Reviewed: April 12, 2009
Released: March 3, 2009
I grew up going to Cleveland Indians games and yes I am bitter. Not as bitter as all the Cubs fans I know, but as bitter as I'm willing to admit. When I left home for college and a life of working for 'da man', I moved to places that didn't have Major League Baseball teams. So I lost interest pretty quickly. My friends played soccer and that's what I played up until a few years ago. I still enjoy the nice weekend afternoon baseball game on TV. It goes hand in hand with a good nap. Usually when I wake up 4 innings have gone by with nothing to report so I can catch the final few innings and hopefully see some 9th inning heroics. If I miss it, there are always 100 other games to see.
Baseball season is upon us again! Japan just won the World Baseball Classic again. Major League Baseball teams are back in the regular season again. The Indians suck... again. The grass is coming in and the leftover hot dogs from last season are still in the cooker ready to be served up at the local ballpark.
Major League Baseball wisely has chosen not to go the “exclusive license” route, so we have plenty of baseball games for everyone. The arcade fans will love The Bigs, Wii fans have their backyard series, and purists have 2K, The Show, and several management simulations. This is the way sports licenses should be. The PSP is somewhat limited in baseball games, but this year we get MLB 2K9 and MLB '09: The Show which are the two major simulation style games battling for our dollars.
I continue to be amazed at the quality of the games put on a UMD disc. That's both a good and bad thing. The developers are forced to focus on the core of the game – so in this case we get a great baseball game. However the limited space means less of a game – less teams and other nuances.
But overall, Sony included a nice round of game modes for us. Game modes include Exhibition, Manager Mode, Road to the Show, Season, and Home Run Derby. All have been tweaked to some extent, but mostly just some minor items have improved. Road to the Show is probably the most innovative of the bunch. Think of NHL 09's “be a player” mode. It's not quite on that level, but they make a good effort and certainly make it worth playing for any baseball fan.
New to the 2009 version is an even more difficult “Legend” batting mode for the masochists baseball fans. Also they have added a coaching staff to the manager mode with each coach having an independent effect on the team performance. In Season and Road to the Show mode they have enhanced the roster decisions for managers so now we have to deal with salary and draft issues and of course free agency compensation. There are a bunch of more subtle changes such as the ability to make custom music for batter walk-ups and home runs.
MLB 09 The Show includes all 30 Major League teams and the AL and NL all stars. Additionally they added two classic all-star teams in Silver Era (Ryan, Seaver, Palmer, Bench, Schmidt, Stargell etc.) and Golden Era (Spahn, Feller, Paige, Cobb, Gehrig, Ruth, Wagner, Hornsby etc.). All the Major League stadiums are included along with 5 minor league, 5 spring training, a special all-star game decorated stadium, plus two classics in Yankee Stadium and Shea.
Online play is a fairly standard affair with chat areas, mail, message boards, leaderboards and 30 team leagues. A nice feature is MLB Live Rosters, which lets you download weekly roster updates for online and offline play. You can also get hourly MLB.com updates.
Year after year, Sony continues to tweak the graphics and make little improvements that set MLB The Show above their competition...within certain limitations. The actual baseball portion of MLB 09 The Show looks awesome. Players react as close to the real players as I've ever seen. Even the classic players have little signature moves unique to their style or era. There of course are the paper cutout looking fans and a few minor graphic glitches here and there, but overall the core of the baseball game is right on and has never looked better on the PSP.
Sound on a UMD based sports game can be a troubling issue. Constant sound drains the battery more quickly. But it's kind of nice to hear the crowd respond when you crush one out of the park. All the sounds can be turned off or volume adjusted, but to really enjoy the game it's just nice to hear the fans yelling and the hot dog vendors selling.
As with the PS3 version, Rex Hudler, Matt Vasgersain, and Dave Campbell return to provide commentary. They do an admirable job, however it may just be a personal preference, but I prefer 2K's Gary Thorne commentary. There's just a level of excitement in his commentary that others don't seem to have.
Song list for MLB 09 The Show includes 15 songs from such artists as Kaiser Chiefs, Spoon, and others. I don't remember these songs being played at any baseball games I've attended, so thankfully they put the ability to create your own play-lists from songs on your PSP memory stick. Even that can be fun if you have some interesting songs or ring tones to play over the stadium PA.
MLB 09 The Show packs the baseball basics into a small package. There are some good items like the inclusion of many stadiums and new modes in management and others; however there really isn't much beyond that. What Sony does, it does very well and it certainly is the best baseball simulation on the market. The 30-page manual is a big help for those new to the game. But those looking for a lot of extras best go back to their console at home. The exclusion of playable minor league teams was a disappointment.
Once again, Sony has published an amazing piece of software. MLB 09 The Show is the game that all other baseball games want to be. It's not perfect, but MLB 09 The Show is the best baseball simulation available on PSP.