Gameplay glitches, inaccurate physics, and muddled controls can sometimes plague baseball games and sports simulations alike. Sometimes the best alternative can be a game that may not be all that realistic, but perhaps more fun to play. This is where the Wii version of Major League Baseball 2K9 sets itself apart from its next-gen offerings, while not discounting the skill it can take to win a baseball simulation.
Developers transitioned batting and pitching controls nicely to the Wii last year with its platform debut and only small tweaks are made this year. By balancing creative use of the Wii’s motion controls without sacrificing 2K’s skill-testing roots, the game remains fun to play casually but more seasoned baseball gamers aren’t forgotten. Those in search of a more comprehensible, nice alternative to what they may consider to be a flawed attempt by 2K for the 360 or PS3 may seek salvation in this.
Pitching controls have gone completely unchanged from last year. The position of your pitch is decided with the Wii-mote, and the pitch type is selected with the analog stick in a way similar to setting up on any other console. When you want to let ‘er rip, hold the B button and pull the Wii Remote back, as if to mimic the pulling back of the pitchers arm, as the circular target appears over your ball location. As the target collapses, the player must flick the Wii-mote forward to imitate hurling the ball just as it enters the green zone for ultimate accuracy. Of course, the accuracy is limited with the censored controls of the Nintendo Wii, but it is an extremely fun and unique take on baseball gaming that only the Wii can offer.
Much like in real baseball, one of the most fun elements of playing MLB 2K9 on the Wii is standing in the batter’s box. This is something 2K and Visual Concepts have captured nicely in 2K9, as you hold back and swing forward with the Wii-mote just as you would a real bat. Similar to the way batting works on other platforms, timing is essential. Hitting the sweet spot as the ball crosses the plate is the hard part and the mimicking of a real-life bat swing is fun, if not entirely accurate. Hand-eye coordination and a fair amount of practice is needed for those who aren’t already familiar with MLB 2K8, and the feel of smacking a nice one is definitely rewarding if not a tad few and far between. Predicting the location of the ball within the squared grid of the strike zone is done by moving the Nunchuk’s control stick to read the pitch, just as you would do with the analog on another platform. It’s a clever system that doesn’t alter much from last year and is extremely fun when playing with others.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Wii owners is the complete lack of online support yet again in 2009. Those looking forward to playing the Wii version online will have to wait at least one more year. It also means there are no living rosters to update the game as the actual MLB season progresses, which is one of the most popular developments in the recent world of sports gaming. It’s an extremely questionable move, especially considering the fun, Wii-exclusive controls that makes playing against a competitor one of its best features and highest areas of replay values.
With the decision not to include online play this year, there aren’t a whole lot of considerable differences between 2K9 and 2K8 when playing on the Wii. Fielding is controlled by using the Nunchuk to direct player movements, and the directional buttons on the Wii-mote are used to throw to bases. The A.I. is also quite helpful in aiding the fielding tasks, and it can be sometimes frustratingly good when playing against the CPU. Fielding mechanics and animations flow considerably smooth with a setup that’s easy to get used to. In-game animations and generic-looking character models seem identical to last year, and graphically 2K9 features no noticeable improvements to a somewhat angular, stale-looking game in comparison to its PS3 and 360 counterparts. Even as far as the Wii’s capabilities go, the game looks dated, and it would have been nice to see the developers concentrate on improving the overall experience from a visual standpoint.
The new broadcast team of Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips liven things up slightly with some notably smooth commentary, while sometimes sounding as though they take a bit of time to register. Those looking for new modes won’t find any in 2K9, as single games for up to two players, GM Career, Franchise, and Season have all gone untouched.
The Home Run Derby is exactly the same as last year and continues to be one of the most enjoyable features of the game while playing with a group of friends looking to test their skills at the plate. While updated rosters and statistics make this game somewhat more current, the lack of anything substantially new and exciting may not provide more casual gamers with enough reasons to replace their 2K8 title.
What is new is the inclusion of over 150 unlockable trading cards, which reward users for winning games and completing different mini-challenges in the game such as hitting a number of homeruns or stealing bases. Those who want to create their own fantasy teams may only select players whose cards have been unlocked, though the inability to share them with anyone due to lack of online support makes doing so a lot less meaningful.
On its own, Major League Baseball 2K9 is simply a good time when playing on the Wii. In comparison to last year’s debut, MLB 2K9 hasn’t separated itself enough from its predecessor. It also doesn’t show significant improvements on graphics, controls, or other previously occurring flaws to make it worth the asking price for people who already own 2K8. This point is driven home by the lack of online support for the second year in a row. Though this game is far from perfect, it is at the very least a fun title that doesn’t take itself as seriously as other next-gen MLB 2K9 offerings.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.7 Graphics
Seemingly unchanged from last year, MLB 2K9 looks just as angular and graphically dated as its predecessor. 4.0 Control
Pitching and fielding see no notable improvements. While successful batting can be difficult, the pull-back and swing mechanic is among the highlights of playing this game on the Wii. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great stadium ambience, commentary, and energetic rock soundtrack make this game fun to turn up loud. 3.4
With few improvements from last year, only those new to the MLB 2K series on the Wii may find great value in this game.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.