Despite all odds, this licensed handheld sports game is good fun.
Sports games on Nintendo handhelds don’t have a very good track record, and games based on children’s cartoons have it even worse. Because of that, I wasn’t expecting much from Nicktoons MLB, but the game really surprised me by being a very good arcade-style representation of the sport, worthy of attention from fans of all ages.
Teams in Nicktoons MLB are based on real Major League Baseball rosters, except that certain players are replaced with characters from various Nickelodeon animated programs. My Cleveland Indians, in addition to real life stars like Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore, featured characters from Ren & Stimpy, SpongeBob SquarePants and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
One of my few complaints with the game is the relatively meager selection of Nicktoons characters, especially among the older shows that I’m more familiar with. Sadly, Rocko’s Modern Life, as well as any other early- to mid-‘90s Nicktoon besides Ren & Stimpy, is only featured in still frame cutscenes shown between innings, not with playable characters.
Once you have your team assembled, you’re ready to head onto the field. The game features simple controls, with pitchers having a choice between four standard pitches and batters being able to swing for either contact or power as well as the option of bunting. Batting is mostly a matter of timing, with the CPU pitchers varying pitch type and speed more on higher difficulty levels.
Each team has a power meter, which is filled by getting hits and pitching in specific areas of the strike zone that change from batter to batter. The bar is split into segments, and filled segments can be used by pressing the R button to result in a more powerful swing or speed increases for a pitch or a base runner. If you let the whole meter fill you can use it for a super pitch that will strike out a batter in one throw, or a power swing that is an automatic home run any time you make contact with the ball. These power-ups become more important on the harder difficulty levels.
The game features several modes, ranging from a quick game to a multi-round tournament to a full season. I ended up spending most of my time with the tournament mode, as the season mode is very bare-bones, with no roster options and even lacking the ability to simulate a game, meaning you’d have to play all 162 games to get to the end. The tournament mode is a three round event, with each round being a best of 3, 5 or 7 series against another team.
The game also offers a mode called Distance Derby, where you get 10 pitches to rack up the most total distance of home runs, but this mode offers very little depth and isn’t worth spending much time with. The game includes a single-card multiplayer mode, but I didn’t get a chance to try it.
Nicktoons MLB is a simplified but very fun baseball game. Don’t let the kid-focused presentation scare you off; this game is worth a look from anyone in the mood for an arcade baseball game, and is easily one of the best sports games available on the DS.