MLB Power Pros 2008 Review (Wii)
This IS your father’s baseball game -- do not be mistaken by the bobble-head characters, which for the record have more personality than any realistic looking character model I’ve seen in a game. After loading up the game and playing through it many times, I've realized once again that this game is still a fantastic baseball simulation.
There is not much of a difference between last year’s MLB Power Pros and the 2008 version, and again the rosters are out of date and the announcer gets a lot of things wrong, but once I loaded up the game and started playing, a lot of my negatives were forgotten. During the past week I have tried to get Joba Chamberlain a phat pad and a hot girlfriend, and I played an epic 12-inning battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox at Fenway Park. After Varitek won it with an RBI single, much to my chagrin, the players ran onto the field and celebrated like they won the World Series; it was rather humorous.
The graphics aren't lifelike, but they have a certain charm about them.
The charm of this game cannot be mistaken. Between batters getting fooled on change-ups and then spinning around with boggle eyes, players committing errors and having big exclamation marks pop up above their head, or pitchers grabbing the rosin bag and drying their hands, it’s the little nuances that go a long way to making Power Pros appealing to everyone. I feel like I’m playing RBI Baseball for the Nintendo, but with the depth of an MLB 08: The Show.
Speaking of MLB 08, the Success and MLB Life modes are very comparable to Road to the Show, but with more focus on life outside the diamond. Managing hobbies and friends, plus purchasing cooler stuff, serves as much importance as dealing with energy levels, injuries, and roster spots. It is possible to fail the mode(s) so not heeding to all the needs of your character could be detrimental, basically serving as a grown up version of Tamagotchi.
The RPG elements help lead the game towards recreating the feel of a ball player trying to make his way up the system, or one that’s already made a name for himself and has to balance work and play. One drawback is you really don't play defense (unless you're a pitcher) in the career modes -- unlike MLB 08. Once you pass your created player through Success mode he is then available to be imported into MLB Life or any created team in the game.
The game features all of the MLB stadiums.
As far as playing with Joba Chamberlain, I could not wait for my next start so I could get out there and try to get a win. I really felt like a pitcher every time I took the mound. I played one game against the Rays where I learned what it felt like to get owned by a player, as Carlos Pena took me deep three times in one game. I also learned what it’s like to be dominant when I held the Royals to four hits and one run over eight innings. After every start my development would change, with attributes moving up and down depending on performance. The manager’s trust would also fluctuate depending on a successful outing or not. Everything seems to be determined by underlying statistics dictated by virtually everything that happens in the game, just like in real life.
Season mode is the game's version of a franchise mode and it does a good job including ideas from other games as well as elements from the Success and MLB Life modes. The story is that you are a GM just hired by the organization and you have to create a winning product. You control everything from trades, to drafting, to free agent acquisitions and player morale. It’s a lot of fun and nearly gets as in-depth as a text-based simulator would, so it can eat up hours of your time. The only disappointing fact is that you can only play for 10 seasons, so if you are the type that likes to simulate through seasons real quick this probably will not cater to you as much.
The experience is all made better by the play of the computer. The AI performs quite realistically; adjusting the defensive set, stealing bases, throwing strikes AND balls, pitching out, deciding when to hit for power and contact, and making roster moves. It still falls a little short of playing a human opponent, which is only possible by local play since there is no included online multiplayer -- but for a game with so much under the hood, the omission is acceptable.
The Life mode is one of the coolest modes you can find on the Wii.
Playing against a friend is the best way to enjoy it though, and the reason for that is each person can create his or her own profile that tracks performance -- including records and statistical breakdowns, which can get fairly deep. There’s the typical numbers like ERA, WHIP and OPS, but it even breaks down the batting zone into multiple sections, each containing percentages. It tracks what part of the zone gets the most strike outs, hits allowed, and home runs, as well as where the ball is thrown to most in general. It seems like you'll be able to find individual tendencies in order to make the necessary adjustments, hopefully keeping your buddy on his or her toes.
The game can also be manipulated to play just how you like. There’s a scale to make the bat lock onto pitches more, different options for manual- and auto-control for defense and running the bases, and pitching even has two modes. There's one mode where you just press the pitch type and then the location, and another that adds on a feature where you time a second button press to determine accuracy. Two different players can have two completely different setups in the same game as well, so everyone can have his or her own experience.
Many people may still be skeptical due to the floating torsos and missing limbs, but believe it or not, the graphics actually enhance the gameplay. The stadiums are accurately recreated to a T and contain an ode to the old-school Nintendo baseball games with a flat layer representing the crowd. Players also do a real good job representing their counterparts, with tilted hats, big goggles, dread locks, and facial hair galore. It’s pretty easy to tell who’s who and if you don’t like the look they gave to your favorite player, every single character in the game can be edited, and there are more options with which to mess with than any other sports game on the market. Although, many of the options have to be unlocked by earning points through the different modes of play.
There is also a ton of emotion and presentation inside MLB Power Pros 2008. Pitchers who serve up a meatball will look tense as they release the ball, and then if the batter capitalizes they will have a dazed look showing they lost confidence for the next at-bat. Exclamation points pop up above the heads of fielders when they make errors and panic trying to still make the play if possible. Pitchers who strike out to end an inning will jump for joy or pump their fist. Trainers will even come out to check on players if they had an injury sliding into a base or hitting a wall on a diving play.
At first glance you wouldn't think it, but MLB Power Pros offers a suprisingly realistic experience.
Other little touches go a very far way as well. A game that plays at night will typically start in the evening and get darker as it proceeds. After nine innings of play, one or more guys will be awarded with the player of the game award and a description of what they did to earn it. There are highlights after the game, so you can watch all the big moments that occurred. During the Success, MLB Life, and Season modes, a news reporter will even cut in with breaking news about trades and players of the week and upcoming key days like Mother’s Day or the trading deadline. All the little parts combined add up to one nice package.
For everything the game does so right, it does the announcing so wrong. It is not atypical to hear the announcer claim, “And that’s a routine ground ball,” as you hit a pop up to the outfield; and every other batter seems to be, “…the man of the hour.” I had the announcer permanently turned off after a couple hours of play, and I’m surprised it lasted that long.
The claim is that the Wii does not care about the hardcore gamer, but this is precisely the type of game that gives me hope on that front.
The controls are pretty good with the classic controller, by far the best choice on the Wii. The only tough issue can be fielding, due to the fact that it’s not always clear cut which guy will be chosen for human control. So you might be heading left intending for the 2B to come over to the ball, and instead the SS is heading away from the play. It can be aggravating at times but for the most part the fielding is on par, and getting a jump on the ball can mean the difference between a big out or a big inning.
The batting is probably the best aspect of the game, with a virtual bat to move around the strike zone trying to lock onto the pitch. When a foul ball, pop up, or home run is hit it really is the product of the player just missing or getting the fat part of the bat on the ball.
The claim is that the Wii does not care about the hardcore gamer, but this is precisely the type of game that gives me hope on that front. MLB Power Pros 2008 looks like a game that caters to the casual audience, but once you break through the surface you cannot begin to even realize all there is to dive into. The RPG aspects of Success and MLB Life can be very addicting and the Season mode is about as deep as any other franchise to date. Sure, the animations could use an overhaul for future versions and the lack of updated rosters is frustrating, but I absolutely love this game. It allows you to have fun while not having to worry about every minute detail looking realistic, all while allowing for as deep an experience as you want to make it.