"Orange Juice Style: Sweet gameplay keeps squeezing out OR Beats the competition to a pulp"
Orange Juice Style: Sweet gameplay keeps squeezing out OR Beats the competition to a pulp
Baseball isn't my favourite sport, not by a long shot. It's actually hockey, and I live in Canada, which is essentially saying the same thing twice, the same thing twice. But World Class Baseball is probably my second favourite sports video game, right behind NHL Hockey '94 for the Sega Genesis. WCB doesn't have it all. It doesn't have season stats, doesn't have real Major League Baseball teams or players. And that's part of what makes it so timeless.
WCB plays just like you'd expect baseball to play, shrunk down into a quaint, bright package and coded into a marvelous little card made for your Turbografx. If you've got the system, you need to get this game - it's that simple. The graphics are crisp and colourful, if a bit cutesy, with music to match (the tunes are reminiscent of Bomberman's). The action is seen from the batter's box view, and I think that's the best idea. That way, the pitcher gets a good view of the action on his pitches, and the batter gets a good look at what he's swinging at. It's a good fit. You'll get a choice of right handed pitchers, southpaws, overhand hurlers, and sidearms. You can throw off-speed pitches, and fastballs, inside or away. The D-pad on the controller gives you an amazing amount of play on the ball as soon as it's released from your pitcher's hand.
When the ball is hit, the game switches to a bird's-eye-view of the field. Sometimes the ball is hit along the ground, and that's easy to tell because effective little scuffing sounds are made as the ball skips along the turf. Other times, the ball is hit high in the air, and the shadow of the ball plays on the field extremely well, and when a player is beneath the ball he looks up, so that it's easy to track the fly balls and haul them in if you've got a player nearby. This leaves line drives - they're the easiest to field. Often you can get your fielder to make a nice diving catch to bring these down. If there's a slip in the fielding, it's that the time it takes to release (read: take the cowhide out of your glove and toss it) a ball when caught is a bit of a drag. This makes pulling off double plays slightly more challenging than was necessary.
As easy as the fielding is, the hitting physics in WCB makes the game particularly enjoyable for hitters. You can turn on inside fastballs and power them out of the park; you can take the cowhide off the end of the bat and send it up the line the other way. We know that home runs are everyone's favourite play, and of note is the fact that it's not as easy to manage a round-tripper in WCB as it is in many other, newer baseball games. You'll really have to make solid contact to pull it off, and just as if you were actually playing out on the diamond: you know from the moment you connect when it's going the distance.
And you won't be doing too many inside-the-park homers with WCB. The AI is surprisingly sharp, and the computer fielders have some decent arms on them - being caught in a run down is almost always a sure out. Still, as with any sports video game, you'll get the hang of dealing with the computer controlled teams, and start to beat them regularly in ''Open'' (exhibition) mode. You'll then want to take on the game's equivalent of the playoffs, where you pit your team against several others in your division, before taking on the winner of the other division. Ultimately, you'll get a chance to play a very challenging contest against the super team known only as the World Champions. They have pitchers who hurl the ball at speeds of 120 mph and hitters who learn your sneaky curve ball tendencies just as fast. The World Champs provide the ultimate challenge for seasoned vets of WCB, and the password feature that will allow you to play them over and over again helps make sustain this game's deep replayability even when you're ten years a pro (like myself!).
If there's a weakness in WCB, it's the same as its strength: the lack of extras. Again, don't look to be playing as Barry Bonds or Curt Schilling. Don't think you'll be representing the Toronto Blue Jays or New York Yankees. But take heart! There are the New York Apples to represent, and the Tokyo Ninjas, their rosters replete with such stars as Brick, Fuka, and Shima (Shima has gotta be the best player in the league!). So that same lack of extras is what may actually elevate this classic gem above the common crap you find in the bargain bin of used game stores. Those licensed, swanky statistics extravaganzas seem to lose much of their luster when the next year's version comes out to completely eclipse them with even more extras. WCB proves it all unnecessary.
Save the stats packages and announcers and highlight cuts for someone who cares - they'll care for at least a week. Give me a clearly laid out field, memorable little inoffensive tunes, a graphic style that makes playing when it's rainy outside feel like it's a sunny day on your Turbografx... Give me World Class Baseball. Every time.
Staff review by Marc Golding (November 16, 2003)
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