|System: Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 28, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
While it is true many games based on sports are very technical and have tons of appeal as hardcore simulations of their sport, I find that none really capture the joy and fun of their respective sport quite like MLB Power Pros has. Last year's initial American offering of this Japanese-rooted franchise was a delight to play, and this year's iteration brings the same style as last year, with just enough new substance to make it worth your while.
For the uninitiated, MLB Power Pros is basically a uniquely styled Baseball-sim with heavy RPG elements and surprisingly deep gameplay. There is no single way to play this game, and it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed at the mere sight of the menu with its buffet of options. Essentially, there are three big ways to play single-player: Success mode, Season mode, and the all-new MLB Life mode. Each of these modes plays like a mixture of classic sports play and RPG, and each targets a different type of player.
The most casual of all these modes is probably Success mode. This mode begins with you creating a character who has just been signed on to the minor leagues. In addition to practicing everyday and playing games, you will have to deal with real-life situations like finding a part-time job, maintaining your childhood friends, and, of course, keeping your baseball skills up and impressing the coaches. This mode is primarily story driven, and you'll only play a few games in between training modes and story elements. This mode also focuses on leveling up a veritable bevy of statistics in order to keep your game up to par with your greatest rival. Most actions, including practicing, resting, working, and pretty much everything else in this mode are triggered via a central menu system and are passively executed. Games, however, are completely active, save for the fact that you'll only play one position, and how much time you actually spend playing depends on your individual skills and your ranking within the team.
The next single-player mode is Season mode. This is the mode that is aimed towards more advanced baseball players and is another RPG-like story mode that is all about management. In this mode, you take on the role of general manager of a pre-existing team (you can pick your MLB favorite or a team created in other modes.) Instead of building relationships and honing your baseball skills, you will be given the task of directing player practices, hiring and trading players, and taking care of budgets. A lot of time in this mode will be spent scouring over long rosters of batting averages and gauging player skill as well as growth potential. It may not sound like a whole lot of fun at first, but for the true baseball freak, pouring over all the numbers and making business decisions is actually quite fun. And when all your hard work pays off, it is all that much more rewarding.
The third and final single-player mode, MLB Life, is completely new for the 2008 edition of MLB Power Pros, and it plays essentially the same way as Success mode, except instead of playing as a character who has yet to make it, you'll be able to play as an already-established MLB star. You'll still have to work on relationships with other characters in the game as well as practice your baseball skills, but instead of worrying about a part-time job, you'll have to worry about your public image, buying a house, and donating to charity. This mode is also basically played the same way as Success mode with a central menu system from which most actions are executed with the exception of actual ball games.
In addition to the whopping three single-player modes, you may want to play with some friends. For that there is Exhibition mode, where you and a friend can play as your favorite MLB team or a user-created team. If you're playing the Wii version, there is a special Wii-mote mode where you can actually use the Wii's motion controls to pitch and hit. Add to that roster-creating and dream team modes as well as several training modes, including one just focused on making home runs, and you've got yourself a pretty deep and immersive game that will keep you actively engaged for quite awhile.