IGN Preview of Little League World Series Baseball 2008
Little League baseball is a huge sporting organization that spans the world. Over 2 million players on almost 200,000 teams compete with the dream of someday winning the Little League World Series. My own dreams of winning the LLWS ended the moment I realized I was afraid of the ball, but Activision has given me the chance to try again with Little League World Series Baseball 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. I got to swing a few innings with they guys from Activision and see how tough computerized 12-year-olds really are.
Little League World Series is an arcade style baseball game designed after the rules, teams, and stadiums of the actual LLWS. It's got an anime inspired style to it. The game's opening cinematic actually feels like the opening titles to a Little League anime, showing the final pitch from 2007's World Series where the batter for the Warner Robins, GA team hit a homerun off the Tokyo pitcher to win the game. There are 16 teams in the game, eight US and eight international. The teams are all based on countries and regions. So there's a Midwest team for the US, and a Japan team for International. In addition players can create a team, choosing from set logos, and customizing colors and uniforms. Each team has a Star Player and players can fully customize their star player's hair, clothing, stance, and name (Jack DeVries sounds like a good name for mine).
In addition to authentic teams and rules, the game also features two authentic stadiums. The Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium are both used to host the Little League World Series and likewise the game has players compete on them. There is also an additional stadium made for the game.
Little League is being developed by NowPro exclusively for the Wii and DS, and the game makes use of the motion controls.
The game has a similar feel to some of the other stylized arcadey baseball games for the Wii, like MLB Power Pros. Hitting the ball is, obviously, done by swinging the Wii remote like a bat. Different arcs to the wing determine how the ball is hit and for the most part it seemed to work out. Pitching has the player flick the Wii Remote up to wind up, then throw it forward to pitch. It's a combination of timing and different button combinations to get different pitches and speeds. For instance, holding A is a forced fastball, but if you don't release at the height of the windup, it won't be nearly as fast as it ought to be.
Fielding is done mostly automatically, but players can shake the Wii-remote to help them run faster, or press A to dive. They do have to flick the remote to throw the ball and can decide what base to throw to. Some quick maneuvering can lead to some rather nice double plays.
Each action the player makes earns them points that go towards a special meter. Hitting a ball, getting to base, scoring, throwing a strike, everything earns points. When the special meter fills to one of three levels, the player can activate it for a boost in skill. Getting a level three special on the star player can be disastrous for the other team, since it's pretty much a guaranteed homerun if you're batting or a strikeout if you're pitching. The special is accompanied by an over-the-top, Dragonball Z like powerup and the player is surrounded by blue flames. I don't remember that ever happening on ESPN2.
I got to play an exhibition game with Activision, but there is also a World Series mode, which acts as the career mode for the game, and has four levels of difficulty. The game is designed to be as simple or as complex as the player wants it to be, and the harder difficulties open up wider ranges of options and require more precise movements.
There's also a Skill Challenge mode with six different minigames, like a four player Home Run Derby and a combination pitching/bowling minigame. In addition the game features a clubhouse where players can earn trophies and bobbleheads in an achievement style system. Nearly everything in the game is multiplayer for at least two local players, but the game doesn't support online play.
Little League World Series Baseball 2008 is set to release in August, before the actual Little League World Series starts.
©2008-05-29, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved