After the days of the Super Nintendo, I stopped playing any and all sports games that did not feature Princess Peach in a tennis skirt. Not that I don't think sports games are good -- I just think they got too realistic and complicated for my taste.
But at a Konami event this past weekend at Dodger Stadium, I got to play MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros, and I have to say: I think I may like sports games again! Well, at least ones that star players with hilariously large bobbleheads.
And, yeah, you read that right: I got to play Konami's just-released XBLA sports game (available as of July 6th for 800 Microsoft Points) at Dodger Stadium.
It was a pretty awesome experience.
Now, before anyone looks at the header image and makes fun of the Dodgers for having an empty stadium, let me just say that this particular picture was taken a couple hours before the game actually started. They were still setting up the field and not that many fans had shown up yet.
This picture was taken in the middle of the afternoon game, after everyone had arrived:
Oh. Oops. Yikes.
Okay, you can go ahead and make fun of the Dodgers. I understand. It was a sad showing that day.
Lucky for me and all the other members of the gaming press at the Sunday game, the actual Dodgers game wasn't the highlight of the day. The focus of the event was Konami's MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros, which was available to play in one of Dodger Stadium's amazing Deluxe Box Suites.
Now, I love going to Dodgers games. It is one of my favorite things to do and one of the reasons I love living in Los Angeles. Sitting in the sun on a weekend afternoon, drinking beer and eating Dodger Dogs with friends is one of the greatest days you can ever have.
But doing all that in a Deluxe Box Suite ... well ... that made everything even better. I felt so fancy! So, a quick special thanks to Konami for an amazing, incredible day.
As far as the game goes, I have to say, I really enjoyed it! Much more than I thought I would!
It says a lot that I spent more time playing MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros than sitting and watching the actual Dodgers game. Especially given the fact that I went in with an "LOL SPORTS!" attitude towards sports videogames.
The first thing I love about the game is its aesthetic. Playing a real sports game with players sporting giant, wiggling bobbleheads (and no legs!) put a giant smile on my face. Even more importantly, this look reminded me of all my favorite retro baseball games from years ago: RBI Baseball and Baseball Stars for the NES, and even the original Baseball on the Game Boy.
I have a lot of respect for the new, realistic-looking baseball games, but there is something about the more absurd, stylized games that appeal to me.
When it comes to the gameplay, MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros plays pretty great!
It is a simple mechanic, really, and exactly what you would expect. Push "A" to pitch, swing, and perform most of the normal baseball duties. In the outfield, you can dive for the ball, and throw it to each base using the four diamond-shaped buttons on the Xbox 360 controllers. "A" goes to home plate, "B" goes to first, and so on and so on ...
The controls are pretty normal, but refreshingly easy to use and execute.
One small, but important detail is the ability to choose between big and little swings. As a batter, your default is a less powerful swing, which makes your bat's impact range must larger. The downside: you most likely will not hit a home run with this swing.
If you change to a "big swing", the bat's range is must smaller on-screen, but, man, if you hit the ball in the right spot, you will be clearing the fences almost every time.
It is a fun little addition that adds some strategy to each swing.
I am not a sports fan (SURPRISE FACE!), so I didn't recognize any of the players in the game, but, according to Konami, every team and current player is represented in bobblehead form in MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros. Also, there is a surprisingly deep stats system that tracks each player and offers little bonuses here and there for added in-game excitement. For a baseball fan, that is pretty cool!
And even cooler, the game is offering its first DLC in honor of the All-Star game, featuring all the players from the American and National league teams. The DLC is available today (July 12th), so you can download it when you are done reading this!
I had a great time with MLB Bobblehead Baseball Pros. It is simple enough to appeal to all gamers, but robust and serious enough that giant sports fans will also find a lot to enjoy.
Also, it stars baseball players with giant bobbleheads. What's not to love?