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MLB Power Pros 2008: Life and Success in the Majors

Company: 2K Sports

For the second year in a row, 2K Sports is bringing over the wildly popular (well, at least in Japan) MLB Power Pros series to the US for the Wii, PS2 and for the first time ever, the DS. 2k Sports recently held a conference call with the game's producer, Robert Nelson, who discussed some of the game's more unique features and why it could possibly be the baseball game that everyone gets into this year.

MLB Power Pros 2008 is an officially licensed baseball game that looks to blend the deep gameplay found in other, more hardcore baseball sims with a look and design that is accessible to new players. According to Nelson, the goal is to deliver a game that can hit both markets. Casual players who might be intimidated by how complicated sports games have become (or probably haven't played the game before) can get into the game and have fun, but at the same time hardcore players won't feel like the experience has been cheapened in the name of inclusion.

One of the ways Power Pros 2008 is aiming to hit both these markets is with its two RPG-like Modes: Success and MLB Life. In Success Mode, players can create their own character as either a pitcher or a batter and attempt to make a name for themselves. This year's mode is a continuation of last year's, which had you trying to go from high school into the minors. This year you'll start in the minors and try to make it to the MLB. In order to do this, you'll have to go through a variety of in-game training challenges that will allow your character to improve certain stats. Eventually, you'll impress your coaches enough that you'll earn more playing time. Once you're in the game, you'll have to keep up the hard work and impress a scout, leading to a career with an MLB franchise.

Once you've hit it big in Success Mode, you can then import your character into MLB Life to further his career. You'll have to hit a certain set of milestones for the chance. 2K is estimating it can take anywhere between 1 - 5 hours to do this, though much of that will be dependent on how you choose to build your character. This same sentiment carries over into MLB Life, only you'll have to make a number of off-field decisions in addition to the on-field ones.

The situations presented in MLB Life won't get too "heavy", so you won't find yourself testifying in a Senate Hearing discussing performance enhancing drugs; instead, everything is kept very light and has a quirky Japanese influence. You'll have to decide on your player's likes and dislikes, who he hangs out with, what hobbies he has and how he wants to spend his money. Do you want to buy a bunch of stuff or donate to charities? There's even a few dating-sim elements tucked away in the game.

All of the decisions you'll have to make are ones faced by real-life players. Before going on a two-week road trip, you'll have to decide what to pack. While you're on the road do you want to work out, or would you rather bring a chess board and work on your hobby? You only have a limited amount of space in your bag, so your decision is an important one that will have an affect on your career. Players who choose to socialize with friends rather than practice may see their on-field skills take a hit, reducing the amount of play time you get. On the flip side, focusing solely on your career might cut you out of some other opportunities. The cool thing about the Mode is its flexibility; if you choose to completely ignore one aspect or another, you won't be severely punished. Instead, the focus is on having fun and getting what you want out of the experience.

So what if you want to get deep play mechanics and stat management out of the game? Well, that's here too. The game features all of the MLB players and parks and the rosters and player stats can be adjusted at anytime during the season to reflect any trades or slumps. The A.I. has also been tweaked over last year's version, including a new fielding mechanic.

As you accomplish things in-game, you'll earn points that you can use to unlock new items like new batting/ pitching stances (for your created character) as well as new parks or cards. All three versions of the game will feature all of the same modes, with the only difference being the control mechanics, which are based around the particular systems. All will feature 1-on-1 Multiplayer (though no Online) and as an added function, Wii owners will be able to download their created characters onto their Wii-mote and upload him on their buddy's Wii.

MLB PowerPro 2008 may not have the same gritty, ultra-realistic look as other baseball games, but don't let the game's looks fool you. The game has a definite charm to it that could possibly win over even the most hardcore of players. Look for our review shortly.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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