Although the NFL football season has just kicked into gear, Nintendo Wii owners are getting a healthy dose of baseball, of all things, with both Mario Super Sluggers and MLB Power Pros 2008 hitting the Wii within one week. The former is bound to have its fans; first-party Nintendo games always do. On the surface, Take-Two’s MLB Power Pros 2008 technically seems to offer more, with approximately one dozen different options and modes and more content than you’d expect from a cartoony baseball game. But while MLB Power Pros 2008 is definitely deeper than its cartoony appearance indicates, it still only has three modes worth your time. The rest of the game is an absolute strike out.
Things start off rocky, at least where the Wii hardware is concerned, because MLB Power Pros 2008 does not support motion-sensitive controls. Instead, the game relies on the traditional D-pad and face buttons to control batting, pitching and fielding. This is an odd decision, considering it’s a game exclusive to a console that was defined for nearly one year by the motion-sensitive Wii Sports. Still, the game doesn’t technically suffer from it.
What it does suffer from is a lack of compelling gameplay for most modes. The three that work — Season, League and Home Run — are surprisingly deep experiences that belie the game’s cartoony Mii-like appearance. This is because those modes focus on baseball rather than the text-heavy RPG-like fare found in the others. And baseball is what MLB Power Pros 2008 does very well. From pitching options that are unique to each pitcher to batting options that let you choose to bat “safely” or “aggressively,” the gameplay options are sufficient for even jaded baseball-game fans.
Season Mode is essentially the career mode, where you can play as one of the Major League teams or create your own team via the sub-mode Expansion Mode. You can play a fast game, in which you give directions and the games progress automatically; a Normal game, in which you actually play the game (the best option for true hardball fans), or you can skip each game and watch the stats all unfold. In addition to playing all nine innings themselves, Season Mode players also get to draft, acquire and trade players just like all the “grown up-looking” baseball games out there.
League Mode is where the simulation and micromanagement aspects really kick in, as it lets you choose up to six teams to participate in a league, which you then manage by assigning players and roles. This is more akin to the sports-management sims popular in Europe, but it works quite well in the baseball game. And finally, the Home Run mode simply lets you play a home-run derby, which is always fun.
However, the rest of the game gets far more obscure, not to mention a bit more inconsistent. Success Mode, which sounded quite compelling on paper, is disastrously boring to play. The overview says you’ll be playing through an entire career, from the minor leagues all the way up to the World Series — but only if you perform well enough to warrant getting called up. However, this mode is more like an interactive RPG-like screen-reading mode in which you have about four at-bats the entire time. The rest of this mode amounts to telling your character to eat, practice, go on a walk or head to the hospital to get his bruises fixed.
The biggest problem with this mode is that all of these commands/options seem arbitrary, with dice rolls appearing to determine success or failure in practice and, in some respects, the outcome of the games themselves. Worse yet, apparently minor-leaguers are only capable of doing one activity per week (eating, practicing, shopping or engaging in a hobby), which gives players such ludicrous decisions as “do I eat one meal this week or go into a single batting practice?” The only thing “successful” about Success Mode is its delivery of yawns at all the text you click through while mired in a superficial tale of grade-school rivalry and romance.
All of the numbers and charts and fake activities are all the more frustrating when you consider just how fun the old-school baseball gameplay really is. When playing with friends, MLB Power Pros 2008 provides plenty of entertainment. When playing solo, it’s not even as rewarding as standing in a batting cage without a pitching machine. MLB Power Pros 2008 sounds deep on the cover, and its title screen is enough to make people wonder “how”d they get all that content in there?” But when you actually play all those modes, you quickly realize that the three that work would’ve been better as a WiiWare download focused on baseball rather than this retail pseudo RPG that just falls flat.
- Score: 6.5
- The baseball portions are fun, but the game ironically doesn’t focus much on hardball at all, and the other modes are tedious and confounding.
— Jonas Allen