A Quick Look At Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu

Of all the popular American sports, ice hockey is probably my favourite. I know other countries (including the UK) play ice hockey and have domestic leagues, but for me the NHL is the go-to for fast, ice-based violence/fun; and the similarities it shares with soccer make it quite easy for me to enjoy. There are two teams, two goals, two goalkeepers, and a thing that needs to be put past said 'keeper to score a point. Simple.
At the other end of the spectrum, NFL - or American Football - is the least penetrable to me. To my stupid foreign eyes it looks like a chaotic mishmash of rugby and Gaelic football, two other sports I have very little interest in. Sandwiched betwixt these extremes like two slabs of pastrami are basketball and baseball. Basketball is alright, but it just seems like the teams take it in turn to score (yawn), and baseball is just rounders with a bigger bat and 90,000 screaming drunks lining the field (probably). Oh, and there was a film starring Kevin Costner about it once. I think it was called The Postman. But I digress.

This waffle is about baseball, a largely American pastime, but with a Japanese spin. Am I making any sense here at all? I doubt it. Baseball is very popular in Japan and so it's only natural that a baseball game based on the Japanese league would be released on the Dreamcast...and it was. Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu Dreamcast Edition is one such example of this (I know other games of this ilk exist) and represents Konami's solitary flirtation with the sport on Sega's console. Konami's support of the Dreamcast in the West was spotty at best (The Grinch, Deadly Skies and International Track & Field are the only games that spring to mind without going to look at Wikipedia) but in Japan Konami actually acted like at least one fuck was given and so there are plenty of text-heavy NTSC-J titles floating around eBay covered in pictures of super-deformed cartoon characters.
Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu is actually a slight tweaking of the exceedingly popular N64 and PS1 games of the same series, known over here as Power Pro Baseball, and is a twee little game with some highly stylised visuals and over-enthusiastic play by play commentary. The game is quite text-heavy and there is virtually no English anywhere, but it isn't hard to suss out once you get going. The game was developed in part by Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka (KCEO), the same team behind the International Superstar Soccer games on the N64 and this is evident once you get past the team select screen and onto the game plan screen - the very same 'bouncing face balls' from ISS64 - ISS2000 are used to represent player enthusiasm on the team selection screen. Obviously, I didn't mess around too much with this as I can't read a single letter, so I just bypassed all that and got out onto the field.
Once the game proper begins, it's clear that Jikkyou isn't intended to be a graphical tour de force like Major League Baseball 2K1 - it's meant to be a fun take on the sport of adult rounders and unsurprisingly that's exactly what it is. Controls, either as a batter or a pitcher are extremely easy to pick up - you simply aim where you want the ball or the bat to go within the little 'hit box,' press A to pitch or swing...and that's it. I'm not going to go on about the rules of baseball as I'm sure I only know the basics, but the control scheme in Jikkyou makes it a very enjoyable experience. If you (or your opposition) hit the pitched ball, the camera zooms out and the fielding team take the spotlight. Meanwhile, the runner is represented by a little animation in the bottom corner of the screen. If you are batting, you can move the closest fielder to the ball and the different bases on the diamond are mapped to the X, Y and B buttons so you can throw the ball directly before the runner is safe. It really does make for a great and exciting game, and all the while you have the great crowd effects buzzing in the background and the most excitable commentators known to man screaming down their microphones as the action unfolds.
As a complete n00b when it comes to baseball games (OK, I've played All Star Baseball on N64 and MLB 2K1 on Dreamcast) I was totally surprised by just how much fun Jikkyou turned out to be. I must confess that I've not really investigated any of the modes other than 'exhibition match,' but it looks as if there are plenty of league and career type modes available if you can actually read Japanese. On the surface, it looks like a cartoony baseball game but if you have the inclination to dig a little deeper (and again, can read Japanese), I suspect there is probably a fantastic sports game here.

That said, even if you can't get full use out of it, it's worth picking up if you see it cheap as there's a lot of fun to be had simply from the exhibition mode and I'd wager it's also great fun with two players. Maybe one day I'll be able to manufacture a friend from all of the broken Dreamcast parts laying around the house and experience local multiplayer fun with Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu.

One day.

1 comment:

Ronaldo Chambers said...

Konami either made or publish silent scope that that's on decent game konami made for the dreamcast , if they could have had the team that made iss pro involved in this game then surely we could have had better football/soccer games on the system