Monday 10 August 2015

Virtual League Baseball (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: Kemco
Publisher: Kemco
Released: 1995

Virtual League Baseball was the only Virtual Boy game released by Kemco who later developed Top Gear Rally (1997, N64).

It consists of three modes; Single Game, All-Star and Pennant Race. Single Game sees you playing against the CPU and you can choose from 18 teams. In All-Star Game mode you control the best players from all three leagues to take on a CPU team in a single match. In Pennant Race you try to beat every team in the league on your way to the title. There's no save functionality but a password system is available so you can continue at a later date. The game gives you full control over your team including batting order, pinch hitters and whether you want to use the DH rule. On Offense you use the A button to swing, B to steal bases and the Triggers to bunt. Hitting is tricky because you need to factor in the height of the pitch when swinging (this can be done via the d-pad). Annoyingly, whenever you do make contact it nearly always finds a glove! On Defense you pitch by pressing the A button for a normal pitch or B for a forkball. When doing this it starts a power meter to determine the ball's speed and it's important not to exceed the limit as this will make you throw a bad pitch. Once the pitch has been thrown you can then use the d-pad to add movement. It works okay but I would have preferred selecting a range of pitches via a simple menu. When the ball is put in play the camera zooms out to show the whole field in a similar fashion to Baseball (1985, NES). Unfortunately the red and black graphics cause issues with ground balls as you can't easily distinguish your infielder from the opponent. Catching a fly ball is also an adventure as player sprites are small and it's not easy to line-up with the red dot that indicates the shadow of the ball. The only part the game really excels in is the 3D effect as the stadium really comes to life.

Virtual League Baseball is an uninspiring sports title that looks better than it plays. It doesn't do hitting, pitching or fielding particularly well and if it wasn't the only baseball game on the system there'd be no reason to check it out.

Random trivia: Kemco planned a sequel called Virtual League Baseball 2 but it became vaporware due to poor sales of the Virtual Boy.

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