In a genre dominated by games like the Madden and FIFA series, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that sports games don’t always have to be pure simulations. 2K’s MLB Power Pros is truly a game, and a deep one at that.
Konami’s Power Pro series has been popular for years in Japan, but never really had any success in the American market. For MLB Power Pros, Konami teamed up with 2K Sports to integrate Major League Baseball teams and players into its format. Even with the series’ simplistic player models, personalities of MLB stars come through just as much. The look fits in well on the Wii.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the game is easy. On the contrary, Power Pros has one of the deepest systems in the genre, and can be hard to pick up and play. Once a player is in, though, there’s something for everyone. In addition to a season mode with full AAA rosters, Power Pros includes player and team customization that includes detailed statistics and behaviors, multiplayer leagues, a home run challenge and, most importantly, Success Mode. This mode feels much like an RPG, with players making decisions and upgrading statistics in an attempt to have a college player make the jump to the big leagues. Success is very much a Japanese mode, from its high difficulty to the option to date various girls. Ultimately, though, it is a rewarding way to build a unique character to use in the rest of the game.
The actual gameplay is fairly conventional. Pitchers aim and press various button configurations, and batters react by moving the bat within a square and swinging. A player’s statistics seem to matter more in batting power and pitch speed and less in baserunning and accuracy, but ultimately players feel different. Most importantly for a baseball title, games progress relatively quickly, due to less presentation elements like replays.
The controls in this game don’t fit the Wii completely. The main game uses no motion sensors, and is best played with a GameCube controller or a Classic Controller. However, 2K also threw in an extra Wii Remote mode, which comes off as a variation on the Wii Sports Baseball design. The batting is more simplistic and only recognizes specific motions, but characters have more variety, and both Miis and other players in the game can be used. It also allows for customization of almost all rules and parameters, so it can be adjusted to work best in any environment.
MLB Power Pros is by no means a graphical powerhouse, but it makes up for it with depth, variety and sheer fun factor. It’s a good game for sports fans and a great sports title for gamers, and it’s also relatively inexpensive. Don’t let this one continue to fly under the radar.