MLB for the PSP is basically the PlayStation 2 version of MLB 2006 with a handful of features and niceties taken out. Some people will complain, and rightly so, that the PSP game doesn't have a real franchise mode or offer a way to update rosters...and that it's missing many of the sweet graphical touches the PS2 version has. 989 Studios certainly trimmed away a lot of the fat to cram the PS2 version onto the PSP. But that's the key thing to keep in mind, though: 989 took away the fat but left the meat. The PSP game mostly has the same great gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and sublime commentary the PS2 iteration has. Best of all, it's portable, so you can play it anywhere.
The pitch meter lets you control effectiveness and accuracy.
The game menu offers three modes: quickplay, season, and online. The lack of a franchise mode is a shame, but the season mode does at least offer a fair amount of depth. You can set multiple lineups and pitching rotations, swap players between the active and inactive rosters, manage injuries, sign free agents, and set up trades with the CPU. The game keeps track of stats in roughly 80 categories, and it constantly updates them to show you which players are in the running for awards at the end of the season. Unfortunately, apart from the ability to use your own team's players as trade bait in the season mode, there's no way to create custom players, edit player names, or make wholesale roster changes throughout the league.
Online supports both ad hoc (local) and infrastructure (Internet) connections, but the feature set is extremely limited. Unlike the PS2 version, which offers tournaments and downloadable roster updates, the PSP game only offers exhibition play. The server also doesn't keep track of stats or disconnections, which means it's impossible to tell beforehand whether a player has a habit of quitting out of games. It only takes a couple of button presses to sign in to the Internet server and then join a lobby. However, actually getting into a contest is another matter entirely. Quite often, when you accept a challenge, the game will stall out at the acceptance screen or knock you back out to the lobby after an inning or two. Every fifth try or so, you'll get into a game and make it through to the end. The lag isn't too bad during games, at least, and 989 Studios will probably sort out the disconnection problems once more people have the game and take it online.
Load times are reasonable. It takes approximately 30 seconds for the main menu to appear after you first insert the universal media disc. Starting a game takes another 30 seconds of loading, and jumping back out to the menu can take upward of 20 seconds. There isn't any loading between innings, however, so these load times are perfectly acceptable when you consider that a typical nine-inning content can last 20 minutes.
Once you get into a game, you'll immediately be impressed by how crisp and detailed the graphics are. Player bodies and faces are accurate, as are their batting stances and pitching deliveries. Player animation is extremely smooth, and there are enough different animations to ensure you won't see the same play happen over and over again. Diving catches, bare-handed grabs, and offline throws are in there, along with a few flashier plays (such as when the second baseman makes a catch from his knees and then scoops the ball to the shortstop covering second). Throughout the game, the players' uniforms accumulate dirt and grass stains based on what they've done on the field. All 30 MLB stadiums are included. Many of the billboards and advertisements are animated in some way, and the scoreboards actually update to reflect the current box score. Fans of the picture-in-picture base-runner windows from the PS2 game will be happy to know they're in the PSP version as well.
Admittedly, the PSP game is missing many of the sweet graphical touches the PS2 game has, such as TV-style instant replays, batter walk-up rituals, home-run celebrations, and player portraits in stat boxes. MLB for the PSP pretty much sticks to two camera perspectives: the behind-the-plate view that's used for hitting and pitching and the overhead view that's used for fielding. The complete removal of those sexier touches is a crying shame, but their loss is easy to forgive in light of the gorgeous stadiums and wonderfully fluid player animations. You also notice that some numbers, particularly in the pitch-history display, are almost too tiny to see, and certain stadium features, such as foul lines and wall outlines, shimmer and distort during the overhead view. These problems are a result of the developer taking the graphics from the PS2 game and not retouching or optimizing them for the PSP. They're merely minor distractions in the grand scheme of things, but they're worth keeping in mind if your eyesight isn't all that good.
In the fielding view, the ball marker varies in size based on the fielder's real-life ability.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that MLB, unlike other sports games currently available for the PSP, has a full running commentary. This one pairs San Diego Padres play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian with longtime ESPN analyst Dave Campbell. Vasgersian has the general play-calling duties. His vocabulary is rich, and the natural cadence in his voice makes him a real joy to listen to. Campbell's contributions are limited mainly to pointing out a player's specific strengths or weaknesses, along with a snide comment here and there. The PSP game's commentary isn't quite as elaborate as the PS2 game's is, since all the lengthier conversations and fluff stories that Vasgersian and Campbell used to share were removed from the PSP version, but it's still diverse enough to get the job done. Apart from the commentary, the audio also contains a good sampling of traditional ballpark atmosphere. The various sounds for things such as the bat hitting the ball, the ball landing in fielders' gloves, and players sliding in the dirt are right on the money. You'll also hear umpire calls, crowd reactions, and stadium announcements from time to time.