By Levi . October 23, 2007 . 11:37am
It hasn't been a good last couple of weeks for me, I must admit. First I don't do well on my finals, then my girlfriend leaves me, and on top of all that I failed to impress the scouts and get into the Minors. I guess the only thing to do is start over. As you may have guessed by now (or at least, I HOPE you've guessed by now), I'm not talking about my real life. I'm talking about MLB Power Pros. With this game, Konami have finally brought their JikkyÅ Powerful Pro YakyÅ« series to the US. Of course, some changes have been made to accommodate American audiences. MLB teams, stadiums, and players have replaced their Japanese counterparts for the English version. For those of you unfamiliar with the Powerful Pro series, read on to find out just what makes this baseball game stand so far out from the rest.
On the outside, MLB Power Pros looks like a kid's game. The back of the case even says "Major League fun for kids of all ages!". But don't let that fool you. MLB Power Pros is one of the deepest baseball games out there, for any system. Underneath it's cutesy exterior lies a plethora of game modes, stats, and customizable options. I mean, what other game lets you view the stats on each and every pitch you threw in a game? It's THAT deep. I mean, the instruction manual is 50 pages long, for cryin' out loud. Don't be scared off by the game's depth, though. There's plenty here for the casual player as well. Exhibition games, Homerun Derby, and on the Wii version, an exclusive mode that plays like a slightly beefed up version of Wii Sports Baseball. On the flipside, for players looking for the most in-depth experience possible, there's Season Mode, Arrange Mode (which allows you to build your own dream team), and League Mode. And then, on top of all this, there's Success Mode, which I'll cover in a bit.
First, I want to go into the actual gameplay a little. Batting and pitching are both handled mainly with the analog stick. If you're pitching, select your pitch, then aim with the analog stick. If you're batting, you aim for where the ball's going to go, then swing at the appropriate time. You can either swing for contact, or swing for power. Swinging for power gives you a smaller contact zone, but yields stronger hits. On the flipside, swinging for contact gives you a much larger contact zone, but you get shorter hits. This system works extremely well, and is easy to pick up. Fielding works basically the same as in other baseball games, so I won't go too far into that. Also, on the Wii version you'll get an extra Wii Remote mode that plays kind of like a beefed up version of Wii Sports Baseball. You can only play Exhibition or Home Run Derby games in this mode, however. It'd be nice to see full Wii Remote integration in next year's version. You can choose from three control modes in the Wii version outside of the Wii Remote mode, however (Classic, Gamecube, and Wii Remote + Nunchuk). Now let's get into the coolest part of the game, Success Mode.
Ahh yes, Success Mode. Possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen in any baseball game, ever. Imagine something like the Career Mode in other baseball games, but with an anime twist to it. You create a player and take him through college, with the dream of one day making it to the Majors. There's an absolutely huge storyline here, and tons to do as well. Train, work a part-time job, even date girls. That's right. There's dating-sim elements in a baseball game. Now come on. You can't tell me that's not awesome. In my first playthrough, I got a job working for the campus cafeteria, got haunted by the ghost of a legendary baseball player, got rejected by the girl I'd been seeing, and got beaten by my rival team, failing to make it to the Minors. But hey, it's fine. I can always start over. Success Mode is short, taking only about an hour and a half to play through if you skip through most of the text (which you will do after your first playthrough, trust me). The thing that gives this mode more replayability is that no two playthroughs will be exactly alike. Each time through you'll meet different people, take part in various events, and much more. Really, if Konami were to flesh out this mode just a bit more, it could easily be it's own game. One strange thing I noticed in Success Mode, however, is one of the items you can buy. It's called Powerin (or Powerin DX, in the case of the stronger formula). Basically what this does is increase your player's vitality meter (basically your stamina), allowing you to practice/work/ect longer without resting. Umm…ephedra, anyone? Isn't that stuff illegal in baseball? It seems weird to see something like that in a game. Seriously, I went for several (in-game) weeks without resting once in my first playthrough. Every time my vitality would get low, I'd just use a few Powerin DX's and be right back in top shape. And there seems to be no negative consequences to using these items at all. Go figure.
Bottom line? I don't care if you hate baseball. I don't care if you hate all sports games. Go get this game. Now. It's fun, charming, deep, and just plain awesome. If you have a choice between the two versions (Wii and PS2), I recommend the Wii version. It's $10 more, but for that you get an extra mode tailored for the Wii Remote, faster loading times, and a better save system. It saddens me to see so little talk about this game, and to hear that it only sold 4,800 copies on it's first day. It's an excellent departure from the usual stale, same-thing-every-year baseball games that you're used to. If nothing else, check it out for Success Mode. There's really nothing like it in any other sports game. The cute, SD-style anime characters will undoubtedly turn away most baseball fans, but those of you who are willing to look a little deeper will find the most entertaining baseball experience available on any system.