MLB '06: The Show succeeds where other baseball games have failed, but falls short of perfection.

User Rating: 8.2 | MLB 06: The Show PSP
My experience with baseball games is fairly limited, but I think the game that I had the most fun with was ASB '05 on the Xbox. The reasons why I'll elaborate in a bit, but I have to say it is the game that I compare all other baseball games to. The PSP's offerings in the baseball department have been very weak and it took quite a while for a game to come around to correct it.

Gameplay - 9/10
The strongest element of any sports game is whether or not it can replicate the feel of actually playing the game in real life and the level of challenge it provides. ASB '05 easily had one of the most intricate batting systems I've ever seen and it made the game a classic to me. In the 3-D setting, a player could direct the ball whether it would be a fly ball or grounder and what direction it was going in which was also factored in by the wind direction. You had to not only swing in time, but also aling the cursor with the ball. MLB '06: The Show fails in this department, however, falling back to the old timed swing schtick. Of course, a 3-D cursor would be a hard feat to pull off given the analog nub, so this is understandable. Speaking of the analog nub, another minus for the PSP version is the ability to set your pitches. The nub is so sensitive that it often is hard to direct where you want the ball. However, in the defense of the pitching system, I find it to be the most intricate and realistic system around. You first must choose the pitch you want, then the placement, then you are given the option of choosing the power of the pitch, as selected by the arc going from blue being slow to red being hot, and then you have to nail as close as you can to a line roughly midway in the arc to determine the accuracy of the pitch. This system gives incredible depth to the pitching scheme that is only hindered by the overly sensitive analog nub. Fielding is essentially the same as many other games, diving is done with the R shoulder button, the face buttons direct the thrower to a specific base and the L shoulder throws to the cut-off man. Some minor beefs in gameplay are the inability to determine whether attempting to direct your batting (by holding the analog nub in the direction you want to hit towards) is actually functioning and the fact that the wind direction not only has no impact on the game, but also never changes. Flags are always facing to the right. Catching pop fly balls is especially fun though since not only does it show where the ball will roughly land, but also a large baseball slowly begins to shrink into where the ball will actually land, allowing you to refine your position in order to avoid errors.

Graphics - 7/10
If anything truly takes a hit in the game, it has to be the graphics. The create-a-player is extremely weak and you're likely to never actually see your character save for maybe checking out your "baseball card" giving stats and prospect information. While the overall animation is fluid and fitted to each player, background detail is scaled back extremely. The crowd is stuck in the usual 2-D looping animation seen in many of these types of games. The baseball fields don't seem to be very different either unfortunately.

Sound - 8/10
Commentary for the game is absolutely wonderful. Sometimes it make take a hit here and there as it tries to stay up to speed with the current action in the game, but a lot of the time you'll hear tons of little things that you hadn't heard before. Overall sound effects are wonderful. From the crack of the bat to the crowd cheering when you smash a homer, you can really get into the sound effects. Negatives for the sound pertain to the awful music that plays in-between games. There seems to be roughly 8 songs and they're pretty much throwaway music as it's doubtful you've ever heard of any of the bands save for Three Six Mafia. A major gripe I have is the inability to do custom tracks for your create-a character which made ASB '05 a lot of fun. This glaring oversight which has become something I find intolerable by all game developers, not just those of this game, is that they can't harness the power of the MP3 files on the memory stick for custom tracks.

Value - 8/10
The loss of the franchise mode for the PSP is definitely a hurting factor as being able to draft your own team would add loads of replay value to the game. Overall, however, career mode is quite enjoyable as you attempt to go from the minor leagues to the majors. You can't make trades for other players, but may attempt to trade yourself. Interesting things such as team and manager morale and the various options you have to act as though you are a real player. Most end in negative reactions save for asking for more play time or moving up in the batting order. You can also ask to move up from AA to AAA to MLB respectively, but can be shipped down, although they never tell you why you are being demoted. A young player can typically go 10-20 seasons before old age or ability force you to retire. Load times somewhat hamper the game, but the load times are only inbetween games and games tend to go quite a while if you don't choose to fast forward. Reviewer's Tilt - 8/10
Overall, I really enjoy this game, but small problems prevent it from being perfect. I'm hoping that '07, if it comes out (it has been mentioned via online in the game that '07 is coming), will correct some of the minor issues that this game has. I would highly recommend this game however for any baseball fans.

The Good: Solid gameplay, long and in-depth career mode.

The Bad: No Roster editing, no franchise mode.