Konami’s Jikkyou Powerful Pro series has been around for over 20 years. It began life in 1994 on the Super Famicom and has since appeared on many other consoles such as Sega Saturn, N64 and Nintendo Wii, to name just a few. The series has mainly stayed exclusive to Japan but there have been English releases under the name MLB Power Pros.
This year’s edition, Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2016 is unfortunately not in English and so this is an import review. My Japanese language skills are fairly limited and so I will not be able to go into detail about any story elements of this game but I can definitely give you my opinion on how easy it is to play as a non-Japanese speaker and if it’s worth giving it a go if your Japanese is also quite limited!
The Powerful Pro series has iconic character designs, known as “Pawapurokun” to its fans. All the characters look like a cross between Mii’s & Rayman with big heads, cute faces and no legs. Graphically the game is very cutesy with bright and vibrant designs but don’t write this off as just a kiddy game – it’s actually quite a deep arcade-style baseball game!
When you begin the game you can select from a number of different modes such as Pennant, Success, My Life and Versus. I would suggest that you start off in Training mode first, just to get used to the controls. You’ll get to practice batting, pitching, fielding and play some simulated games.
The controls are fairly simple:
If you’re pitching then you can use the D-pad or left analog stick to choose what kind of pitch then press X to throw the ball while you aim with the left stick.
When you’re in the field defending you can press Circle to throw to first base, Triangle to throw to second, Square to throw to third and X to throw to home.
When batting it’s X to swing or Circle to bunt, if you press R then you can switch between power & contact swing.
When baserunning hold the L-stick in the direction of the base and Square to advance one runner only. You can retreat one runner by holding L-stick in the direction of the base and pressing X. Triangle will advance all runners and Circle will retreat all runners. Pressing L & R rapidly will give you a small speed boost when running.
Versus is a mode where you can play an exhibition match against the CPU. You’ll get to pick which team to play as and who you’re competing against so it can be a good mode to practice your tactics in.
Once you’re comfortable with the controls then it’s time to select one of the game’s many modes.
Pennant mode is this game’s manager mode, you pick a team and get to play & manage them over a number of seasons. You’re able to play matches against other teams, select the team strategy and train players up. You can also trade players and scout for new talent.
With this mode it’s up to you if you want to actually be the one batting and pitching or if you want to purely be a manager and so just set the team strategy and then let the computer play for you. There’s also quite a fun mode that you can play where, before each bat, you are given a number of seconds to decide what command to issue, with the CPU also selecting a command for it’s player. This is a sort of rock-paper-scissors game where certain pitches can beat certain batting commands.
After a match has been won or lost (and at various points throughout the season) you can see what income and costs you’ve incurred and how many fans you’ve gained, or if your team has performed badly, lost. You’ll want to try to increase the number of fans you have in order to maximise your income so that you can upgrade the training facilities available.
At the same time you’re trying to improve your team, the competing teams are also improving and as you play through the season you’ll see various news reports detailing what they’ve been up to, including when they’ve signed on new foreign players.
All-in-all this is quite a deep mode with lots going on and lots of ways to play through it.
My Life plays similarly to Pennant mode but instead of managing a team you’re creating a rookie and playing through his career. When you begin there are lots of options to create your very own rookie, including changing eye shape, hair style, facial hair and body shape. It’s fun to play around and create your very own unique rookie.
During this mode you have to manage your time by deciding what kind of training to do, when to rest up and when to just phone up friends and hang out. After a certain time period you’ll get to play matches. During matches you’ll only be able to play as your rookie instead of playing as the whole team, so when your rookie isn’t up to bat or fielding then the match plays out automatically.
There’s a lot of text in this mode and if you don’t have a semi-decent understanding of Japanese then you will find it difficult to understand a lot of what is happening. In Pennant Mode all I really needed to translate in order to understand what to do was the menu screens and some text after each match but with My Life there was loads more text and conversational options. I found it difficult to really understand what I was doing and whether certain options I chose were helping or harming my poor rookie’s career.
Success Mode is a blend of RPG and baseball game and, from what I can tell, you are trying to train Pawapurokun into a professional level baseball player. Similarly to My Life mode you can choose what to do with your time in-between matches – you can train to increase various statistics or go shopping, rest up or go to town and meet up with various friends. There are lots of random events that can occur and so things seems to be quite different each time you play through it. Again due to how text heavy this is, if you aren’t particularly fluent you will probably struggle to get very far.
Everything in this game seems to have lots of charm and character, from the cute little cutscenes in the story modes to the match commentators and news reporters interviewing players at the beginning and end of matches. There are also loads of fun little moments, such as when you’re pitching; if you hit the CPU batter with the ball then he’ll react to it and his eyes will grow large, or if you get a home run then your players will celebrate and high five each other.
There’s so much to do in this game, for example in the Success Mode menu I found a fun little puzzle type mini-game where you try to increase your various stats and get to the Goal square before running out of energy. The more I played Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2016 the more things I found to do and play around with, there really is a surprising amount of content. My only real negative comment about this game is that loading matches takes a bit of time but this is really only a minor point.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review my Japanese is not particularly great but even without being anywhere near fluent I still managed to have fun. I definitely found Pennant mode the easiest to understand and so this was the mode I spent most time with, if you are a bit more fluent then I’m sure you’ll find My Life and Success mode to be equally as engrossing. Don’t be worried if like me you don’t know much Japanese as I still think you’ll be able to enjoy Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 2016.