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Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball

Genre: Sports Developer: Mindscape Publisher: Mindscape Players: 1-2 Released: 1992

Cal Ripken Jr. was a steel horse superstar throughout the 1980s and the majority of the 1990s for none other than your Baltimore Orioles. Being baseball’s “Iron Man,” he played for more games consecutively without a day off – 2,632 (!) than anyone else (for you Europeans or non-sports people: the World Series ends around the end of October, but there is an offseason that usually runs from September to February when Spring Training starts again, but still!)! Imagine, every little injury, every little flu bug – this guy kept on playing. From May 30, 1982 to September 19, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. never missed a game for the O’s.

So, one would THINK that one of the 25 best baseball players of all time wouldn’t just slap his name on whatever game came off the production line from Company A or Company B, which in this case happens to be Mindscape. It’s fairly well known for the Wing Commander series and a crappy Terminator game on SNES but really didn’t put anything of any note out on the Genesis besides Paperboy 2 and Super Battleship. Subsequently, the last two are both games that I like. Make fun of me all you want, I liked Paperboy 2 a lot.

But, alas, the Iron Man hasn’t done his homework on this one. Is this game the worst baseball game on the Genesis? Maybe. Is this game easily just a cash in on a name? Definitely. This game sucks, and easily wouldn’t even be mentioned even if you spent two hours writing a lecture about baseball games for the Genesis. This game launched in the clearance bin. This game… okay I get it. I’ll stop writing jokes about this game and get down to the review.

Well, first thing I notice when I turn it on is that the Mindscape logo is WAY TOO BIG! Good thing I sit three feet from the screen, I shot back and almost fell out of the chair! Then I started jamming to the sweet bass line of the introduction. I press start, having no idea what button to press by the introduction, and I get a freeze frame of Cal with his autograph. It’s not as bad as David Robinson’s “GENESIS”, but it’s no Joe Montana’s “SEGA” gold, either. You can barely tell that it’s him! I don’t like it. Press Start again.

Now it’ll bring you to a rather blah colored menu. Basic options are exhibition game, league game, home run derby, team rosters and options. I thought that if you chose team rosters, you could edit the teams to include the real players, ala the NCAA Football series for the current consoles, but nope, you can’t. I bet the only real player in this game is Cal Ripken Jr, himself. I’ll also bet you didn’t have to read this far to find out that there’s not even close to any semblance of a license.

When I play sports games that don’t have any license, I like to give fake names to the teams when they have little images that go along with the city names. Like in this game, we have the Baltimore Rainbow… balls, the San Francisco Bridges, the Oakland Clouds. Cincinnati Bats, Detroit Wheels, Minnesota Skyscrapers… you get the point. It’s stupid because the teams’ photos are stupid. It’s all stupid!

Alright, so we’re ready to play, but I wanted to get some batting practice in so I chose the home run ferby. First red flag that I notice is the “number of innings” option? What do you mean innings? Haven’t you ever seen the real HRD? Chris Berman’s “BACK BACK BACK!”? YIKES! There are no innings. You get 10 outs, and every swing that’s not a homer is an out. It’s a cardinal sin to mess up basic rules of a game. How can you release it? I mean, who tested this?

Forget it, I’ll just play a regular game instead. I always play as Detroit of course, and honestly, I don’t care who I play against. Right off the bat, I notice a lot of things that this game has in common with two other Genesis baseball games, the RBI series and Tony LaRussa Baseball. I feel RBI because the scoreboard reminds me of a second rate knockoff of something that would appear in an RBI game (even though most of the RBI games on the NES probably had better scoreboards than this one) and Tony LaRussa in that it sucks, and that the viewing angle looks pretty much the same.

Okay, gameplay wise, this game is bad but not awful. There aren’t any control problems that I noticed per se, but a few things that get on my nerves. First, when you pitch the ball, why does it seem to “shift over” instead of curving smoothly? It makes pitching look like garbage. Also, is it too hard to add a mark to gauge a fly ball? It’s WAY too easy to hit the ball in the normal mode. Four doubles in a row? Also, leading off a bag seems like you’re sliding a piece on Sorry! (the board game). Fielding and controls are run of the mill, the only thing of note being that C is the advance/retreat button. Normally, it’s B, but I can handle C.

How does it sound? Not good. My first gripe is that the organ music keeps going on and on and on. I get it, CHARGE! I will give it credit for being authentic-sounding, however, and it plays the “William Tell Overture” (nonstop) when you hit a home run. The off-screen fireworks even blow up in time with the music! There is voice synth in this game, limited to BALL, STRIKE, etc. And it sounds like the guy is yelling through a PVC pipe.

Graphically, this game ranges from middle-of-the-road to poor. I like the HUD during the game, but everything else feels second rate. There aren’t any real stadiums, and the ones they do have are mediocre. There’s a dome and two real stadiums, as well as one with ivy. Some of the animations are out of whack, such as player flicker when waiting for a fly ball and how the ball moves wicked fast when you throw out a runner yet spends ten years in the air when you fly out to the pitcher. It’s completely forgettable.

Overall, Cal Ripkin Jr. Baseball is what it is: a completely forgettable mess. It’s just unacceptable. I never played it when I was little, and I only played it now since it’s one of the very few baseball games on Genesis that I don’t remember ever playing. It’s just now I remember why that is.

SCORE: 2 out of 10

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