Wednesday 16 December 2015

Batter Up (Game Gear review)

Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Released: 1991

Batter Up is a baseball game that was released in Japan as Gear Stadium.

Only single matches can be played but the game does give you a password to save your record. There's 14 teams but no official license so you choose based solely on a letter of the alphabet; this is a shame as there's no way to know their strengths and weaknesses. Each match can take place over five or nine innings and there's two ballparks; the Park is normal sized with artificial turf while City has high fences that make hitting home runs more of a challenge. On Offense you press Button 2 to swing or bunt but you can also attempt to steal bases with Button 1 plus a direction on the d-pad. The controls are great and timing your shots isn't too difficult once you get the hang of it. Pinch Hitters can be brought in but weirdly no batting average is listed beforehand so you have to make a wild guess as to their production. On Defense there's three pitch types which are a Fast Ball, Change Up and a Curve. After the pitch is thrown you can alter the flight of the ball with the d-pad but this mechanic can be spammed as hitters almost always swing way off the plate! If you try to pitch normally the CPU will destroy you and trying to make plays in the outfield is an adventure as you can't see your players until the last second. You can bring in Relief Pitchers but again the game doesn't tell you their E.R.A. prior to a decision. Both teams are prone to errors and although it can be annoying it does add a touch of realism. The graphics look like an early Famicom title and the animation is equally as poor with stiff looking players who field with zero grace! The music also repeats too often and there's no way to turn it off. 
Batter Up is limited in its options but it does play a decent version of baseball. Its major downfall is the lack of stats as the developers actually want you to learn each team / players abilities which is utterly ridiculous and leads to a rather empty experience considering this is a sport that leans so heavily on numbers.

Random trivia: An updated version was released on the Game Gear in 1995 called Gear Stadium Heiseiban. It had a license for Nippon Professional Baseball and included the names of real players.

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