MLB Power Pros: the game that hardly anybody has heard of. I walked into Gamestop on Tuesday (just a day before the official street date) and the clerks had no idea what I was talking about. I might as well have asked for Duke Nukem Forever. Hell, I probably would have had a better chance of scoring a copy of DNF at the time.
The Power Pros series has been extremely popular in Japan before making it’s rookie debut in America, so it’s a real shame that MLB Power Pros is unknown to most of the Western gaming world. I understand that you can’t expect much hype from a game that is released at the very end of the season, but this little gem deserves to get some recognition.
Don’t let the goofy character models with giant eyes and missing legs (aka: Pro Yaky? style) fool you, Power Pros is not a “just fot kids” type of game. In fact, Power Pros blasts the competition out of the park by becoming the first great baseball title for the Wii.
Let me get this out in the open right now: Power Pros does not use the motion controls. At all. Instead, everything is controlled via the Nunchuck’s control stick and the Wii remote’s A and B buttons. Having grown accustomed to developers throwing every type of motion control gimmick at me in the past year, I now fully appreciate Power Pro’s control scheme.
The main problem with the controls for The Bigs was that everything was far too simplified. Hitting and pitching came down to mere timing. You hardly had any control over the exact location of your pitches, so forget about trying to lightly brush up against that inside corner to make A-Rod strike out while looking.
Power Pro’s pitching controls are strictly about the location of each pitch. After you select your pitch type, you move the control stick to where you precisely want the pitch to go. It takes a few innings to get used to as the controls are extremely touchy, but aiming quickly becomes perfectly natural by the time the seventh inning stretch is over.
The downside to Power Pro’s pitching is that there are no meters to gauge the speed of your pitch, so everything comes at the batter at a set speed. When it comes down to it though, I love being able to control my location, so I can deal with the lack of speed control, for now.
The motion controlled batting in Wii Sports Baseball got the job done, while The Bigs had a noticeable delay between your actual movements and the onscreen character’s movement. Both systems, once again, came down to mostly good timing for those big hits. Power Pros mixes things up by ditching the motion controls for batting by utilizing the pitching style control stick. As a result, batting is much more difficult at first, but chasing down each pitch with the control stick becomes much more rewarding for those big hits.
Speaking of big hits, Power Pros has two hitting options: regular and “big swing.” The key to good batting is hitting the ball off of the bat’s sweet spot (duh). Naturally, selecting “big swing” shrinks the sweet spot down, but it produces a much more powerful hit. In the higher difficulties, the sweet spot changes throughout each at-bat. If you find yourself down 0-2 in the count, your sweet spot is going to shrink to peanut status. However, if you stick in there by fouling off each ball as you wait for that perfect pitch, your sweet spot will increse once again.
My biggest gripe so far has been the fielding. There are three control options to choose from: Rookie, Normal, and Expert. The Rookie setting automatically takes over all baserunning and fielding duties, the Normal makes you control everybody on your own while assisting you with a marker indicating where the ball will drop, and the Expert mode takes away that marker, providing you with absolutely no assistance. I chose Expert at first, but after giving up triple after triple due to misplayed balls, I stepped down to Normal.
So far, the hardest play to deal with has been the line drive. Your infielder has a chance of catching the ball by running and jumping, but if he misses, you are out of luck as your outfielder has followed the infielder’s path of running, jumping, and falling to the ground to miss the ball that is floating right by him. Even a routine ground ball requires some seriously quick reflexes once the ball leaves the bat. One wrong move and it’s all over. Good luck with those quick double plays also, as your fielders take their sweet time when throwing the ball to each base.
Base running has also caused one too many groans from me thus far. When a ball is hit to the infield, your runner on first doesn’t automatically move (unless there are 2 outs), even when it is obviously not a fly ball. In order to advance each runner, you must press “up” on the control pad, something that I often forget to do when I am making sure that my batter is hustling to first in time. One too many outs have been caused by this little error, but nothing that a few more games of practice can handle.
Power Pros comes packed with a slew of game modes. The standard modes are all here, from Exhibition, Home Run Derby, Season, Practice and a League mode that allows you to start a league with 5 other friends. The Arrange mode allows you to create your own “dream team,” which is fun, but it has mainly been used by me to adjust the outdated opening day rosters (and to realize that the White Sox have lost almost every player since opening day).
The most unusual mode is the Success mode. The goal of this mode is to bring your created player up through the rankings by starting from the absolute bottom and guiding him through his daily life and wacky encounters. At first, I figured that each attribute would be increased following some sort of mini-game, but unfortunately, it’s all just strict RPG fare. I tried it for a good 20 minutes, but there is only so much text I could handle before that Home Run derby looked mighty tempting…
Remember when I said that Power Pros lacked motion controls? I lied. There is the Wii exclusive Wii Remote Power Pros mode, which uses the motion sensing action for both pitching and hitting. In comparison to the actual game, this mode is far too simplified, and as a result, boring. With the simplified controls and the absence of any fielding controls, Wii Remote Power Pros mode is just Wii Sports Baseball with a Rick Ankiel boost of HGH.
As the second true baseball outing on the Wii, Power Pros sets itself apart with its emphasis on control rather than good timing, a move that is sure to please most players. Even with the excellent controls, Power Pros still feels a bit simplified at times, especially when it comes to the complete lack of pitch speed control.
- Excellent pitching/batting controls.
- Plenty of game modes to keep you busy for the long winter ahead.
- Simple to pick up and play, yet deep enough to keep most baseball enthusiasts entertained.
- Steep learning curve for fielding controls
- Inability to control pitching speed
- Awful commentary
Final Opinion: If you are like the majority of gamers, you skipped The Bigs in hopes of a better baseball title in the future. Thankfully, Power Pros is a stellar title, even if the season is just about over…
The Tanooki Rating: 8.0