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The fun Little League Baseball 2008 has to offer is anything but!!!

When I first found this game at Zellers for the low, low cost of $19.99 I was super excited! Judging by the images on the front and back covers of the case I saw a striking resemblance in appearance to the original Little League Baseball game for NES, from way back in the day. That game was one of me and my friends favourites back then, so unwittingly finding a continuation of the franchise definitely had me pumped! I'm not sure if the games were produced by the same company or not, but I do believe this game was based on that original, and they did a great job with it. This game is fairly basic at it's root elements, and that is partially what makes it so fun. You take control of the little league team of your choice and play through the world series tournament, 6 innings a game, 6 games to win it all, and immortalize yourself as the best young baseballers in all of Nintendo land!!

As usual I'll start off at the main menu, from which you have five options. The first option is "Exhibition" and here you have two further options. First you can choose to play a "Quick Game". Once selecting this option you then pick how many players will be competing (1 player, 2 players, or you can . . . watch . . . a game?), and then choose your teams and you are off to play some ball. The other game you can play is a "Custom Game". This is basically the same as Quick Game, it just gives you a few more options to edit before you start. Again you start off by selecting how many players will be competing as well as selecting your teams, but then you also get to select the stadium you want to play at (there are 3 total stadiums to choose from). Then you decide on a wide range of game options including who gets home field advantage, number of innings, number of extra innings if needed, mercy rule settings, and the computer's difficulty level. The last step is to make any changes to your team's lineup before you finally hit the field. The games in this mode are just one-offs, they don't count towards winning any sort of championship or anything.

The second option from the main menu is "World Series" and is the staple mode of this game. Once choosing this option you will be asked to select which difficulty level you want to play at. There are four difficulty levels in this game including Little, Junior, Senior and Big. The next step is to select your team. There are 16 teams in this game, 8 from the U.S. and 8 international teams. Once you choose the team you want to play with you are asked if you want to edit your team's name/logo. After editing your team name/logo you can then edit team uniform settings, choosing from 3 different configurations for both pants and shirts. Next you will be asked if you want to edit your star player. If you choose to do so you can edit a wide range of his or her attributes including name, body type, player type, hair, facial features, handedness, batting stance and pitch delivery. Once completing all of this editing you will be taken to the tournament menu screen, which shows all the teams in the tournament and how they sit in the standings. You start each of your games from this menu, once you start your next game all you have to do is make any lineup adjustments you may need and then you are in to the action! The first three games of the World Series mode are a round-robin tournament that determines the seedings for the elimination round. You then have to win three elimination games in a row to win the overall championship. If you lose the first elimination game you are done, but if you lose the second game you then get to play for third place.

World Series isn't the only substantial mode in this game however. The third option from the main menu is "Skills Challenge" and is a collection of 6 mini-games that are anything but!! Up to 4 human controlled players can compete in this mode and it is a lot of fun. Of the 6 mini-games 3 have a batting theme and 3 have a pitching theme. I will give a brief description of each mini-game in the following paragraphs.

The first batting game you come to is called "Home Run Tourney". Four players compete as I mentioned above, so in order to win the tournament you have to better your opponent in two rounds of home run smashing. However, you don't win based on how many total home runs you hit, you win based on your point total. You earn points by hitting the ball out of the park of course, but then you can earn bonus points by hitting consecutive home runs, as well as by hitting the various balloons that are stationed in the air above the outfield crowd. Every fifth pitch you receive is a skill ball. Basically the pitch will have a little something extra on it, making it much harder to hit. If you do manage to hit that pitch out of the park though, you receive a good deal of bonus points. There are three options you can choose from when starting this game in terms of how many pitches per round you will be thrown. The options are 5, 10 and 20 pitch rounds.

The second batting game is called "Batting Frenzy" and is one of the harder ones! In this game the ball diamond is divided up in to a number of sections. The four players take turns, one pitch per turn, to hit the ball in to fair territory and claim any of these sections of field. When you hit a ball to an open section of field it will turn the colour your player is represented by in the game. You earn points by gaining sections of field and can earn big bonus points by completing straight lines. The wild card in this game is the steal ball. Each player gets one steal ball in this game that, when engaged, will turn another player's previously claimed section of field to their colour. It's tricky to pull off as you have to be very precise on where you hit the ball, so it's usually better to use it once the field has a lot of claimed sections and you have higher odds of hitting one of your opponent's sections. You can earn more steal balls by hitting the ball out of the park. There are three options you can choose from when starting out on this game, you can choose the field to be broken up in to sections of 3 X 3, 4 X 4 or 5 X 5. It gets harder the more sections there are on the field. Each one of these options has a set number of rounds you will play through, the player with the most total points once all rounds are complete is the winner.

The third and final batting game is "Horse". The field is divided up in to three equal lanes, one alley down the left side, one down the right, and then one up the middle. Each player gets one pitch per turn. Before the pitch each player is randomly told to which lane they have to hit the ball. If the ball is hit to the correct lane that player will receive a certain amount of points, depending on how far he/she hit the ball. If the ball is not hit to the correct lane said player will receive a letter. Once a player receives all letters in the word they are trying not to spell, he/she is out of the game. The game ends after a set number of rounds, if there is a tie as to how many letters two or more players have received the winner is decided by the players' various point totals for the round. There are five different options as to what word players are trying not to spell in this game, those word options are OUT, BALL, PITCH, STRIKE and HOME RUN.

The first pitching game is called "Pitching Darts" and within it there are many sub-modes. The premise of this game is that you are the pitcher, but instead of a catcher at home plate there is a big board divided up in to 9 square panels. On the panels are numbers, usually 1 through 9, that are represented randomly in four different colours (blue, red, yellow and green). When you throw a pitch at any of these 9 panels you receive points, the same number of points that corresponds to the number on the panel you hit. The four colours on the board represent different pitch types. If you hit a panel with the corresponding pitch type, you will receive double the amount of points represented by the number in said panel. As for the different game modes, the first one is called "Count Up". In this game each player gets three pitches per round (the game ends after a set amount of rounds) to gain the most amount of points they can. At the end of all rounds the player with the highest score is the winner. There are three different options to choose from when you start on this game, you can choose the 6 round, 8 round or 10 round game. The second game under this mode is called the "01 Game" and is pretty much the opposite of the Count Up game. Each player starts off with the same total score and must count down to zero. The hard part is that you must go out with an exact score of zero, so math skills and pitch execution are paramount in this game! The first person to hit zero wins. There are three options to choose from in terms of what score you count down from, including 101, 201 and 301. The last game under this mode is "Round the Clock" and is a little different from the others. Each player can have up to 9 pitches per round as you try and run the board on each turn. The first player starts with the number 1 and counts up sequentially. If you hit a numbered panel out of order than your turn ends early and the next player goes. The player with the most points after all numbers in the game are used up is the winner. There are three options as to what number the players are counting up to, those options are 40, 70 and 99.

The second pitching game is called "Pitching Bowling" and is pretty self-explanatory! Instead of a catcher at home plate you are throwing at 10 bowling pins, trying to knock as many down as possible. The scoring is done exactly as in a normal game of 10-pin bowling would be, but there is one small difference. Every so often the head pin will be a different colour, the same colours as in the Pitching Darts game. If you hit the head pin with the pitch corresponding to said colour and end up getting a strike, you receive a whack of bonus points. The player with the highest score at the end of the game is the winner. There are three options to choose from when starting this game. You can choose to play either a 6, 8 or 10 frame game.

The third and final pitching game is "Pitching Gallery", far and above my favourite of all the Skills Challenge games! At home plate in this game there is a booth set up with moving targets within. The bottom of the booth is filled with a line of slower moving targets that run from right to left. In the middle of the booth is a faster moving line of targets that run from left to right. And in the top portion of the booth are three panels with targets that will drop down and then pull back up on a timed sequence. On each target is a baseball themed item, stuff like parts of each players' uniform, balls, bats, gloves, trophies, souvenirs, even ballpark themed food items. Each player gets one pitch per round to hit a target and move the corresponding item to their inventory. Points are scored for each target, some are worth more than others, but the best way to win is by collecting combos. Each target item in this game is part of a set that if you complete will earn you bonus points. And these items don't always only belong to just one combo, sometimes they can be part of two or three different combos. The player who has the highest score after all target items in the game are collected is the winner. There are two options to choose from when starting this game, you can play the 24 item game or the 38 item game.

Whoo! Wipes sweat off brow. Thankfully that's over!! Back to the main menu the fourth option is called "Practice". When you start this mode a coach type character will start talking to you on-screen about learning how to play the game properly before hitting the field. He will then take you through four different categories of tutorials that will help you get familiar with the ins and outs of Little League Baseball 2008. The different tutorials include Pitching Training, Batting Training, Fielding & Running Training, and Talents Training.

The fifth and final option from the main menu is "Clubhouse" and is where all of the bonus unlockable content in this game can be accessed. Once you select this option you are taken to a baseball locker room that has shelves full of trophies as well as banners and plaques hanging on the wall. At first they are all whited out as you have to unlock them in order to view them. The banners and plaques you unlock by having success and winning championships in World Series mode. The trophies you unlock by performing certain objectives during the World Series tournaments, both as a team and individually. At the front of the locker room is a small table with four items on it. The first item is called the "Skills Challenge Card Binder". This is a binder full of 12 pages of baseball cards that can be unlocked by performing certain objectives in the various Skills Challenge mini-games. Some of them you will unlock simply by beating and gaining high scores in each game. But then there are others that are harder, like achieving a perfect game in Pitching Bowling or collecting all combos in Pitching Gallery. The second item on this table is the "World Series Pin Case". Within this case are four pins that you can unlock by achieving certain records during a World Series tournament with regards to setting RBI and Strike Outs records. The third item on the table is the "World Series Records" book. This book contains all records, both team and individual, that you set during all World Series tournaments you participate in. The fourth and final item on the table is the "Skills Challenge Scorebook" and is the exact same thing as the World Series Records book, only it tracks the highest scores during your Skills Challenge career instead.

As for the controls on this game they are very simple, you don't even use the nunchuk! Pitching is probably the most complex of all the various controls. To start your pitcher's delivery you bring your arm up (with the Wii remote in it, of course!) in to a cocked position. As the pitcher works through his motion you then bring your arm downwards in a pitching motion just as he/she is about to throw the ball. Timing is key because if you don't make a good pitch the opposition is more likely to hit said pitch. Prior to the pitch you can aim where you want the ball to go using the control pad on the Wii remote. To throw different pitches you hold down different buttons and make movements with the Wii remote during your delivery. Holding down A, B, or conversely holding down no buttons at all, all correspond to different pitch types. Within each category of pitch represented by the buttons, if you tilt the Wii remote during your delivery to the left or the right you will get different versions of said pitch type. For fielding your players will automatically get to the ball, but you can make them run faster by shaking the hell out of the Wii remote! Press B to make your player dive for a ball. Once your fielder has the ball just make a throwing motion with the Wii remote to make them throw it. The computer will automatically decide on the best place for the ball to be thrown however, if you want it to go somewhere in particular with it just hold down the appropriate direction on the Wii remote. Right is for first base, up is second, left is third, and down is home plate. With regards to batting, it's pretty bloody simple! You see the ball coming at you and you swing your Wii remote like a bat to hit it. Swinging with an upwards motion will produce a ball hit in the air, an even stroke will be more of a line drive, and swinging with a downward motion will more likely produce a ground ball. To bunt just hold down the A button. When running the bases the computer will make decisions to stay or go automatically. You can countermand these decisions, one way or another, by pressing the A button. To make your player run faster again just shake the hell out of the Wii remote. The last thing I need to mention here is the skill meter. In the bottom corners of the screen are each team's skill meter. This meter fills during the game when either team does good things like throw strikes, make outs, get hits, score runs, etc. The skill meter is divided up in to 3 sections. To utilize the skill meter just hold down the A and B buttons together and you will use up one section of the meter (you can use more than one section at a time though, just keep pressing the buttons to add more). When a player utilizes a part of the skill meter on any given play they are more likely to succeed in their task at hand. This skill meter can be engaged at any time. A pitcher can use it to increase their odds of a strikeout and a batter can use it to increase their odds of a hit. It can also be used in the field when making a catch or on the base paths when trying to get home and score a run. The skill meter applies differently to each team's star player. When a star player engages the skill meter they automatically use up all three sections (if it's indeed completely full). If all three sections are engaged that player is almost guaranteed of success on whatever play they are trying to execute.

The game's presentation is awesome! It is very colourful and has some fun, traditional type of Nintendo music. The graphics are great. The cartoony aspect of the characters and their surroundings make this a very fun game to play and really hark back to the original Little League Baseball game, linking past to present. The gameplay is very good as well. Batting, running and fielding are all flawless but there are some minor issues that creep up from time to time when pitching. There are so many different pitch types in the game and the movements required to execute them so subtle, that sometimes you miss a pitch you thought you had nailed. But it's not a big deal, with practice this problem mostly goes away.

For pros and cons this game falls heavily on the pro side! First, I've mentioned it a couple of times, but the nostalgia factor for me regarding the link to the original Little League Baseball game is fantastic. I also thought this game was very well done visually and also in terms of gameplay. Best of all the fun factor on this game is enormous! What really surprised me is that, although this game is pretty basic in essence, at the same time it feels like it has so much to offer. The World Series tournament only lasts 6 games yet you want to play it over and over again because it is so fun and there are so many records to be set! Same for the Skills Challenge mode. There are so many records to be set and so many items to unlock that these goofy little mini-games keep you hooked for weeks. The only con I could come up with were the slight issues you can experience when pitching, but again it's not a big issue. A fantastically flawless game all around!

I have a few tips and tricks to offer future players. First, start with the tutorials. They don't take long and they aren't hard, but they will pay off in the end for sure when you know what the hell you're doing heading in to a World Series tournament. Once you get in to World Series mode start out on the lowest difficulty levels and play there for a while, getting used to how the game works. Then I would head over to the Skills Challenge mode, especially the pitching games. When you get in to these games it really forces you to learn exactly how to throw each pitch, which in turn helps you greatly when you head back to World Series mode and get in to the higher difficulty levels. Also, when utilizing your skill meter, use it on your star player to hit home runs. I wouldn't waste it on pitching or fielding tasks unless you are really in a jam. This is the best bang for your buck you'll get out of your skill meter by far.

All in all this is one hell of a video game! And for the value I got it at it probably makes the list of one of my best video game buys of all time! If you like baseball games I would certainly pick this one up. All the other baseball games out there feature realism, but every once in a while it's nice to play just a fun, little more simplistic type of ball game, and this one does it the best. It's a fun and refreshing take on the domain of video game baseball.

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