Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review: Go yard with "MLB Power Pros"

While I had fun launching homers opposite field, landing a minor league contract in "MLB Power Pros" made my day.

The MLB-sponsored title, published by 2K Sports and Konami, is arguably one of the deepest baseball games to date on any console I have seen. While other baseball games on the Wii have yet to outshine the simplicity and coolness of "Wii Sports Baseball," "MLB Power Pros" sends "Wii Sports Baseball" running for the showers.

The game, while short on graphics, proves its worth in a wealth of options. When a gamer starts, they can choose from several modes. The modes are: Matchup (play against a friend or your Wii), Success (create a player and work to ascend to the majors), Season, League (battle your friends and the computer in a league with two to six teams), Practice, Arrange (build a baseball team with players and teams you love), PowerPro via Wii Remote (play baseball using your Wii Remote), Home Run Derby, Baseball Cards (you can browse through cards you own), Shop (use your Power Major Points to buy cards batting styles and pitching forms) and My Data.

In some of the modes, you will have to use your Nunchuck as well. This controller scheme allows gamers to angle their bats precisely where the ball will travel. On the Wii Remote, you just have to press the A button and down on the control pad to swing. Unlike "WSB," you can advance runners, steal bases and bunt.

For pitching, "MLB Power Pros" offers some insane depth. You can select over 22 different pitching styles to baffle batters with. You just have to use the Wii Remote for pitching.

You can also manually field hits or let your team do it automatically. You can move your fielder with your Nunchuck.

With all the different playing modes, the Season mode is arguably the deepest of all of them. As you play the Season mode, you earn points by playing games. You can use the points to strengthen your team. You can also work on player development, and acquire new players.

Need a seasoned slugger to bolster your team? Use the player search mode and choose from pitcher, fielder and special. You can also view detailed stats on players you are considering for your team. If that's not deep enough for you, you can switch players between the MLB and AAA, change batting orders, change players' roles and adjust team strategy.

Another essential mode is Practice mode. Gamers can work on their batting, pitching, fielding, base running, general fielding and hitting practice.

For all of you gamers that use the Wii for exercise, (I know I *try* to) the "Power Pro via Wii Remote" is the mode for you. You use your Wii Remote to play baseball, and can even find out how many calories you burned during your game. You can play a game or take the Home Run Challenge. Forget Wii Fit - let me park a few and drop some weight ...

With the wealth of stats, data, gameplay modes, you would think that alone would make "MLB Power Pros" the champ. Not so fast. The coolest mode isn't really about playing baseball. It's a new feature, unlike any sports game I have ever seen. It's the Success mode. This mode combines "The Sims" and "WSB" for one fun, and challenging game.

Success mode starts out with gamers creating a Mii-like persona, who signs on with a college team. Here's where the fun begins. You can choose to study, work a job part time, attend practice, get some rest or go on a date. It's really a lot of button mashing, but one of the coolest minigames I have played.

You will be faced with some tough questions, and there's a Chance card that you will have to answer with. Some of them say "No," others say "Challenge," and some say "Yes." While I loved answering the questions, the cards change so you will end up answering a question with an answer you don't want. That's not cool

However, you will work your way from lowly frosh all the way up to star senior, and face some decisions that will take deep thought. Just like college in real life, it's a balancing act keeping up with practice, which is essential for you getting playing time, studying to keep yourself ahead and eligible and getting your proper rest.

At the end of your career, if you are good enough, you will land yourself a minor league contract.

The gameplay in Success was pretty rare - I played in games like 3-4 times - but the mode was such a departure from baseball that I was sucked in. Yes, it's about baseball, but it's really more about life - and our choices - than just baseball.

The graphics for "MLB Power Pros" aren't meant to be serious, but somehow, they really work. The sounds are ok - the crack of an aluminum bat brings back so many memories.

Yes, there are a few other MLB/baseball titles out there for the Wii, and "WSB" is one of the best baseball games to date. However, "MLB Power Pros" hits a grand slam by bringing a new dose of energy to baseball.

Play ball!

Why should I care: "MLB Power Pros" is a baseball fan's dream, overstuffed with stats, data and more options that you can imagine

The good: Insane amount of options - wealth of data - very, very deep gameplay modes - Success mode is very addictive - real major league players (in cartoon form!) - mode to track calories burned and the list goes on ...

The bad: Unclear on how to add Success players onto major league clubs, no online multiplayer mode - limited chances to answer questions in Success mode

The ugly: My 0-3 performance in a championship game. I was robbed!

Overall: 8.75 (out of 10):
"MLB Power Pros" offers the kind of deep gameplay you would expect to find on the 360 or PS3 but don't. Not only can you play as a single player, work your way up from college into the minor leagues, but you can be a GM. And stats? Lots of stats ... it's unreal. There's so much to do in "MLB Power Pros" that you won't be bored.

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