“I can’t think of a better place to spend a balmy summer’s night than the old ball yard. There’s just the green grass of the outfield, the crushed brick of the infield, and the white chalk lines that divide the men from the little boys”. Lisa Simpson makes a wonderful, and wistful, poetic articulation about America’s favourite pastime. “Lisa, honey. You’re forgetting the beer. It comes in 72-ounce tubs here”. Homer Simpson makes a blunt, if somewhat equally valid point.
Construe this for when you think of baseball video games, the Nintendo 3DS isn’t exactly the first platform that springs to mind. And, like 72oz beer, they’re not that easy to find. Especially in the west. Especially outside the USA too.
Bottom Of The 9th
So it was that Konami careered out of the factory gates in December last year with a truckload of one of the most famous and revered series in the company’s history. Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball Heroes was the latest title in a long and critically decorated series of baseball games. However, rather than release their latest slice of ballpark goodness on a proven platform such as the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita, Konami instead plonked the game on the Nintendo 3DS,
And it is magical. And beautiful. And lovely, And, and, and…. EVERYTHING!
Bases Loaded, 2 Out
This is not a review of Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball Heroes though. This is about something a little bit different. A smidge more special. This little chunklet of drooling drivel is about a special trial edition that saw a physical release prior to the official retail release. 実況パワフルプロ野球 ヒーローズ 次世代ワールドホビーフェア’17 Winter or, Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball Heroes Next Generation World Hobby Fair ’17 Winter to give it it’s full title!
Essentially what this is is a physical copy of a demo that Konami released to the Japanese Nintendo eShop. The twist being that the physical copies of the demo were only handed out at the ’17 Winter World Hobby Fair during a special Superstars Stage! competition, which (in my opinion) makes this title an instant collectible. It gets better though. At the same time, children who participated in the competition were given an exclusive additional character DLC code. The DLC code, to the best of my knowledge, was only ever handed out to competition participants at the World Hobby Fair that year, thus increasing the value of this little beauty further (again, in my humble opinion). Curiously the game does not appear on the Konami WHF ’17 Winter web page, though Konami do have a dedicated site for this special edition.
Swung on and missed
What of the game itself? Well, being a demo you are only treated to a slither of the full-fat, full beans action. The demo though provides enough action to whet your appetite for the main course with all the trimmings. What you get here is access to Battle Mode, essentially a Vs match against the computer along with full access to team editing, stats and so on within that mode. Everything else is inaccessible. Whether the code is lurking on the cartridge and has just been modified I am unsure.
Battle mode is limited further in that you are limited to one lead-off inning, batting, and one defense inning, pitching. Sounds stingy huh? Well, maybe, but remember this is a demo only. Though a look at the other modes would have been nice. Sadly you cannot use the special DLC code with the demo to unlock a secret character, though I’ll be buying the full game soon enough and can see from the demo where exactly I will need to navigate to in order to enter the code.
Playing the demo makes me wonder why on Earth Konami never thought to bring the Powerful Pro series to the Nintendo 3DS sooner. The familiar ‘Mii-esque’ characters feel very much at home on the 3DS handheld. Controls, although simple, and something casual baseball fans will love, are fluid and super tight. Never has a sports game felt more suited to the 3DS circle pad. Pitching, batting and fielding controls are taut and an utter joy. Konami hit a home run with the meat and potatoes of this game. A solid, wonderful slugger that is a treat to control.
Menus, although they appear complex and bewildering (and massively prohibiting to non-Nihongo tongues) are not really. Forget the superfluous information and focus on positioning and statistics, handily represented with smile icons and pictoral directives. Sure, you won’t understand it all, but you’ll get by. And if you just want a game of baseball, click next, next, next and just start a game.
I suppose you’d like a ‘beer’?
Sonically and visually the game hits all the right notes yet again. Great tunes and sound effects swirl around dulcet Japanese commentary. It adds up to a sonic fiesta, but it’s the visual department where this little gem excels.
There is just the merest hint of 3D within this game. It is not immediate and in your face, like so many other games. The effects are subtle, offering a lovely depth of field to both the pitching and batting views. If ever a game were suited to the 3DS treatment, it is most certainly this one. I can’t quite put together a string of superlatives to fully compliment the effects. Just know that it is lovely. And you will love it too.
I said I wouldn’t turn this in to a review, and I kind of have. So I’ll stop short now aside to say this really is a beautiful little game (demo aside). It feels like a title that should have always been on the 3DS, why wait until the twilight years of the console’s life to release it?
So be it. I have this lovely little demo keepsake that I wanted to share with you. With the DLC card, it makes it all the more sweeter. PLAY BALL!
NOTE: Featured image is my own scan of the game box cover.