Review: Nickelodeon Nicktoons MLB 3D (NIntendo 3DS)

Nickelodeon Nicktoons MLB 3D
Developer: Black Lantern Studios, Inc.
Publisher: 2K Play
Genre: Arcade Sports
Release Date: 03/06/2012

March 6th is a pretty big day for gamers. For some, it’s Mass Effect 3 day. For others it’s Street Fighter X Tekken day. But for a lot of other gamers – it’s Baseball day. It’s the day MLB: The Show ’12 hits for the Sony Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. It’s also the day 2K Sports releases MLB 2k12 for the PS2, PSP, Nintendo DS, Wii, Xbox 360 and the PS3. However between both those games, one major system is overlooked. That’s right – the Nintendo 3DS. Why 2K Games decided to give the PS2 (in fact MLB 2k12 is the last official release for the venerable system) and PSP versions, but not the 3DS (ESPECIALLY with a DS version) is beyond me. Don’t worry though baseball fans, where 2K Sports lets 3DS owners down, 2K Play saves the day with Nickelodeon Nicktoons MLB 3D. This double licensed arcade baseball game is the first North American baseball game for the Nintendo 3DS. Sure, some gamers might shudder at the idea of using Ren Hoek or Jimmy Neutron in their starting lineup instead of real baseball players, but true baseball fans still hold games like Baseball Stars, Base Wars and Baseball Simulator 1.000 as some of the best baseball titles ever – and they were far from SERIOUS BUSINESS. Hell, none of them even had the MLB license… which this game does. So is the pairing of Nicktoons characters and Major League Baseball a surprisingly entertaining matchup, or is the end result a weird game that will appeal to neither prospective audience?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

Despite the inclusion of Nicktoons characters, this is a pretty straightforward baseball game. Here’s a list of all the modes.

1. Quick Play. This automatically starts up a game with random teams for both sides, a random ballpark and random settings.

2. Single Game. This is similar to the above, but you choose everything. No randomness at all.

3. Season. You play through a full MLB season with your chosen team.

4. Tournament. This is a bracket tournament similar to the ALCS/NLCS playoffs at the end of the season. You can set it up to be a best of 3, 5 or 7 game series.

5. Showdown. Here you create and play as either an all-star MLB team or an all Nicktoons team in a face off to see which is the best

6. Mini Games. You have three possible mini games. The first is “Distance Derby” which is a home run derby. The second is “Rock ‘N Roll” where you hit baseballs into boulders to protect some brick walls. It sounds weird, but it’s a cute way to practice aiming your hits. Finally, there is “Frosty Freeze Toss” which requires the use of an AR card that comes with the package. This game has you huck a ball at a stack of cups. You get three tries per level to knock all the cups down. Again, a cute little mini-game to let you do something other than traditional baseball.

Besides all of this, you can collect “cards” based on actions you take, such as pitching a perfect inning, getting thirty home runs, picking off five runners, things like that. The cards don’t do anything in particular, but it’s cute to have.

All in all, Nicktoons MLB 3D offers a lot of the same modes that you would expect to find in a more straight-laced baseball game. It doesn’t keep track of season stats, batting averages, or even how a player has done in the current game, but what’s here is pretty decent. I’d have liked for the season mode to be a little more robust and the ability to keep track of stats. I could do it in other arcade baseball titles since the NES, so I know it was possible to do it here. All in all, though, I’m fine with what’s here. Could it have been better? Sure, but it has the most important modes and that’s what is important.

Modes Rating: Decent

2. Graphics

Nicktoons MLB 3D is pretty much a straight port of the DS version of the game that came out in September 2011. As such, the graphics aren’t that great. Character models tend to be a bit jaggy and/or pixilated, and there does seem to be the occasional burst of slowdown. At least all the Nickelodeon based characters look like they should, and children will be able to recognize their favorites. It’s cute to see Stimpson J. Cat or Aang from Avatar in baseball uniforms. The animation of all these very different looking characters is pretty nice, and although the game doesn’t really push the 3DS’ graphical capabilities, the Nicktoons will make kids of all ages happy.

The actual MLB players are a different story. Everyone looks exactly alike, with only the color of the uniform changing based on what team you are playing as. There’s no height or stance difference on any of them. It’s odd that the actual MLB players are an afterthought, which has me wondering why they didn’t just make a pure Nicktoons arcade baseball game. Black Lantern didn’t skimp on the stadiums though. Each authentic MLB stadium looks as it should (for a handheld game that is) and you can definitely tell them apart. The game even throws in some made up “Nicktoons” style stadiums as well, which is a cute idea.

All in all, while Nicktoons MLB 3D isn’t visually impressive for a 3DS game, you can still make out all the characters and the game looks like a baseball title, which is all one really needs. I can tell where the ball is, who my players are and what stadium I am in. Much like the modes, Black Lantern could have easily done more, but instead they decided to play it safe with a straight port.

Graphics Rating: Below Average

3. Sound

All of the Nicktoons have voice acting. You’ll hear clips when they come to bat, hit a home run or strike out. Unfortunately, not all of the actors in the game are the original voice actors. Ren & Stimpy are played by completely different actors, and it’s pretty obvious. What’s odd is that they did this when they could have just taken clips from the actual cartoon that were appropriate like, “I’m so angry!” for Ren. I bring this up because it’s exactly what they did for GiR from Invader Zim, who is your co-announcer for play by play (although he only talks in-between and at the end of innings). Rosearik Rikki Simons doesn’t have any new lines of dialogue recorded for the game – it’s just classic GiR bits – so why they didn’t do that for some of the other characters where they couldn’t get the real voice actors is beyond me.

Perch Perkins from Spongebob Squarepants is the main play by play announcer for the game. The voice actor does a good job, but there’s just not enough dialogue recorded for him. Because of that, he gets annoying fast. If Gir gave a few lines in-game or Perch had a few more lines recorded, it would have been a lot better. After only two games I had heard all Perch had to say. Partway through a tournament, I had to turn him off.

The actual baseball sounds are spot on. The crack of the bat, the sliding into home, the roar of the crowd and more are all exactly what you’d want from a baseball game. They help Nicktoons MLB 3D to come alive and really feel like there’s a baseball game going on.

Like much of Nicktoons MLB 3D, you know that Black Lantern could have done more with the aural aspect. They could have recorded some more lines and they could have used clips of the actual characters they weren’t able to get similar to what they did with GiR. All in all, fans of the cartoons will be really happy with the voice acting while those that don’t know the characters will find the repetition gets old fast.

Sound Rating: Decent

4. Control and Gameplay

I have to admit, I tend to prefer the arcade baseball games to the current incarnations of The Show and MLB 2k12. I’d rather play something like MLB Power Pros that has arcade speed, yet still keeps track of stats and how you are doing. In this regard, I was really happy with Nicktoons MLB 3D, as it played like a classic arcade baseball game from the 8 or 16 bit era and gave me exactly what I needed. There weren’t any weird shenanigans going on like in Mario Baseball. It was just straight up baseball.

When on offensive, you have a button for regular hitting, power hitting and bunting. You use the d-pad to help aim the shot. On defense, each button corresponds to a different pitch. Once you pick your pitch you hold the button down to raise the power meter of the pitch. The higher the meter, the faster and more accurate the pitch. When fielding, each of the four buttons corresponds to a base. As the buttons on the 3DS are laid out like a baseball field, it’s pretty instinctual what button you press to throw where. It’s all very nicely done.

When you pick a team, half the players are real MLB players and the other half are Nicktoons characters you pick from twenty-five playable characters. The MLB characters are set in stone, as are what positions must be filled by a Nicktoon. So for example, the Phillies will always need a Nicktoon pitcher. This may annoy some purists that can’t have a full team of one or the other, but then that’s what “Showdown” mode is for.

Teams and players are rated in four categories on a scale from 1 to 4, with four being the best. The categories are pitching/throwing speed, fielding, hitting and running. You’ll be able to see the team quality when you pick them and each individual Nicktoon when you look at them, but there isn’t a way to see each MLB player until your lineup shows up. While this isn’t the best way to do things, the MLB players are set in stone so it’s not like you have much control over them anyway.

One thing I’ve noticed you can’t do in Nicktoons MLB 3D is make substitutions with pitchers, base runners and hitters. I’m fine with that, as its arcade baseball and so there’s not fatigue to any or you players (or injuries!), but it is something a lot of gamers will probably wish was here.

The only gimmick to the gameplay is the turbo meter. This slowly fills up as you play from doing things like hitting a home run, stealing a base, catching a fly ball, getting a double or triple play and more. Once you’ve filled the meter, you can activate turbo. Turbo while hitting gives you a guaranteed home run if you connect with the ball, while turbo on a pitch gives you a guaranteed strike out. This is optional, and I’m glad of that, so if you want a more realistic baseball game, you don’t have to use it. As well, if you’re playing a multiplayer game and one player is much better than the other, the better player can give a gentleman’s agreement not to use turbo and let the other player use it to help them out. See also: parents vs. their kids.

Overall, Nicktoons MLB 3D is a lot of fun to play. As my ONLY baseball option for the 3DS, I’m fine with what’s here. It’s a decent little game and the controls are solid. At only $29.99, it’s not a bad buy for those hungry for baseball. Plus hey, Powdered Toast Man in 3D.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

With the full lineup of MLB teams, the ability to play an entire season of baseball AND the ability to customize your team with twenty-seven Nicktoons characters means you can spend a lot of time with this game if you want to. Sure, it should probably have a few more Nicktoons, ESPECIALLY for season mode, but hey, this version has two exclusive characters when compared to the 360, Wii and DS versions of the game. You get Jimmy Neutron and Hiro Mightypaw. The latter is from some Nickelodeon MMO. Why they didn’t include a Rugrat, Doug or someone from Hey, Arnold is beyond me. Maybe even someone more recent that kids would know as well?

I’ve played a lot of games on Nicktoons MLB 3D so far, including exhibitions, tournaments and even a few season games. I can honestly see myself playing this somewhat regularly. The novelty of the Nicktoons hasn’t worn off yet and it’s close enough to something like RBI Baseball that I can enjoy it for what it is, even while the critic part of me knows the game is a little content light. Still, Nicktoons MLB 3D is going to remain in my 3DS on and off for some time. After all it’s your only baseball option for the system.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

Nicktoons MLB 3D offers three difficulty settings: Rookie, Pro and All-Star, and believe me, there is a world of difference between all three. On Rookie my closest game was 12-0 and my highest was 32-0. On Pro I still never lost but the CPU managed to score on me. On All-Star, games were close. Now I’ve been playing baseball games since the days of the 2600, so arcade style baseball games are pretty easy to me. Still, I was impressed by how different the CPU played with each difficulty setting, and younger or less experienced gamers will probably have a field day with this.

You have a great deal of control over where you put the ball, both in regards to pitching and hitting. I also love that the L trigger automatically moves you to the player closest to the ball when you are on defense. About the only thing I don’t like is if you try to steal with more than one man on base, all the base runners will try. That’s a little weird.

If you’re looking for a solid arcade baseball title, Nicktoons MLB 3D really isn’t a bad choice, especially if you’re looking for a portable MLB licensed game, or more specifically, a baseball title of any kind for your 3DS. It might not give vets of the genre a challenge, but you will have to adjust your style for each difficulty setting.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

Arcade baseball games are a dime a dozen, and Nicktoons MLB 3D is no exception. It also doesn’t help that this game is a port of the regular DS version that came out roughly six months ago. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some new things. We have two new Nicktoons characters in the game, as well as an added AR Mini-game. Nicktoons MLB 3D is also the first baseball game for the 3DS and the only one I can think of in 3D. I did a quick check to see if any of the ones for the PS3 were in 3D, but nope, Nicktoons MLB 3D gets to claim that crown.

So in some ways,Nicktoons MLB 3D is innovative and the first to do a few things, while in others, it’s just one in a long line of arcade baseball titles that look and play quite similar to each other. Let’s call it a push here.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

I’m not really a fan of “Nicktoons” per say. I liked Ren & Stimpy when I was in high school, but that was nearly twenty years ago. Invader Zim was cute, but highly overrated, and the goth community just beat that horse to death, raised it to undeath and then beat it back down again. That said, I really enjoyed my time with this game. Sure, it’s not the best arcade baseball game ever, and it’s a bit bare bones, but it’s still fun and it’s definitely sated my desire for a new baseball game after watching Spring Training games on MLB.TV

Nicktoons MLB 3D is a nice straight forward baseball game that’s fun to play. It didn’t need the MLB license, but as 2K had it, it makes sense to get all they can out of it, especially since they’ve talked about not renewing it. I enjoyed using real players and parks alongside cartoon characters. I’m a sucker for the surreal, and it was a lot of fun seeing Invader Zim as a master base stealer, even if he wasn’t very good at taking over the Earth. Like most baseball games, you can’t really play several games in a row without getting burned out and trying to do nothing but a season mode without any other games to break things up is sheer madness, but what’s here is fun and that’s what matters.

Addictiveness Rating: Enjoyable

9. Appeal Factor

I’m a bit curious about what the character selection process was for this game. I get Avatar and Spongebob Squarepants, as they’re still popular with really young kids and even some adults. Danny Phantom and Jimmy Neutron make sense along the same lines, albeit to a lesser extent. I’ve never heard of T.U.F.F. Puppy, Monkey Quest Fanboy & Chum Chum and Planet Sheen, and I’m pretty much on the pulse of what kids today find hip thanks to my interest in Pokemon, Bakugan and the like. I did a quick look of what is currently considered a Nicktoon and wow. They have Voltron, Dragon Ball Z, Iron Man, Monsumo and more as Nicktoons. They really should have used some of those characters. That would have helped the game get more attention as well as sell a few more copies. Seriously, I’d take Lance, Pidge or Tony Stark over whoever Dudley Puppy is supposed to be any day. I also get why they put in characters from Ren & Stimpy and Invader Zim, even though they haven’t been “Nicktoons” for a loooong time. It’s so that parents or older gamers have the classic Nicktoon characters they grew up with. So little Sally or Billy can use the characters from their generation while their parent can use the Nicktoons that were around when they were kids.

The question that remains, though, is… who is the target audience for this? When the 360/Wii/DS version of the game was released, it was all but ignored by gaming journalism. I still haven’t found a review of the Wii version ANYWHERE. Part of me honestly is curious as to whether 2K made the game simply because they had both licenses lying around and they wanted to get some more money out of them. Granted, the game plays very well, but the original release of the game didn’t do very well, and this new 3DS version is hitting the same day as MLB 2k12 and The Show. It’s going to be missed all over again… or will it? After all, it’s the only baseball game for the 3DS, and I noticed it enough to ask 2K Play to send me a review copy (which they happily supplied), so there definitely has to be an audience out there for it. Is it one willing to pay $29.99 when the DS version is only $9.99 new right now? I’m not sure. Two new characters and an AR Mini games aren’t exactly going to get some parents to pay for a 3D version when they see a regular version for twenty bucks less.

Baseball is popular; there’s no denying that. Nicktoons are popular as well. The two together though? I’m not so sure. At least Nicktoons MLB 3D has a monopoly on the baseball genre for at least a year, so that’s definitely going to help drive people to the game, even if they could care less about Avatar or Ren & Stimpy. Let’s call it a thumb’s in the middle here as I’m actually very intrigued about how this game will do.

Appeal Factor: Mediocre

10. Miscellaneous

So if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably curious about what Nicktoons characters are available to use. Here’s a rundown for you.

From Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang, Katara, Toph and Zuko.

From Danny Phantom: Danny Phantom.

From Fanboy & Chum Chum: Fanboy & Chum Chum.

From Invader Zim: Zim and Gaz.

From Jimmy Neutron Jimmy Neutron.

From Monkey Quest: Hiro Mightypaw.

From Planet Sheen: Sheen Estevez, Ultra Lord and Mr. Nesmith.

From Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob Squarepants, the Flying Dutchman, Larry the Lobster, Sandy Cheeks and Patrick Star.

From Ren & Stimpy: Ren Hoek, Stimpson J. Cat, Powdered Toast Man and a Yak.

From T.U.F.F. Puppy: Duddley Puppy & Kitty Katswell.

All in all, twenty-seven characters from ten cartoons isn’t bad. I’m still a bit surprised there are four characters from Ren & Stimpy since it’s been off Nickelodeon for well over a decade, but as I loved the characters as a kid, I’m not complaining.

Overall, you’ve got a good cast here, and I’m glad to see the 3DS FINALLY get a baseball game. I am a bit worried that the DS version’s current price tag of only $9.99 and releasing the game on the same day as The Show and MLB 2k12 is going to be too much of an uphill battle for Nicktoons MLB 3D, but it really is a fun arcade baseball game. Even if you do go for the DS version instead, you might find the overall product lacking a few options that other arcade baseball games might have, but you’ll still have fun with the game as it sports a pretty solid baseball engine.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores:
Modes: Decent
Graphics: Below Average
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Good
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Nickelodeon Nicktoons MLB 3D is a surprisingly fun mashup of classic Nickelodeon cartoon characters and the MLB license. The engine is a very solid one and it plays like most arcade baseball titles. The graphics are a little weak, as it’s mostly a straight port of the DS version, and the commentary can get annoying, as there is very little voice acting recorded for it, but if you’re looking for a nice little baseball title for your 3DS, you’ve got one right here. Of course, it’s the only option for the system, so it’s a good thing the game is a decently made one. Baseball purists might be mad that you have to have Nicktoons on your team and that only about half of each MLB team’s roster is in the game, but then that’s not the target market here. I myself would have liked to had the ability to track stats and make lineup changes once the game is in session, but what’s here should sate baseball fans until something better finally comes along for the system.



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