One look at MLB Power Pros 2008 may be enough to deter any serious baseball fan, as the anime bobblehead characters seem more suited to a goofy, arcade-style game. It would be a shame, though, to overlook Power Pros, because beneath the cutesy exterior beats the heart of a robust simulation game. Simple hitting, pitching, and fielding controls make it easy for anyone to pick up, while realistic ball physics and a full MLB roster create plenty of technical depth. It's disappointing that the series' signature role-playing modes aren't included, but MLB Power Pros 2008 is still the best way to take your DS out to the ballgame.
The foundation of Power Pros 2008's accessibility is its control scheme. Pitching is a simple matter of selecting your pitch and aiming your throw by moving a small ball icon. To hit, line up the silhouette of your bat with the ball icon and swing by pressing the B button. These basic controls give rise to complexity because different pitches and swings can be combined to deepen the strategic possibilities. In the field, you move your fielder and throw with the D pad and face buttons, respectively. Though you can switch your fielders manually, the computer will occasionally switch your character at an inopportune moment. There are some limited stylus controls, but using them is an unnecessary hassle. On the whole, the uncluttered controls allow you to perform every on-field action with ease; how well you perform these actions depends on your own skill, as well as your team's abilities.
Every major league team is in the game, with rosters that were current as of the start of the season (you'll find CC Sabathia pitching for the Indians). In addition to all of the AL and NL teams, you can create up to six other teams made up of players from around the league. You can play a single game or play a bunch of games in a row as you test your skills against seven other teams in a playoff series, but that's pretty much it for game modes. There's a dull Home Run Derby that boils down to tapping the B button with good timing, but the Season mode and quirky role-playing modes that fill out this game's console counterparts are conspicuously absent.
Despite these omissions, MLB Power Pros 2008 offers a good amount of depth within its scope. There are a number of adjustable game settings, including difficulty, number of innings, and options to play with designated hitters, errors, or wind. You can also determine to what extent the computer helps you with different aspects of the game (such as batting or base running). This is a good way to make things easier for yourself or to focus on specific aspects of your game. You can review your lineup, swap out any players that are in bad form that day, and view each player's detailed attributes. These include real-life stats, as well as special abilities that mark each player as, for example, good at hitting to the opposite field or poor in clutch situations. These abilities don't have drastic effects, but they can help you get an edge in tight games.
The rounded, legless cartoon characters are quite smoothly animated and behave like professional players. Pitching and hitting sound effects are sharp. The occasional crowd noise and dramatic musical interludes also help add some ballpark character to games. The one odd production element is the announcer, who reads off every player's number, position, and name. It's impressive and mildly entertaining, but it makes you wonder if maybe the space taken up by those sound files could have been used to include another game mode. You can also face off against a friend in both single-card and multicard play. The only thing the player without the game won't have is the music and commentary. This wireless play works smoothly, and it's good fun to play against another person.
All in all, there's really only one thing to do in MLB Power Pros 2008: play a game of baseball. Fortunately, it really gets this right. Good physics, responsive controls, and real MLB teams make matchups challenging and enjoyable. The omitted modes are sorely missed, but this is still the best baseball game on the DS right now.