Not every game that I spotlight is going to be your classic Game of the Year, a JRPG, a massive open world with an amazing story and all that fantastic jazz. Sometimes a really good game is just that, a really good game.
I’m also a big sports guy, baseball and hockey being my two vices in the sports world. But if I had to make a choice, I’d pick baseball, regardless of the fact I’d be deported from Canada for choosing any other sport over hockey. But my childhood was with baseball, I played it all the way through elementary school and continue to play it now in co-ed rec. leagues whenever I can.
Now sports games are hard to find in terms of being anything other than a “realistic simulator” like all the EA Sports games are. When it comes to baseball, there are games now like Super Mega Baseball and the returning RBI Baseball games that offer a more arcade-like style to a baseball game. But the most memorable non-realistic baseball game for me has been the MLB Power Pros games, specifically MLB Power Pros 2008.
Originally a Japan-specific baseball series known as Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū, the MLB Power Pros series was the games’ first rounds in the American markets as well, trading in their usual Japanese teams for MLB teams and replacing real-life models for a chibi, bobblehead like look to the players.
The games are very arcade-like, but retain the simple realistic style that baseball games have. Out of any sport, baseball is the easiest to make like real life cause really all you have to do is have a ball being thrown and hit and then have people running around bases, there’s no contact to keep making new physics engines for, there’s not a ton of crazy rules to worry about, it’s very straight-forward. So while the gameplay is a lot like your average baseball game, the series works around that through its environments and its unique “Success Mode”, which is my favourite thing about the series.
Success Mode is almost like a Persona-style baseball story mode where you start out in the minors and work your way to the major leagues. During this process you have to not only play well, but decide how your player is going to develop, whether you want to be a power hitter, contact hitter, speedster, expert fielder and that’s just if you want to be a fielder, not a pitcher. There’s also potential relationships you can form amongst other things. The mode is really hard too, you have to have a decent game every game, otherwise you’ll find yourself getting fired from the club real quick. But the mode itself is a cute and sometimes funny story mode, something so unique from your standard sports game.
There’s also the MLB Life mode that’s similar to Success Mode, but you’re in the major leagues and there’s a little more to do with less of a time constraint. If you managed to get your created player through Success Mode as well, he becomes available for MLB Life as well. It’s a fun mode, very unique from the usual Be A Player kind of mode that most sports games offer. This mode is literally the life of a major league baseball player, not just being a player and playing every game. You choose how to workout, you choose from a few hobbies to have, you can talk to everyone, like your teammates, agents, managers, even the ladies *wink wink*. There’s a lot to do and with the mode being very casual, it doesn’t tax you on same-y gameplay like most realistic sports games can.
If you like baseball and have either a Wii/WiiU or a PS2, check out the two MLB Power Pros games, but specifically the 2008 release. They’re super fun sports games, unlike the usually bland yearly releases that we see from other companies every year.