Spring signals the revival of old pastimes and a time of relaxation. The weather warms up, baseball season kicks off, and students run wild with a week off from classes. And handheld systems offer distractions that go with this time of year.

For fans of both the national pastime and video games, that means it's about time to play "MLB 14: The Show" on the PlayStation Vita. It's the only console-quality baseball game around this year after 2K Sports decided to deep-six its "MLB 2K" series. That was a huge blow for fans who want to play ball on Microsoft or Nintendo systems.

SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT OF AMERICA"MLB14: The Show" contains few visual changes from 2013’s version, but the game has been sped up and
SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT OF AMERICA "MLB14: The Show" contains few visual changes from 2013's version, but the game has been sped up and is more user-friendly. (sony)

On the other hand, players on Sony's portable system will get a decent experience from "MLB 14," even if there isn't much improvement over last year's entry. The visuals are nearly the same as before, with graphics on par with what fans would see on the PlayStation 2. But it boasts everything that a yearly entry should have, such as updated team rosters.

What Sony's San Diego Studio worked on is the quality-of-life issues that help players enjoy "MLB 14: The Show" more. Games move along faster, thanks to some improvements, and the developer has upgraded the save options. Last year, "MLB" let players transfer their progress between the portable and console versions. This time around, they allow cross-saves between different platforms, but now those saves can be transferred to future versions. That means all that hard work you put in turning your favorite team into a dynasty won't go away when the inevitable "MLB 15: The Show" launches.


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If hitting home runs isn't your thing, there's always "Disney Magical World" on the Nintendo 3DS. This is essentially the Mouse's take on "Animal Crossing." Gamers can use their Miis as they enter the world of Castleton. In that kingdom, fans interact with Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the gang as they help out the local denizens and explore the area.

Like "Animal Crossing," players can tackle all sorts of activities, such as fishing and farming. They can even run their own cafe. Over the course of their adventures, players will collect things they can use to craft items for themselves or residents in need. What separates "Magical World" from "Animal Crossing" is that there's a slight narrative thread running through the game.

Players will have to collect stickers that unlock more and more aspects of Castleton. Eventually, they'll make friends with other characters, such as Aladdin or Winnie the Pooh, and they'll help these characters with whatever problems they face.

Although it's a good take on the genre, the game needs a co-op mode or something more than a Streetpass function to make it a more social experience. Right now, it's just a serviceable attempt at "Animal Crossing."

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/gcacho.