Bad News Baseball (NES) review
"Often times, things don’t make much sense at all. For instance, there’s a popular expression that says, “A penny for your thoughts.” But there’s also a saying that says you have to “put your two cents in.” With these two statements, it’s obvious that someone out there is making a penny. But who is it? We have no idea, we’re just left to assume that these phrases are simple sayings that apply to us and not some vast greater idea. "
Often times, things don’t make much sense at all. For instance, there’s a popular expression that says, “A penny for your thoughts.” But there’s also a saying that says you have to “put your two cents in.” With these two statements, it’s obvious that someone out there is making a penny. But who is it? We have no idea, we’re just left to assume that these phrases are simple sayings that apply to us and not some vast greater idea.
Welcome to Bad News Baseball. That long, rambling introduction was solely to pave the way to the main complaint I have with this game – it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bad News Bears movie. This almost seems a sort of travesty, as a baseball video game based solely on the Chico’s Bail Bondsmen baseball team would be utterly hilarious. However, despite lacking any similar points with the movie outside of character age and title similarities, Bad News Baseball still manages to provide decent baseball action, and a few tweaks not often seen in other games of the same generation.
Bad News Baseball does use the same *age* characters as the movie; you control a team of little leaguers. The teams come from various cities around the United States, like Boston, San Francisco, and of course, New York. Each player has season statistics, individual abilities, and usually a comical appearance. You coach your team through a single elimination round robin type tournament, where you must defeat every other team. That’s the extent of the modes however; don’t expect a full season mode like in Bases Loaded, and you can throw stat tracking right out the window unless you have a desire to scribe yourself.
The actual gameplay of Bad News Baseball is what separates it from the large pack of mediocre baseball games. All the traditional aspects that you would expect from a baseball game are here. It has the standard batter-pitcher interface: the pitcher stands menacingly on the mound, glaring down the opponent, before lobbing a fastball towards the plate, which the batter may or may not hit, with physics taking over at this point. Rather simple fare, really.
Please ignore the relatively unrealistic baseball aspects. Such as, how do little leaguers throw one hundred mile per hour fastballs, hit three hundred foot homeruns with wooden bats, jump an entire body length higher then an outfield fence, slide fifteen feet, and steal bases without even drawing a throw? There’s a lot of farcical gameplay, which adds to the mood of a sandlot game that is being created.
However, there are some novel gameplay elements added to Bad News Baseball. Defense is heavily emphasized; bad defensive players run impossibly slow in the field, and have arms matching the quality of Kelly Osborne’s singing. Likewise, speed ratings and batting statistics play a large role in how a player performs. Therefore, strategic elements often arise. Should you put in defensive replacements late in the game? If the game goes into extra innings, you lose some pop in the lineup, but you might not get that chance if your blundering second baseman throws the ball away. You are Tony LaRussa in this game, using flurries of substations in order to maximize the potential of your little leaguers.
Also, Bad News Baseball is one of the few early Nintendo baseball games that allowed more then just two pitches. The normal two are here; a fastball, and a bastardized changeup, which is basically just a fastball that you don’t throw as fast. However, holding up will automatically cause your pitcher to throw a curveball, which is un-hittable but always called a ball if not swung at. This is an option not normally seen until later games, and Bad News Baseball was probably the first game to effectively use it. Make no mistake, a steady mix of curve balls and fastballs, with an occasional change, will keep any opponent on their toes. The batter-pitcher interface is superb in this regard.
Of course, this would matter more if all your pitchers didn’t have such low endurance. This is the most pressing gameplay concern. Even the best pitchers are only at their best for two to four innings. After this point, pitches lose speed dramatically, and a call to the pen must be made. You can expect to use at least three pitchers per game, four if you want to manage it like a real game and use a closer.
Bad News Baseball is no pushover, despite the cutesy graphics and backyard baseball playing style. Holding the computer scoreless is a feat worthy of praise. Most games resemble over forty softball and beer festivals, as run totals soar into the teens. Some form of computer assistance (whereby the computer tries to stay close to you in order to ensure more exciting scores) is used. The only noticeable flaw is that the computer will often leave its pitchers in while tired, allowing you to pummel their weak twenty mile per hour offerings. All in all, you’ll win more then you’ll lose, but not a whole lot more.
All these factors do combine to make Bad News Baseball a formidable multiplayer baseball game. It’s perfect for those looking for quick and easy baseball games, as you don’t have to worry extensively about what team you pick, load times, or any other problems that plague new baseball games. The high scores and fast learning curve also tend to encourage gamers who aren’t necessarily hardcore baseball fanatics. The aforementioned innovative pitching system also allows to pros to battle effectively in a match of managing skills.
The kids in Bad News Baseball look like kids. Sounds simplistic, but it’s a godsend for a console that seldom has appropriate images for the characters involved. Character models range from short fat stumpy little kids to tall skinny little kids. The only negative concerning the graphics would be the all too familiar radioactive sheen over everything. “Bright” is an understatement, and I wouldn’t blame you if you utilize the brightness function on your television.
Not much to say about the sounds, but then again, there never is. Various simple tunes echo throughout gameplay, and like every other Nintendo game ever released, you’ll either dig them immediately, or mute the television with the quickness of O.J. Simpson exiting a murder scene. Shrill pings make a pathetic attempt to capture the excitement of bat-on-ball, but alas, the Nintendo just isn’t technologically advanced enough to support totally immersing sound effects.
If you want a fun baseball game that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of later games, then Bad News Baseball is the perfect game for you. Despite being over a decade old, and lacking some gameplay modes that were common at the time, it’s still remarkably more playable then games on newer consoles. Give it at least one whirl, chances are that you won’t be disappointed.
Community review by sgreenwell (January 25, 2003)
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