Welcome to the Show
2016 was a great year for baseball. Two teams facing two of the largest championship droughts in the game sparred in the World Series, collecting more viewers last season than the many seasons before it. In fact, the 2016 World Series brought in more viewers than Sunday night football during the same scheduled time. Perhaps fans of the game just wanted to see Chicago or Cleveland take home the championship or perhaps baseball is growing again in popularity, but the fact remains: Baseball was in last year.
Opening Day 2017 kicked off on the 2nd and 3rd of April, with the MLB the Show 17 releasing on the 28th of March. Looking to continue and build upon the successes of the Shows of seasons past, 17 launched a very visibly improved experience. Featuring Ken Griffey, Jr., kid wonder himself, on the cover (which, to me, seemed a bit of a smack in the face of both the Cubs and Indians), MLB the Show 17 sought to really sell its Diamond Dynasty feature. But we’ll get into that later on in the review; for now, the question of whether 17 is worth your $60 (especially if you bought 16) remains.
The answer? Shortly, yes. Nearly every aspect of the Show comes in with various improvements, all of which are noticeable and were needed. The first and strongest improvement takes the form of incredibly smooth visuals and hyper-realistic bat and ball movement. Player swings and the trajectory of balls off the bat move in the ways they were intended. In Shows of the past, this was one of my biggest negatives to an outstanding franchise. Contact always sent balls in the same stiff manner, regardless of the part of the field they were hit to or whether they were ground or fly balls. This year, players swing appropriately, and the reactions are accurate.
Adjustments to Diamond Dynasty and online game modes – outside of San Diego Studio’s inability to fix launch network issues – have all seen general improvements. Conquest mode is more streamlined and visual now, and the Battle Royale setup allows for more balanced opponents and teams. Diamond Dynasty now includes very specific ranked and unranked game modes and a plethora of new missions to complete in order to gain stubs (the Show currency), experience, and tickets (earned items that can be redeemed for cards or harder to find flashback/legend cards). Ranking now is split into seasons, and the higher division you’re in, the better rewards you receive at the end of the season.
One of the coolest new additions to the Show is the retro style game mode. This year, gamers from the NES and Genesis era can relive their ‘glory’ days of yore with the retro style game mode. Similar to World Series Baseball and able to switch from modern to retro graphics, the game is a joyous nostalgia blast from the past. It’s something that isn’t terribly complicated or necessary, but it adds a whole new layer to fan service – and it’s something that I particularly enjoy playing every once-in-a-while.
Lastly, the Road to the Show has been streamlined to make playing your career smoother. You can now directly transition from game to game, and it allows you to distribute points into your various statistics postgame (but before actually leaving the game). Additionally, once you leave the actual games and return to the RttS hub, you can interact with and speak to your coaches and the media, building your reputation and character through your conversational decisions. Finally, new in this RttS, cheers, jeers, and bench encouragement come through your controller speaker. This breaks the 4th wall, essentially, and really gets you into the experience.
MLB the Show 17 has one major flaw, however. As 16 dealt with last year, 17 – at least upon launch – suffers from serious network issues. On release day, I was incapable of playing a full game, and I couldn’t play a complete game for a few days (and this is part of the reason why my review is delayed a bit). Still, after a few days, the servers straightened out, and I’ve had smooth experiences for the most part. This is key, too, because the online multiplayer in Diamond Dynasty is what sells MLB the Show to me every year. Collecting cards, buying and opening packs, and strategizing your lineup to best fit your play style is overly enjoyable. Most gamers play the game legitimately, and San Diego seems to have fixed many of the game breaking cheap plays that plagued 16. Diamond Dynasty is something that could suck hours from me, and I routinely rack up hundreds of games yearly.
If you’re a baseball fan and you’ve played the Show in the past, you’re well aware of how excellent the series is and has become. The routinely highest rated sports simulation continues to evolve in the right direction, and 17 – of the past half decade of releases – is certainly worth a buy. Whether you enjoy a casual season, a dedicated franchise, a journey to the bigs with your created character, a conquest of the United States map in favor of your team, a retro style throwback to baseball games of old, a two elimination challenge Battle Royale, or the strategic and skill based gameplay of Diamond Dynasty multiplayer, MLB the Show 17 has something for every gamer or fan of baseball. With excellent and needed improvements in tow, MLB the Show 17 may be the best sports simulator to release this year.