For the past several years, San Diego Studios’ MLB: The Show has been a fixture on the PS2, PS3 and PSP systems. The PS3 version was the top-of-the-line model, and the PS2 and PSP version – while virtually identical – were stripped down versions that gave the player some of the games features (exhibition, season, Road to the Show), but was nowhere near the level of the PS3 game.
This year, the game has changed.
With the advent of the PlayStation Vita handheld system, SCEA and San Diego Studios finally have a platform powerful enough to create a game that mirrors the PS3 version, both in graphics and in play.
To say MLB 12: The Show on PS Vita is identical is a lie. But it is so very close. The character models are crisp and the detail, while not PS3-level, is still incredible, especially in regards to the fully rendered stadiums. The gameplay has been crammed down into the Vita’s beautiful 5″ OLED screen and the presentation is spot on.
There are noticeable framerate issues, but only during the rendered between-the-action scenes. The actual gameplay is fluid and smooth, and the line between the PS3 and the Vita versions is blurred.
MLB 12: The Show utilizes both the front and back touch screens of the PS Vita. The front touch screen sets up menus with finger swipes, and allows for pitching set up when using the Pulse Pitching feature. The back touch screen is used primarily for in-game base running and base stealing.
The actual game controls are nearly identical to the PS3 version, with one slight issue. I personally find that the PS Vita’s joysticks are over-sensitive, which makes batting, and in some cases pitching, a bit difficult. I can say that three months into my first Road to the Show season, I am getting used to it, but getting to that point was a nightmare of swinging at any pitch and hoping to connect on something in play. Also, my thumbs may be fatter than most, so this might be an issue that only affects me. Regardless, I found it to be a problem.
One of the new features in MLB 12: The Show franchise is Pulse Pitching. In theory, the front touch screen is used to pick the pitch type and set it up in the strike zone, and then a circular pulsing meter appears. The goal is to touch the meter when the circle is at the smallest point for “the perfect pitch.” This fails on every level.
Pulse Pitching turns the art of pitching into a game of luck, where even Cy Young Winning pitchers like Seattle’s Felix Hernandez has to hope that I touch the meter at the right time for him to make his pitch. It’s silly and has no business in a game that prides itself in its realism.
Luckily, most controls can be adjusted, and Pulse Pitching can be turned off for the superior meter pitching of previous The Show games.
The PS Vita version also allows for online games to be played over WiFi (but not 3G). The beauty of this is that PS Vita owners can challenge PS3 owners, and vice versa, as the game’s code is virtually the same. As I previously stated, the line between the two versions is almost non-existent.
The biggest feature of the PS Vita’s version of MLB 12: The Show is the cross platform play. You can start a season, franchise, or a Road to the Show (RTTS) career on the PS3 and then save your progress to the cloud. Then that progress can be resumed on the PS Vita and taken anywhere. This feature works both ways (you can start on the PS Vita and go to the PS3). I’m happy to report that the feature works as advertised, and is simply incredible.
The LiveArea screen for MLB 12: The Show features the usual owner’s manual and help tab, but also includes a link to theshownation.com website and the MLB 12: The Show Facebook page.
With the PlayStation Vita’s power, Sony Computer Entertainment and San Diego Studio finally have a platform to create a near-perfect handheld baseball game. MLB 12: The Show, while already the best baseball simulation game on the market, is now also the best handheld baseball game period. The cross platform play adds so much more enjoyment, as the player is no longer tethered to their PS3 to play through a season or a RTTS career.
As the line between console and handheld fades with each passing year, 2012 will be remembered as the year that The Show went mobile and changed the game in every way.
Shop for MLB 12: The Show for PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 3 for a discounted price at Amazon.com (March 6, 2012 release date). Both versions are available bundled together at a $20 discount for a limited time.