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Baseball (Game Boy) artwork

Baseball (Game Boy) review

"Baseball delivers an experience as generic as its name. Some may view this as a glaring flaw, but this Game Boy launch title revels in its simplistic graphics and arcade style gameplay. However, instead of building on that solid foundation, the game squanders its halcyon appeal with a woefully underdeveloped physics system and nearly unbearable slowdown. "

Baseball delivers an experience as generic as its name. Some may view this as a glaring flaw, but this Game Boy launch title revels in its simplistic graphics and arcade style gameplay. However, instead of building on that solid foundation, the game squanders its halcyon appeal with a woefully underdeveloped physics system and nearly unbearable slowdown.

Baseball's gameplay emulates that of previous classics for the NES such as RBI Baseball. Thereís no managerial hand-wringing over lineups and batting orders; itís all about getting on the field and playing. Batting and pitching are both viewed at a low overhead angle from behind the plate. This means that pitches normally only move laterally unless some special spin is put on it to make the ball dive into the dirt. Of course, the game wonít mirror its real inspiration, as most everything hurled toward the plate is a hittable strike. Batting is simply a matter of good timing and positioning to make good contact with the ball. Pitching involves sweeping the ball across the plate to prevent the opposing player from doing just that. Both these activities simply involve the directional pad and one touch of a button, and these attributes make Baseball a wonderfully easy game to pick up and play.

That philosophy doesn't change much one the ball enters the field either. In fact, it's so watered down that it hurts the challenge of the game. Once the batter makes contact, the perspective shifts to a wider aerial view and tracks the movement of the ball. This applies even during towering pop-ups when the baseball isn't visible on the screen. Any difficulty this may cause is suppressed by the fact that all possible contact is choreographed exactly. It's not that a sophisticated physics system is necessary or expected, but there can't be many more than two dozen paths for the ball to travel along. Obviously, after a while your perception of where the tiny projectile will fly becomes entirely instinctual. Even though this gives you an advantage, the play falls into a dry and mechanical rhythm.

While the previous complaint seems like an even trade, the next will leave you with only the shaft. In Baseball, the runners move very slowly. Watching their squat and rotund figures waddle down the baseline isn't a breathtaking sight, and it leaves one thinking that even the weakest of fielders could easily record an out. To balance this out, though, the designers decided to make the ball travel just as slowly as the men. When your outfielder tries to rifle a throw back to the infield, it will not zip back like a laserbeam. Instead, it gradually levitates towards its target as if traveling by the shaky power of telekinesis rather than good old-fashioned muscle. Strikes across the diamond move in a similar way, and while the competition is preserved by virtue of everything moving like molasses, it drags the game down to a grinding pace.

The selection of teams won't motivate anyone to overlook the flaws either. Unlike RBI Baseball, this standard franchise doesn't hold any rights to MLB properties. Instead, the rosters of the four teams, two Japanese and two American, are cobbled together with plain named ballplayers. There are just enough guys with average-Joe names to fill out the positions, a short bench, and still have a few arms for the bullpen. The only unique exceptions are a star pitcher called Mario and a less stellar lefty Luigi. These are the plumbing brothers in name only, though, because unlike on the front of the box, they look like everyone else.

Even the men on the Japanese team are indiscernible from those of a different nationality. Given the current sate of baseball, the inclusion of Asian players appears prescient, but that seeming wisdom is wasted by the fact that the nationalities are segregated. The teams arenít allowed to venture across the Pacific to play each other, making an already stripped down game even lighter.

Baseball just doesn't possess enough power to drive itself far enough. In its day, the game would satisfy any who needed a handheld fix of America's pastime. These days, it exists only to serve as another entry in video game archives. Although a little sad, that's where Baseball now belongs.

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Community review by woodhouse (September 18, 2004)

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