Despite baseball currently being in its off-season, there are still plenty of diehard fans just waiting for spring to come. Of course, 10-15 years ago, this giant fan base inspired game companies abroad to create their own baseball games, supplying Sega’s 16-bit family with almost twenty different series! Of course, with the Genesis being known as a major system for sport games in its heyday, this shouldn’t came as any surprise! Most of the games are able to stay unique despite being based on the same game.
Well, let’s play ball! (sorry!)
Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball
One thing you’ll notice right away about most early baseball games is they lack the official MLB license, meaning you’ll be playing New York (American) Vs. Kansas City instead of Yankees Vs. Royals. This can become distracting if it’s the wrong game. Big Hurt Baseball is one of those games. Frank Thomas had become the Shaq of baseball in the mid ’90s, and while there may not have been a rap album, or a movie deal (Frank Thomas is a loose cannon cop on the edge, and no one can stop him from taking down crime in Chicago! Chaos in the Windy City 2! Coming to video this November!), he was big enough to not only land on the Genesis with a sub-par game based on almost pure graphics alone, he also stunk up the Play Station with All-Star Baseball ’97. The actual game isn’t 100% bad though. The placement of pitching is odd, and sometimes confusing, but the actual hitting is done pretty well. The game has a couple of unique features like a scenario mode, and a quick mode which has every AB end after one strike, which really seems to expose the confusing pitching interface. Almost any pitch you throw is either a ball or a hit. Acclaim tried its own game, but in the end it became just another lacking baseball try.
Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball
Around ¼ of early baseball games had some sort of superstar name attached to it. Cal Ripkin is more or less a quick buck game from Mindscape. This becomes obvious when they couldn’t even bother to get even a PLAYERS license, making players on every team fake, except obviously for Cal, who doesn’t even stand out from the others, making the whole Cal Ripkin name seem almost useless. Like normal, you don’t really pick a pitch other than just how fast it goes and where you want it to relatively go. The bat controls are also basic fare. Even the fielding is mediocre, although it can become so unresponsive that simple singles up the middle turn into inside-the-parkers.
This can get irritating real quick, and makes for a speedy play through. After five minutes, you’re through.
Choukyuukai Miracle Nine
It truly is a shame that this game wasn’t brought over to the states! Awesome graphics and presentation with gameplay to match! It also has actual Japanese teams, which may have been the reason for it staying put (although it wouldn’t have been too hard to convert team symbols to MLB teams). It even features an all-star game, which wasn’t a common item at the time. The actual gameplay is pretty fun to play, even with a couple of irritations. The batting view is from an unusual quarter side, which can make for some difficult pitch placement, but it does make for an easier batting. With less movement, it isn’t hard to put the bat on the ball. The in-game music is a great part too, with an upbeat little tune that the various sound FX can almost seamlessly flow into. If there’s any real complaints about it, the fielding can become irritating, especially when you can’t run with the ball, and when there’s almost no way to see where your outfielders are on a fly ball before making it almost impossible to catch it at times. Other than that, this game is pretty fun.
ESPN Baseball Tonight
Wow, was THIS a letdown or what?! The first ads for this game promised CD-quality graphics and detail, along with the sounds. While this wasn’t exactly a lie, when you actually put the game in and started it, you could see where the attention went. First off, there’s that same problem Cal Ripkin had: no player license. I mean, I understand Cal Ripkin having trouble acquiring them, but ESPN? The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network not getting player names? This really hinders the feel, especially with so much promised. There IS a create-a-player though, which is actually a bit before its time. And the home-run derby can help make the game enjoyable. The real problem is gameplay here though. The game gives the feeling of having such a small field when any ball you hit is an out before it can barely leave the bat. It’s not the worst game, but you can easily do better.
The Hardball series
I consider the Hardball series to be one of the more underrated of the baseball games. With plenty of options to work with and stat upkeep, this game really deserves more than it does. Not that it’s perfect by any means. While it’s nice to see some of the little graphics, the actual in-game play is a tad lacking. While the controls aren’t all that hard to work, the game is a bit hard to get in to. That’d explain why the series isn’t more talked about. It suffers ultimately from boredom. With a game like baseball being characteristically slow and sluggish, a game needs to not be so life-like that it mirrors that effect. Ultimately that becomes the games major fault.
Kyukai Dotyuuki Puroyakyuu
The other game in the Chibi-ball series. Miracle Nine‘s predecessor is dated, and it shows. While it still has the fun music and look of its sequel, it unfortunately suffers from the aforementioned game’s faults even more so. Unlike with the sequel, I can understand that fault here. Fielding is a bit of a pain, and the pitching is even a bit more of a challenge to pull off. It’s still a blast to play though, with its uniqueness among all the entries on this list. Perhaps the biggest plus is that even after the initial novelty wears off, you’ll probably still be playing. Also, I enjoyed being able to play on surfaces like a building top and a cruise ship!
EA Sports Baseball (also Tony LaRussa Baseball)
I’ve put these together because after playing both, they seem so much similar that they could easily be a series. If I’m totally wrong please don’t be hesitant to correct. Anyway, on with the game. While EA sports wasn’t the giant it is today, they still knew what they were doing. With Madden and NHL dominating the market, EA’s baseball series kind of took a back burner, which seems unfortunate. While it’s not going to beat the best out here, it definitely holds its own. The game features some nice outer shell, along with some meaty gameplay. Games are seen in frames; in other words, you’ll be seeing more little boxes instead of a simple shot of the field of play. The PC influence is revealed too, as choosing your pitches and swings feels a bit more like entering a missile launch code than playing baseball. Still though, it’s worth a pick up.
The R.B.I. Baseball series
Here’s another great series that suddenly disappeared, which is a real shame. Tengen had a nice little game going. Starting out on the NES, RBI made its way to the Genny, and had four games in total before it just stopped being made. It’s hard to really explain how it could’ve disappeared though. It was one of the first major high selling baseball games around. It also had early occurrences of player photos(!) and fielding and batting practice. Even with no real theme song, the game featured some of the best in-game music around, along with realistic crowd sounds. Even the announcer getting the calls right was pretty much unheard of at that time! All this along with a nice batter-pitcher interface, and easier than most controls, you’ll be forgetting that there’s no MLB teams license!
Roger Clemens’ MVP Baseball
Nine times out of ten, games based simply on a players endorsement just don’t work. (We all love Bo Jackson, hence the exception). Roger Clemens MVP pretty much fits with any other random baseball game with a legend on the cover. This time it’s Flying Edge’s turn to try a new baseball gem. While they actually worked on the games music and sounds and even gave the graphics a nice touch, again gameplay is the weakest link. The hitting is actually fine. The pitching, while VERY simple, is still a good fit. The main problem that hurts RC is its fielding. I HATE the fielding in this game, Whether it’s making fly balls almost impossible to read, or its slow grounders being to fast for you to catch up too. But just wait until your batting, then the fielders can get to any ball and anytime! I’m sure you could probably get the fielding down and have a nice time with this, but it just doesn’t feel worth it.
Sports Talk Baseball
The predecessor to World Series Baseball is actually still a good game in its own right, but with faults. The game primarily tries to use its new game announcer feature as its main selling point. While this technology was later perfected in WSB, it still works fine here. The other aspects of the game, like fielding and hitting, are actually pretty user friendly and can easily be picked up. Beware though, the game moves fast, and without a real computer assisted field, the game still suffers from single-into-home run plays. You’ll need to really watch the icons in the bottom left corner, or you’ll be getting a bit to pissed to play. Once you get the controls down, you’ll be playing a bit more than you thought.
Super Baseball 2020
Simply put, the game doesn’t rest on novelty alone! While it’s pretty much Tommy Lasorda in robots, the game is actually pretty fun and pretty much a classic. Your teams consist of 3-4 kinds of robots to use as players. The whole future theme is done well and isn’t too distracting. While the game isn’t 100% pick up and play, you won’t be taking much time to figure out actual batter placement and where you can really throw pitches. Even the fielding, which has been a fault of most games of the era, is actually pretty nice to work with. Pretty much, this is one of the systems few baseball must haves. Whether it’s for the fun theme, or its actual playing, this game simply works. Updating Tommy Lasorda was pretty easy though; take out its faults to create a really great game to play with.
Tecmo Super Baseball
Tecmo, you remember them right? Makers of one of the most popular ninja series around? They made the most popular football game before Madden? That little rabbit was their mascot? You do? Good, because you just may be surprised that baseball was also one of their strong points! While not as perfect (or close to perfect at all) as Tecmo Super Bowl (then again, what is?), Tecmo Super Baseball can hold its own. It not only uses the not common feature of player photos, it also makes an actual presentation of its MLBPA license, which shows some true effort was put forth. The easy menu, along with the easy controls, make the game one to look for when searching for another baseball title to add to your collection. While not having the real Major League Baseball teams can be distracting at times, you’ll still have fun with this title.
Unfortunately, getting a full look at this game is apparently impossible. Without the proper Mega Modem connection, the game won’t really go past the name entry screen, or at least I can’t get past it with my nonexistent skills of reading Japanese text. All gathered information shows this as one of the only two games playable online with the Mega Modem (unreleased TeleGenesis Modem in the U.S.) The shots I’ve seen show promise though, and the thought of playing Genesis baseball long distance sounds really cool. Any help on this would be helpful.
Tommy Lasorda Baseball
The original baseball game for Genesis (and known as Super League Baseball in Japan), Tommy Lasorda wants you to have a fucking good time playing his game! Once you get through the surprisingly bland menus and get to the game, you’ll have a little bit of work to do, learning about the odd fielding controls and the hitting interface. I wanted to like this so much, but the game can be a real big pain at times. When it seems like you’ve just gotten down the controls, you’re striking out, or your popping out like some a little girl. After awhile, you’ll either love it or hate it, there’s no real in between. In the end though, you’ll be playing Super Baseball 2020 instead.
Triple Play Baseball series
While I remember the days of Triple Play Baseball being a major contender in the realm of video game baseball, I never quite understood why it was called the best. I mean, it’s by no means a bad game. You’ve got nice and readable menus, some awesome music, a create-a-player, and one of the simpler control schemes this side of SNK’s Baseball Stars. While it features a MLBPA license, pretty much by this time if you DIDN’T have at least that, you were dead in the water from the get go. EA continually tried to perfect its baseball series, and they did just that with the Triple Play series. The TP series eventually went to PlayStation until EA Sports dropped it for the superior MVP baseball. It’s a great game no doubt, but these days it’s aged a bit.
World Series Baseball
You can’t get much better than World Series Baseball. Whether it’s the catchy music, realistic graphics, announcer voice, or its MLB and MLBPA licenses, this series is the top of the crop! Its groundbreaking style of the catchers view to play made for a simpler game that anyone could pick up and enjoy, and have fun. Even though the first game is a classic, Sega made sure almost every game after that was fixed up in some sort of way to make it its own, and game mode include 2 Home Run Derby modes, or WSB 95‘s home run trot. There was a lot more to go with than updated rosters and a fixed up stadium. The game had plenty of detail, even making the stadiums the most detailed and as close to the real thing as you’ll get on the Genesis or the 32X for that matter. Not moving the batter around makes for easier batting, but some say it can be a bit too easy, which is true. Other than the ability to have unrealistic 48-2 games, World Series Baseball will be the best baseball purchase available.
Brian Lara Cricket series
Finally, we have the version of baseball everyone else in the world plays, cricket. While I can’t obviously make a real observation of how well these games are done, from what I’ve played, they seems to be well made. In truth, I’ve actually learned a bit about the sport from playing them, and I have tried to actually put a real life game together, but I’m usually futile in my attempts. For obvious reasons, these two games never hit the states, or even Japan, if I’m not mistaken. Even with an unfamiliarity of it in general, they’re actually quite fun. There worth a shot though, even if for the Americans.
Well, that about does it. There are plenty of games to choose from and unfortunately, only a handful are really worth the search for. Still, you can’t do wrong with baseball, and it’s worth finding that game that fits you and one that’ll keep you playing throughout.