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PlayStation Vita Review: MLB 13: The Show

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Last year, MLB: The Show’s Vita debut had no presentation. This year, it… well, it has some.

In The Show ’12, a home run–even a grand slam–would simply cycle into the next batter sans fanfare. With a year of development time, the base running sequence is there, although shortened with sharp edits. Most of the animation routines are like that. Generally squished onto the hardware, The Show still feels overly constrained by restrictions of the system, lacking density in transition animation and presenting itself clumsily.

Do not take any of this the wrong way. Even on PlayStation 3, the series is coasting to a late generation victory. What does it have to prove? The Vita is hardly late though, and lacking the new ball physics of the home console reveals a game in handheld form that already feels stagnating. Off the bat, the ball feels like it travels on a predetermined course. Nothing brings down the illusion like back-to-back clones of an identical hit. Maybe the repetition is the reason for excising replays from the virtual broadcast.

Reeling in lost presentation (and terribly clipped commentary that barely recognizes a color man or between inning fades), the focus shifts towards building what the game should be. Superfluous touch screen additions aside, The Show is bolstered by the enormity of its options. Three pitching styles, multiple batting icons, fielding meters, and difficulty curves are offered to suit everyone’s play style. It is every change and addition since The Show found life back on the PlayStation 2. Suddenly, the Vita version feels a lot like home.

Also carried along are recognizable new faces. A pennant race puts the player right in the midst of the October playoff frenzy. It is simple, offers the usual range of options, and suits the rapid fire methodology of portable gaming. Serious types can dive into The Show: Live, which charts the actual MLB season roster moves, injuries, and results with the player’s chosen squad in the thick of their own virtual fate. It is a fun idea, although it is locked behind Sony’s persistently annoying online pass, along with the rest of the general multiplayer.

Franchise shares the same set of intricate selections as the PlayStation 3 version; it has to with crossplay available via the cloud. Like last year, you can transfer your save game from one console to the other if you are the type who needs to carry a franchise with you.

The same goes for a deeper Road to the Show, a single player showcase that sees a created player rise from the ranks of a AA minor leaguer to the Majors. Freshly scripted training games serve double duty as subtle tutorials (both for the game and baseball strategy) and ranking devices. Shifts within game style make all the difference too. A fantastic game overview follows the action while not in the midst of gameplay, and when called upon, the dramatic camera swoops in to the batter box. It comes across as a pleasing dramatic pressure moment.

For all that the Vita version does well, there are still those missing elements, and in certain cases, take that literally. Playing the title in Road to the Show as a third basemen, the dugout would glitch and remove all of the players in standby. Things are definitely touchy and rough, while the basic game that was barely in place last year is starting to see life. Better frame rate and visuals aside, this portable Show feels tightly budgeted with limited resources. After all, when on hardware with such a (sadly) small install base, why spend the money on development? Most consumers can ask the same sort of question with regards to their own finances and this new iteration.

MLB: The Show 13 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PS3.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.