Thursday 18 June 2015

Baseball (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1985

Baseball was originally released on the Famicom in 1983 before being one of 18 NES launch titles in America.

In contrast to other baseball games of the time this one features an innovative two camera setup. When pitching or hitting the action is zoomed in so you get a closer view of the diamond. Once the ball leaves the infield it switches to a stadium shot and the transition is smooth. There's a wide range of pitches you can choose from depending on which direction you hold on the d-pad. For example, hold Down for a fast ball; hold Right for a Curve Ball. You can also influence the path of the ball after it leaves the pitcher's hand by pressing Left or Right and it works great for tempting hitters to swing just outside the strike zone. The offensive side of the game is impressive, mainly because you have full control over your base runners. It's genuinely exhilarating sending a guy from first base on a hit and run play and once he's rounding a subsequent base choosing whether to hold or gamble for extras. All of these features are standard in today's baseball games but back in 1983 this was a real advancement in the genre. The action moves along quickly and it doesn't take long to play a full nine innings. Defense is the game's biggest weakness; until they grab the ball you don't actually control the players as they move automatically. This causes many issues as your team will frequently take an odd route or let a ground ball go straight by them. The outfielders are excruciatingly slow and it takes them forever to track down a ball. The single player mode is far too difficult as the AI seems to hit everything thrown near the strike zone!

For such an early sports title Baseball is surprisingly deep and a lot of fun to play. While the single player mode is far too difficult and there aren't many gameplay options, the two-player mode is engaging and makes for some great competitive matches.

Random trivia: The 2001 GameCube title Animal Crossing features Baseball as an unlockable game along with Wario's Woods (1994, NES).

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