MVP 06 NCAA Baseball Review

Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: January 18, 2006 Also On: PS2 and Xbox

Imagine this setting: a bright, sunny spring day on the beautiful campus of Notre Dame at Frank Eck Stadium. Fans pack in to see football (and baseball) sensation Jeff “The Sharkâ€? Samardzija, who stands 6′ 5” inches tall on the mound, pitch a game between Paul Mainieri’s Fighting Irish and Big East rival Pittsburgh. Yeah, you could fly to South Bend to see this in real life or you could play it out in the first ever NCAA Baseball videogame thanks to the fine folks at EA Canada. Makes you want to grab a hotdog and some crackerjacks, doesn’t it?

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EA made best with the raw deal they got out of Take-Two’s third party monopoly on the MLB license by picking up an exclusive NCAA Baseball license all their own. Now, this does create plenty of problems, but the fact that a superior baseball engine could remain on the market is a positive. One of their biggest difficulties is a general lack of interest people have in college baseball. Compound that with a requirement to compile a huge list of rosters from dozens of teams in various conferences, including small-time schools like Evansville, Wichita State and others, and you can see how hard making college games can be.

What matters most is of course the gameplay itself. You can have the best hitters in the world, but if you don’t have a defense, it doesn’t mean crap. That’s exactly how I feel about gameplay. Gameplay is a solid defense. Last year’s MVP won Game Freaks 365’s Best Sports award, which means MVP 06 returns with the best baseball engine on the market with very little to show for the change from MLB to NCAA, other than the aluminum bats. Yeah, it sounds a lot like a Little League park, but there’s nothing like the sound of an aluminum bat.

Anyway, MVP 06 doesn’t mix things up all that much as far as gameplay modes go. You’ve got online play, a tournament mode, mini-games (including the ever-popular batting mini-game), a homerun showdown, scenario editor, and a whole slew of “create a’s� from players, to teams and stadiums. My favorite mode is the dynasty mode, which makes a few adjustments for NCAA play. For one, you’re now recruiting kids out of highschool. You’ll need to e-mail them, send them packages, even visit their school to entice them. Other than that, dynasty is pretty much a regular season mode…except you’re trying to build a college dynasty. Complete team goals (25 wins in a season), sign the best talent and obviously do the best you can on your schedule.

How do things play on the field? There are two very big changes from last year: analog throwing and analog hitting. To analog hit, you’ll want to start with the right analog stick positioned downward. Don’t start until the ball is about to be released by the pitcher though, as the longer you load your hit the less likely you are to have a quality hit. You then move the analog stick up and aim when you want to hit the ball. For analog throwing, you aim the analog stick in the direction of the corresponding base. You release when the throw meter fills up and turns green. Thankfully for those of us that don’t like change, you can change it back to last year’s control style.

Now that you have that visual image in your head from earlier, you’ll probably be disappointed to know that MVP 06 has some of the worst visuals that I’ve ever seen in a sports game, especially this late in the generation. Most of the stadiums and the surrounding campuses (Eck Stadium no less) look unpopulated, the character models are pretty bland, etc. Not having well-known, historic stadiums like Wrigley and Yankee Stadium or player models like Derek Jeter is a difficulty that EA had to overcome and they really didn’t do a good job of doing it. Rigid player outlines, just an absolutely horrible stadium crowd and the almost cartoony look outside of the stadium of cars and buildings. Hopefully improvements will be made to this in the off-season.

Overall, if EA was hoping to reach Omaha with their first NCAA Baseball release, they probably came close. Superficial improvements aren’t enough though to earn this game the respect that this franchise deserves. If you’re a fan of the MVP franchise like me, you’re not going to have much choice but to settle for this year’s title with or without the soundtrack, the MLB team and stadiums from last year. For those of you that love your college baseball, relish this as you would tickets to the College World Series, because depending on sales, this may or may not be a one-year stint.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9.5
Final: 7.8
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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