MLB Power Pros 2008: Throwing Baseball Games A CurveShawn Drotar

Posted on July 25th, 2008 in Gaming, Playstation 2, News, Opinion, Wii, Nintendo DS by Shawn Drotar

Next week, 2K Sports, in conjunction with Konami, will release MLB Power Pros 2008. Last year’s title made waves with the odd combination of cutesy graphics and deep gameplay, and the game surprised many players who expected little more than Backyard Baseball.

The quirky-looking game has an oddly endearing and inviting nature, which makes it more approachable to novice gamers without stripping the title of the all-important baseball part of the equation. While Power Pros will also release for the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS, the added immersion factor of the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls make that version of the title the one to watch.

Yesterday, I participated in a conference call with the game’s producer, Rob Nelson, to discuss what went into making MLB Power Pros 2008, and what gamers should expect from it when it arrives on store shelves.

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“Really, the game is a blend of a nice, deep sim-baseball game that any hardcore baseball fan will appreciate, but it also has a look and a design to it that’s very accessible to new players; that’s easy for new users to pick up and play - and really, what we want to do is hit both spectrums and want everybody who plays the game to come away feeling that they had a good experience,” Nelson said. “We don’t want (new) players to feel like they couldn’t figure out how to play the game, and we don’t want the hardcore players to feel like they’ve been shorted on modes or features because the game is accessible. I think we’ve done a good job of doing that this year.”

For those familiar with the Power Pros series, Nelson highlighted two new modes. “There are two RPG-styled modes, where you create your character and you bring your character through a story.”

“The first one is Success Mode, which was in the game last year but has been completely redone with (an) all-new story and all-new characters. The idea is that you create your character and you can make him a pitcher or hitter… you’re taking your character from Double-A (minor league) baseball and trying to get him to the Major Leagues.”

Nelson goes on to explain what changed between last year and this year’s version of Success Mode. “Last year, you had a character that you were trying to get from high school into the minor leagues. Now, this is a continuation of that story… You need to impress the coaches, you need to impress the scouts, you need to improve your character in a way that will make him successful so he gets more playing time. Eventually - hopefully - you’ll get him into the Major Leagues.”

The game’s completely new mode is entitled MLB Life, which has a Japanese RPG bent that’s not often seen in American sports titles. After either creating a new character, importing one from Success Mode or using an existing MLB player, you’ll experience “the life of an real player”, according to Nelson. After reading about the mode below, whether you choose to select Yankees third-sacker Alex Rodriguez or not will be based largely on your ability to process irony.

“You also have money and can buy houses and can buy cars and can develop hobbies… Everything in your player’s life, you will control over (20) years,” said Nelson. Including, curiously, dating and marriage. “You can make friends and build relationships how you want. You can meet girls - as long as your character isn’t already married - hang out with these girls and develop a relationship; however you want that relationship to go… it’s relatively light. We’re not getting into the, um, complex nature of relationships,” Nelson says, with a nervous laugh.

“It’s a fun experience… you can end up buying an engagement ring and proposing,” Nelson pointed out. “That’s absolutely your call. I think gamers that are into the story mode and that character interaction will love it. If you’re not into that; if you just want to play baseball and make your character as successful as possible, you don’t have to dive into that realm.” But wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on the “MLB Life” of the nutty-but-gifted Manny “Being Manny” Ramirez?

While your player isn’t out carousing like Derek Jeter (in an E-rated fashion, of course), there are other things that must be considered as well; things like road trips. “When you’re packing your bags for a road trip, you’re going to be gone for three or four days. You’re going to have to bring the items that you’ll want on that road trip. If, in between games, you want to work out or play chess or do one of your hobbies, you have to have thought to bring those items with you, and you only have a limited (amount) of space,” says Nelson.

Unlockable content keeps the game fresh, including stadiums, new gear and stances for created players as well as a set of baseball “cards” for the collector. While there’s no online functionality in the game, the Wii version allows players to load their created characters on the Wii Remote and play with that character on a friend’s system, and rosters (and even entire teams) can be edited, re-ordered and shuffled about to your heart’s delight.

There’s an inherent silliness to the MLB Power Pros series, but the series completely embraces it in a bear hug - and therefore it works. Players spin around like tops before falling on the ground after swinging at a third strike, and despite lacking most facial features (and legs!), the characters are quite expressive nevertheless. There’s no question that Power Pros is designed to be fun and accessible as opposed to an in-depth chess match, but it’s still centered around a solid game of baseball, making it an excellent entry point for young gamers… and gamers that are young at heart.

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MLB Power Pros 2008 will be available in stores on July 29 for the Nintendo Wii, the Nintendo DS handheld and the PlayStation 2. 

2 Responses to 'MLB Power Pros 2008: Throwing Baseball Games A Curve'

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  1. Rodster said,

    on July 25th, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I still have last years version for the Wii. IMO all that was missing were the Wii Sports Baseball controls. If this years version includes those controls then it’s an automatic purchase for me.

    MLB Power Pros had the smartest, tactical and strategic AI used in a Baseball game in a very long time. The last BB game to use a cunning AI was High Heat Baseball.

  2. Fsquid said,

    on July 26th, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I’m also looking forward to this game. Just need the other (Japanese) baseball game to make its way across the Pacific and we will be golden!

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