Baseball
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 12/07/1983
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 09/01/1986
    Arcade
    • US 1984
    FDS
    • JP 02/21/1986
    GB
    • JP 04/21/1989
    • US 08/31/1989
    • UK 1990
Score: 55%

This review was published on 12/01/2016.

Baseball is a sports video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom Disk System, Game Boy, and arcades. The NES version was originally released in Japan on December 7, 1983, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on September 1, 1986. There was also an arcade version called Vs. Baseball that came out sometime in 1984. The Famicom Disk System version was exclusively released in Japan on February 21, 1986. Later, the Game Boy version came out in Japan on April 21, 1989, North America on August 31, 1989, and Europe in 1990. Along with Super Mario Land and Tetris, Baseball was one of the first games to come out on the Game Boy. In 1985, the NES had a test market launch in Manhattan, where eighteen games were demonstrated to the public. The NES version of Baseball was one of those games, and it was shown on a large projector screen by real Major League Baseball players. Due to launching with the system and the universal appeal of its sport, it's said that this game was a key to the NES' overall success. While it's an important part of Nintendo's history, this game hasn't aged too well.

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As its name suggests, this game is based on the real life sport of baseball. I'll give a brief explanation of how it works for those of you that don't know anything about it. There are two opposing teams in baseball, and one "bats" while the other one "pitches." Batting is done by a person known as a batter that uses a wooden stick referred to as a bat to hit the ball. Pitching is done by a person known as a pitcher that throws the ball. Whenever the batter misses the ball, he'll earn a "strike," and if he gets three strikes, then he's "out." At that point, another batter will be sent in, and if three outs are obtained, the teams will switch roles, so the batting team will get to pitch and vice versa. If a batter hits the ball, he and his team's "base runners" will get a chance to run across the field, and if any of them make a full lap around the diamond before the pitching team returns the ball, the batting team will be awarded a point. After each team gets to bat and pitch once, an "inning" is complete. After nine innings, the team with the highest score wins.

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There are four plates at the four corners of the diamond and making a full lap requires that the base runners touch each one. The plate that the batter stands on is called the "home" plate, and the other three are known as "bases," such as first, second, and third base. If the pitching team returns the ball while the base runners are in the middle of running from one base to another, they'll be tagged out. However, a base runner can safely stop on one of the bases if he doesn't think he'll make the full lap, and he can remain there until the batter hits another ball. In this manner, base runners slowly make their way from base to base each time the batter hits the ball, in hopes of eventually doing a full lap. Once a base runner does a full lap, they leave the field. Only one base runner is allowed to stay on a single base at a time, so if one runner attempts to run to an occupied base, the runner that's occupying that base is forced to run. If the pitching team catches the ball before it hits the ground once, then all the base runners must return to the previous bases they were on. Got all that?

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When batting, you use the d-pad to position the batter and the A button to swing the bat. If you tap the A button lightly, the batter will do something known as a "bunt," which is when the bat is held horizontally still so that it taps the ball a short distance away. This is generally done as a surprise maneuver, as the pitcher usually expects the batter to do a full swing. Normally, the base runners will automatically begin running after the ball has been hit, but you can also manually control them. To do that, you hold a direction on the d-pad while pressing either the A or B button. The B button makes base runners run to the next base, whereas the A button makes them retreat back to the previous base. What direction you hold controls different base runners; holding right controls the runner on first base, holding up controls the second base's runner, holding left does the third base's runner, and holding down controls all of them at the same time. Remembering all of this is rather difficult.

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Pitching is another process entirely. Pressing the A button without doing anything else will throw a standard pitch, but holding various directions on the d-pad will result in different pitches; holding right throws a curveball, up does a slow ball, left is a screwball, and down is a fastball. The B button will throw a "feint" to the closest base that has a base runner on it, though a direction on the d-pad can be held to manually pick an occupied base. If the batter successfully hits the ball you pitched, then you'll go into the "fielding" phase. During this phase, your "fielders" will automatically run for the ball, and strangely, there's no way to manually control their running. That's a shame, because their running speed is sluggish, plus they're really bad at catching the ball. The only thing you can do during the fielding portion is pick which base to throw the ball to after a fielder has caught it, which is done by holding specific directions on the d-pad and pressing either the A or B button. Again, you have to memorize which direction corresponds to what base. The lack of control here is frustrating.

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Compared to all the other versions, the Game Boy release is pretty different. In the other versions, there are six selectable teams, though the only difference between them is the color of their uniforms. However, the Game Boy version has only two teams, but it tells you the names of all the players within the teams, plus it lets you pick which player pitches first. You can also pick between Japanese and American players, though they're all fictional. There's also actual background music to the Game Boy version, which can be toggled on or off. The Game Boy version is certainly more polished, but the graphics are a far cry worse than the other versions, mostly because everything is in black and white. Also, the Game Boy's smaller screen means it must do lots of scrolling, and even then, some of the action happens off screen. All versions allow you to play with another human being, but obviously, the Game Boy version requires two Game Boys, two games, and a Link Cable. There are some other differences between versions, but those are the major ones. Even with their lack of polish, the console versions are preferable to the Game Boy one.

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For its time, Baseball wasn't too bad of a baseball game. However, time hasn't been kind to this game. Nowadays, there are far better baseball video games out there. This game is slow, clunky, and the controls are kind of complicated. There's also not much meat to it, so it gets old quite quickly. It's worth remembering for what it did for the NES, but not really worth playing. On the bright side, this is probably one of the simplest baseball video games out there, making it easy for novices of the sport to play.

Word Count: 1,304

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