Five Baseball Gaming Series We Want To See Return
I'm bored of baseball games. With the Winter Meetings behind us, this should be the time of year where I'm starting up a new baseball franchise with some end-of-season rosters and trying to build a contender.
Instead, I'm stuck waiting to figure out if MLB The Show 17's franchise mode is actually going to be worth playing.
After MLB 2K's slow demise, Sony San Diego took over the baseball gaming monopoly and has seen fan reception to recent games lower due to less of an emphasis on the things that drew fans in. Franchise mode gets minimal, impactful touches, Road to the Show is a shell of its former self, and the commentary is just bad -- though that's all on the writers and not on Matt Vasgerian, Steve Lyons, and Eric Karros.
Once upon a time, there used to actually be a lot of really great baseball series. Today, let's count down a few (not counting EA Sports' MVP Baseball or the 2K series) that need to make a serious comeback.
High Heat: Major League Baseball
We start with a series that younger baseball fans probably won't ever think existed; but yes, there was indeed a series called High Heat. No relation to the Chris Russo show on MLB Network, unfortunately.
What High Heat did have, though, was excellent gameplay and an extremely realistic batter-pitcher interface. There was no 'swing stick' or juiced mechanics to get as many balls out of the park, meaning that you had to rely on your eyes and what you'd learn from your opposing pitcher than just hitting the X or A button.
But in the same way that NBA 2K17 has Park and Pro-Am, I'd love to see High Heat make a return with their Two-on-Two Showdown Mode. Using active MLB players, Two-on-Two Showdown Mode is essentially a team-up that will have two teams -- complete with one hitter and one pitcher -- try to outdo the other.
With the benefits and advancements that we've made in online play, this would be an amazing feature with some of today's players. Is the duo of Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez superior to Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper? Making sure that we have this for local play and multiplayer would definitely lead to people showing interest in a return of High Heat.
2K Sports' The Bigs, as producer Dan Brady explained, "is authentic baseball taken to arcade proportions." In the way that NBA Jam had players catch fire and pull off insane dunks, The Bigs was all about long home runs and power pitches.
If MLB Slugfest (more on that later) was all about mixing Grand Theft Auto III with America's Pastime, then The Bigs was all about mixing Grand Theft Auto IV with America's Pastime. The violence is still there with some of the hits you'll see when a runner collides into a catcher, but it's done in such a realistic way that you'll immediately fall in love.
I was also a fan of how The Bigs handled the premise of their Rookie Challenge/Become A Legend, their career mode. Rather than you being a top prospect in the MLB Draft, you're actually a player in the Mexican League who is coming off an injury and will play everywhere imaginable in hopes of making it to the big leagues.
As one of the only games on this list that made it to a next-generation console, you can still get The Bigs cheap at your local gaming store. The rosters will be old, sure, but who doesn't want to try hitting more home runs with Manny Ramirez for a cheap price?
To the common fan, the only difference between MLB Slugfest and The Bigs was that the latter looked much better graphically -- which is true. But, the true difference is that while The Bigs truly did go for that arcade-style type of baseball where you'll hit balls 550 feet out of the park and throw fast enough to break the sound barrier, MLB Slugfest was exactly what it sounded like: a slugfest.
You'll score plenty of runs in the baseball type of slugfest and you'll...slug baserunners in the chest to commit a hard tag. That brutality isn't only on the fielding side, as base runners will slug right back with a vengeance and stiff arm fielders like they're Adrian Peterson in his prime.
Now, I do understand that due to the PC movement and the company looking out for their best intentions, Major League Baseball would probably never allow a return of MLB Slugfest -- at least, not with the intense violence. With that said, why not bring back Slugfest's other memorable features -- the turbo meter, special pitches, the ability to 'catch on fire' which was taken from Midway's NBA Jam, and so on?
We live in a time where those types of bonuses would be perfect in an online setting, especially if it could be done in a format where the bonuses are earned and not just bought like skills in NBA 2K.
Speaking of bonuses, would you pass up playing with the Mortal Kombat All-Stars or the Scorpion Scorpions? They have swords for baseball bats!
All-Star Baseball was pretty much MLB The Show before The Show became the Madden of the diamond, but this game had plenty of features that warrants a return. For starters, it had 'future' versions of stadiums!
Ten stadiums, in fact, had 'future' versions that were either based on concept art (i.e. 'BP Village' that became the new 'Busch Stadium' for the Cardinals) or just 'revolutionary' ideas (like the Yankees and Mets).
Why can't we have more games like this with these types of creative licenses, especially in a sport like baseball where every stadium is different?
All-Star Baseball also featured an excellent expansion mode, a 'Madden Moments' type of game that had you re-live moments from the past season (yes, Cub fans, you could stop Steve Bartman!), and was a fine baseball sim at its core.
MLB Power Pros
MLB Power Pros is probably the strangest game on this list if only because this was actually for the Nintendo Wii and it actually comes from the Japanese 'Power Pros' series. This wasn't necessarily a port by Konami, but I think anyone who's played can agree that this wasn't The Bigs or The Show.
Instead, Power Pros was its own title, and that's what made it so much fun for even the most hardcore baseball fans. This game had Create-A-Team, a career mode that had romance in it, and adorable player models. Look at that David Ortiz sprite!
Back to that career mode, though. In what little we've seen and heard about MLB The Show 17, it's looking like we're going to get some unique dialogues with coaches in Road to the Show. In MLB Power Pros' success mode, your 'road to the show' was really just you playing three years of college ball in hopes of landing a minor league contract.
That may sound somewhat boring and repetitive, but it's what was actually in the mode itself which makes it end up on this list. You had actual, meaningful ways that the story could change (i.e. finding an old baseball card in your attic as a pitcher will unlock a new pitch for you, while helping a teammate with romance problems will increase your teammates' skills and morale) instead of just buying attribute points.
Power Pros also had 'MLB Life Mode' which, ironically, is something else that MLB The Show fans have been constantly asking for. In this mode, you still had the relationship building and dating of Success Mode, but you could choose a big-league player from Alex Rodriguez to Dane Sardinha and piss away their money.
Also, you can find them a girlfriend -- so if you ever wanted to actually pair A-Rod up with Madonna, feel free. We need more games like that!
Which former baseball games do you want to see make a return? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!