of a couple of pre-made names and logos. Each team has one star player, and in the World Series mode you can create your team’s star player. The creation process is actually fairly well done. You name your star player then you can customize his appearance much like you would when creating a Mii character. After that, you can select from a couple of attributes and little things like glove color or right/left handed. Next, the game shows you a screen of the different teams that are competing in the World Series and you’ll play against various teams in a round robin style in order to advance in the tournament, and hopefully to the World Series.
The other two modes are an in-depth training mode and Skill Challenges. The Skill Challenges come in the form of a couple of mini-games: Home Run Tourney (which should be self-explanatory), Pitching Darts (a dartboard style game that mixes pitching with the classic bar game), Batting Frenzy (which is more of a test of batting accuracy), Pitch Bowling (a variation of the game HORSE), and a carnival style pitching game.
On top of all that there is a Clubhouse area where you can view different collectibles earned through the game, like baseball cards.
This might sound pretty well rounded, but when compared to any other baseball games, these are just basic modes that you’d expect to be in such a game. World Series itself is sort of disappointing as a mode since it isn’t anything more then menus showing you who you face next. There’s no training between games, no options on who to play next, and nothing further to do in this mode except for playing baseball. This is disappointing when compared to similar games, such as MLB Power Pros, which has some extremely in-depth modes and options. Of course, this game is aimed at a younger audience as well, so this might be an intentional oversight in order to make the game more accessible.
The game certainly looks good at least. The game uses a very similar style to the aforementioned MLB Power Pros game. The characters all have big heads on top of smaller bodies, but it seems to be more of a mix between Power Pros and the Nintendo Mii’s. Even though the games have similar styles, one of the nice things about Little League World Series is how crisp the visuals are. The game uses a cell-shaded cartoon look and all the characters and environments all look very sharp and well detailed. Little effects such as sun glare, or the changing colors on the ball depending on how well you threw it, are all well done. While playing the game it looks like in interactive baseball anime. The only disappointing aspect of the visuals is the lack of variety to the stadiums. As far as I was able to tell, there are only 3 stadiums in the whole game.
While in the audio department the game isn’t going to win any awards for the background music, it’s all decent and it’s so subdued that you’ll likely barely notice anything other than the announcer saying who is up to bat.
Where the game really excels is in how the game controls. Little League World Series uses just the Wiimote for play, much like Wii Sports Baseball. The difference here is the amount of depth that has been wrung out of the remote. The pitching is just fantastic for the game. While you can’t paint the corners or do everything you might be able to do in a standard baseball title, Little League stands out with impressive motion controls. In order to pitch, you first use the D-Pad in order to select where you plan on throwing the pitch: inside, outside, high or low. Then you hold down either the A button for a fastball or use the B button for a couple of different options. Then you raise your arm. From there you are meant to swing the remote forward in time with the onscreen animation of the pitcher also throwing the ball. Depending on the button you pressed and in which direction you have twisted the remote will change what you are throwing. In practice, this is a really great system and is much more fun than the usual pitching meter that you see in other games. It provides a decent variety to the different types of pitches that you can throw.
Batting is also the same way. Again, similar to Wii Sports Baseball, you swing the remote forward and your on-screen batter does the same. What they’ve added is a bit where if you swing a little earlier or a little later, it determines the direction of the ball. Whether you hit high or low determines if you’ve popped the ball in the air or grounded it. This also adds more depth to the system and it’s quite fun to pull off. The only frustrating aspect is that the game seems to expect you to swing the bat in a pure horizontal arc with your arm at 90 degrees from your body for a standard swing. It would’ve been better if they could’ve had some sort of calibration system for determining the way you swing, and judging based off of that. Once you hit a ball the batter automatically runs to a base, but you can make the character move faster by shaking the Wii remote.
One feature the game does have over Wii Sports is in fielding. The fielding is simple. When the opposing team hits the ball you waggle your remote to make your outfielders move towards the ball faster, then you use the D-Pad for the corresponding base and then use the remote to throw the ball to the right base. The most confusing part of this for me is the fact that the first and third bases are mapped to directions that seem opposite to what I’m used to in other baseball games. The option for fielding can also be turned to automatic where the computer controls the fielding.
Due to the lack of using the nunchuck or other controller options, the game sacrifices some of the nuances of baseball in favor of delivering a more casual experience. That doesn’t stop the game from being fun. The game controls very well and is easy to get into and enjoy with these simple system.
Just because the game is designed for a casual audience and has a simple control system does not mean that the game does provide a challenge. There are four difficulty levels to choose from, and the hardest one actually provides a decent challenge for those who might’ve been experts at Wii Sports Baseball. If you choose to leave fielding on manual, the computer will react much faster than you until you adjust to the controls. There are enough difficulty settings available that it shouldn’t be hard for any person to find one that they’re more comfortable with. The only thing that really sets the balance off is a bonus system that is very much like the one found in The BIGS. When you get a base run, strike a person out, or accomplish anything during a game you get points. These points help build up a meter that has three different levels. Once a level is filled you can then use a special move. If you’re batting you can press A and B together to activate this and then you’ll put more power behind your hits. As a pitcher you also do the same thing, but now you’ll throw faster. It works well in the game, but the only drawback is that it often gives a team that’s doing better to strengthen their advantage.
Graphics: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
In many ways Little League World Series is Wii Sports Baseball 2.0. The game looks good and the simple controls are easy to pick up and are just fun to play around with. Still, this game has an MSRP of $50 and doesn’t have the depth of features available in the cheaper MLB Power Pros, or the casual appeal of the recently released Super Mario Sluggers. But, if you are a parent of a child in Little League who is looking to buy their kid a simple game of baseball, then this is the perfect game.