Compare the backs of the boxes, and MLB 13: The Show looks pretty much identical on both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Get into the actual games, however, and some substantial differences pop up when it comes to playability. Where the PS3 game is the real deal, another fantastic baseball game that walks the line better than ever between simulation realism and on-the-diamond action, the handheld Vita version falls short in a few key areas. You get a very good game of baseball here, due to the huge number of options and attention to detail in every aspect of hitting, pitching, and fielding. Still, scrunching the big-brother console version down to handheld size causes a few problems that feel like they could have been avoided.
For the most part, however, MLB 13 plays pretty similarly on both systems. Virtually all of the modes of play have been shifted to the Vita mostly intact. So you get all of the core experiences that the game has to offer, including franchise and season play, online options, the role-playing Road to the Show, and the new Postseason playoffs and The Show Live (which lets you follow the real 2013 Major League season as it unfolds). Beginner mode is available as well, providing a good if overly simplistic entry to video game baseball for rookies. Ad hoc mode is available for local multiplayer. Just about everything has been cut back, though. Animations aren't as varied on the field. Broadcast booth commentary is down to the odd line from play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian. Player creation options have been reduced, so you don't have as many little frills to tweak when crafting your wannabe in Road to the Show.
These cuts don't initially seem like huge sacrifices to make for the big plus of portability. But the omissions are notable if you're also playing the PS3 version, and they add up over time to give you the impression that this is something of a cut-rate edition of the game. You might find this perfectly acceptable, especially when you want to link up with the PS3 version of the game and download games from the cloud on the road. (Direct play between the platforms is supported only in Home Run Derby mode.) It is undeniably nifty to catch up on a few games with your Road to the Show guy when away from home or when your main gaming TV in the living room is being occupied by other folks in the household.
In spite of being stripped down in comparison to its big brother, The Show feels as though it still bit off more than it could chew. Load times are quite long, especially when playing Road to the Show with a position player where you're taking only a few at-bats and fielding attempts in each game. Visual details overload performance, as well. The great-looking graphics and countless animations crammed onto the card slow the frame rate down. There are no big hitches, but the consistent frame slowdown is noticeable, especially in the field.
Getting down on the diamond lets you forget about some of these problems. MLB 13 plays a very good, very addictive game of baseball. Pitching and batting are very challenging and realistic. You have to work your pitches on the mound and pay close attention when in the batter's box. The pitcher-batter duel is uncannily realistic. You regularly get into wars, trying to fool batters with pitch type, placement, and speed. And then you get into the same battles on the other side of the equation, fighting off enemy hurlers doing the same thing to you when you're at bat. Ball physics are brilliantly realized. The ball always moves in a realistic fashion, whether coming off the bat, coming out of a shortstop's hand, or ricocheting off the pitcher's skull.