2008 marks the second appearance of Konami’s Power Pros Baseball series on American shores, and baseball fans everywhere rejoice. Japan’s most successful baseball series mixes cartoony characters, old school gameplay, and a staggering amount of depth into a package that oozes with charm from start to finish. This combination leads to a game that has enough personality to appeal to casual gamers, and the solid gameplay and statistical depth to appeal to the most hardcore baseball fan.
Power Pros contains the typical modes you expect from a baseball game, exhibition, home run derby, and season mode. What sets it apart from others however are the two unique career modes. Success Mode is the story of your young player’s journey from AA ball to the Majors. The story plays out like an animated comic strip, complete with word balloons. The personality here is incredible, and the story is full of humor and charm. You’ll have a certain amount of time each week to divide between training, shopping, and earning money in the various side jobs you can take. The mode plays like a combination between a baseball game and a traditional RPG, and the result is nearly perfect.
New to the series this year is a second possible career mode, MLB Life mode. While this mode lacks much of the charming story of Success Mode, it makes up for it with some insane depth. Here, players will take a newly created character, their character from Success mode, or one of the hundreds of real life major leaguers through a 20 year career. This has many of the RPG style elements from Success Mode, as well as some brand new additions that lead you through not only the playing aspect of a players career, but all the things they have to do while off the field as well.
You’ll have to make time for training, socializing, and traveling in addition to keeping your performance up on the field. You’ll actually have to pack prior to leaving for a road trip in order to be able to use the items you’ve purchased for your home. You can choose to donate money to charity in lump sums, as a result of certain on field actions (for instance, $100 for each base hit), or not at all. You’ll have to make sure you manage your time however, as like Success Mode you’ll only have a limited amount of actions you can perform each week. Both these career mode are ridiculously addicting, and you’ll no doubt find that quick 20 minute play sessions turn into several hours.
The graphics in Power Pros are purposely simplistic, harkening back to the simple 8 bit days of games like RBI Baseball. Players are short, cylindrical caricatures of themselves, complete with facial hair and signature batting styles. The stadiums look great, and contain a surprising amount of detail for a game with such a simple visual style. It can’t be overstated how much this adds to the overall game, and what a welcome change of pace it is from the current trend of sports games pushing ever closer to realism.
In a similar vein to the graphics, gameplay in this title eschews the complicated in favor of the accessible. Batting is done using a bat shaped cursor with a sweet spot indicator, an approach fans of the All Star Baseball series will be familiar with. You can switch contact to power, which changes the size of the sweet spot accordingly. I love this approach, and wish the “next-gen” baseball games would copy it. Fielding is as you would expect, and typically very smooth. I ran into some issues with the game assigning the wrong fielder to a ball hit in play, which was frustrating but only occasional. Overall from the diehard to the weekend warrior, anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the game should be able to have a blast.
Disappointingly, the series hasn’t really added anything new in the way of Wiimote functionality to this years title. The motion controls are only utilized in two modes, exhibition and Home Run derby, and even in these modes they don’t feel as responsive as the controls in Wii Sports. Hopefully next years version can utilize the new Wiimotion Plus accessory to flesh out the controls, and make them available for all modes.
Often multiplayer is a big draw for sports games, and Power Pros is no exception. There is no online multiplayer option however, which is to be expected considering the platform, but disappointing nonetheless.
Overall, MLB Power Pros is a fantastic choice for casual and hardcore baseball fans of all ages. It makes a great companion to the realism heavy baseball games on the market, and Success and MLB Life mode would both be worth the price of admission on their own. With some additions and tweaks, next years version could be beating on the door of the big dogs for best overall baseball game, but as it stands Power Pros is a worthy addition to every Wii owners library.