Genre: Sports Developer: Tecmo Publisher: Tecmo Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
Before people knew the likes of Montana on the Genesis, and before people flocked to Madden, there was one supreme football title: Tecmo Bowl. This single title garnered enough of a reputation in Tecmo to create an entire line of sports titles ranging from basketball to even soccer. And while I love the Bowl series and enjoyed Tecmo Super NBA Basketball, Tecmo Super Baseball is by far my favorite game in Tecmo’s entire sports line up.
If World Series Baseball reinvented the wheel on the Genesis, then Tecmo Super Baseball perfected the previous structure. The game offered a great deal more than its contemporaries, offering unparalleled (at the time)depth both on and off the field. Though the game was and still is often overlooked, it deserves the classic status given to its football siblings.
Tecmo Super Baseball excels due to its sheer amount of gameplay complexities. When starting the game up you can choose from three game modes: pre-season, season, and Super Stars. Pre-season is exactly like it sounds, just a smattering of meaningless games. Super Stars mode is Tecmo-speak for “All-Star game.” Season mode, though, is the real meat and potatoes of the game. In this mode you will take control of your favorite team (twenty-eight teams are available, the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks didn’t yet exist), and battle your way to the World Championship Series. And as any baseball fan knows, there’s one hundred and sixty two games in a season, making completing a season a daunting task. Fortunately, gamers are given the option to play, simulate, coach, or watch each game. And even if you do choose to play each game, the pace is fast, and not at all boring.
Most of this seems fairly standard for the genre, but Tecmo Super Baseball allows for a number of in-game choices not found in its contemporaries. When pitching, for example, you select from a number of pitches, one or two of which are specific to each pitcher, while concurrently being able to shift the infield and/or the outfield to better anticipate any hitter. While batting, you’re able to select how you swing: normal, power, contact, or bunt; all the while choosing to attempt a steal, or go for a hit and run. And if you’re a stats nut like I am, then you’re in luck. The game keeps track of all major stat categories for each player – based on the 1993 MLBPA license – throughout your season. Couple this depth with realistic gameplay (pitchers tire, only big sluggers hit home runs on a consistent basis) and you have every baseball fan’s dream game. Tecmo Super Baseball really only lacks trades, which is a fairly major omission.
Of course, all of the options in the world wouldn’t matter if the game didn’t control well. I’m happy to report that Tecmo Super Baseball controls perfectly. Certain actions that have been made unnecessarily complex in recent titles are a breeze in this game. To throw to a base, you simply press A and a corresponding directional button. Simple as can be. Running the bases is also made effortless in this title, something that cannot be said for 90% of all other games in the genre. Each base-runner can be moved individually, an invaluable tool for gamers familiar with the genre. Being able to return to third while simultaneously advancing to second base is a blessing while playing friend.
Tecmo Super Baseball isn’t without its shortcomings though, and undoubtedly its largest weakness is its visuals. The game, especially when compared to World Series Baseball, looks like utter garbage. This is inexcusable seeing as both were released in the same year. The colors look bland, the sprites aren’t very detailed, and the animations quickly become repetitive. And if you’re looking for something extra like individual stadiums, you’re out of luck here. It’s the same old ugly stadium every time.
The audio isn’t much better than the visuals. Sound effects work well; there’s a noticeable difference between the “crack of the bat” when hitting a home run, and there’s some decent umpire voice work included (though it can get old). But the music is just awful. While in menus and following home runs, obnoxious music, which comes nowhere near close to matching the sport, plays. Worst of all, the music WILL stick in your head. The game is best played on mute, with your music of choice playing in the background.
I’ve always found it difficult to give sports games such high marks. It’s not that they can’t achieve the level excellence other genres can, it’s just that they’re constantly updating and improving themselves. Tecmo Super Baseball, though, stands the test of time. The game is just as good now as it was in 1994, and fares well in comparison to modern day offerings. Unprecedented depth and gameplay are all oozing from this game. The cartridge can be found for practically nothing, so there’s no excuse for passing it up. Do yourself a favor and pick up on of the best baseball titles not only on the Genesis, but on all consoles.
SCORE: 8 out of 10