Genre: Sports Developer: Tengen Publisher: Tengen Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
It’s one of those things you can never understand. No, it’s not love. It’s not the secret to life. No, it’s not how does George Clooney have an Oscar while Paul Giamatti has nothing. No, it’s something much more important! It’s a video game question!
R.B.I. Baseball started out on the NES and quickly became THE baseball game to play. It wasn’t just dumb luck that you scored a base hit, much like the other games of the day. You had to now really choose exactly where to stand, and when to swing, AND just how your stance looked when you came to the plate. Details can sometimes ruin things, but for R.B.I. Baseball there was nothing but negativity to build on, as the NES’s other offerings for the most part simply became ancient with R.B.I.’s release. Not just older, but literally primitive! One game, and it’s a whole new way to play! Your main component also was having every team and every player in the cart! Not just seven letters representing seven teams. This altogether made for one great experience, not only for NES fans, but for its reign on the Genesis as well! And all this without a MLB license!
So today I’m thinking about it. Where did it go? Where’s R.B.I. Baseball ’08? It’s not like it suddenly disappeared during the ’94 strike, since there IS an R.B.I. Baseball ’94. Could it be Atari giving up? It’d be hard to see why. Before games like Ken Griffey and Triple Play came around, R.B.I. Baseball had pretty much been the top-selling game around! Not only a critical success, but a financial one as well!
Looking back, it’s probably a mix of both. The newer games came along and pretty much took the show over in the mid-to-late 90’s. R.B.I. didn’t stand a chance with its “old-fashioned” look. The SNES also held the R.B.I. series, and actually featured a ’95 edition, but it was too little too late. It’s gone now. Shame too.
Honestly, I still play this game more than most games today. The options aren’t just choosing how many are playing and what teams you will be. You have actual game modes now! Whether it’s the basic playoffs and season mode, or the options of batting practice AND fielding practice! Not to mention probably the first home run derby I’ve seen in any franchise. And that was before custom rosters!
What else do we have here? How about classic rosters! And not just teams with numbers for players, I means REAL PLAYERS FROM FOUR YEARS BEFORE! Even Madden today manages to screw that up. And with Custom Roster mode, you can now make that magical infield where Ozzie Smith is your ENTIRE infield! Yes, it gets unrealistically fun at times! Still, even with all the extras you still have the actual gameplay that can make or break anything. Starting off, pitching is pretty standard for the day. Press the button and hold a direction to choose the pitch type. Difference is you can still control the ball as it flies towards the plate, like some sort of phantom pitch. This actually makes it possible to leave a human opponent almost always guessing, which just screams “replay value.” The fielding can actually be annoying at times though, as this game is plagued at times with “Infield-fly-into-an-inside-the-parker-homerun” syndrome, since sometimes you just don’t know where it’s really going to drop, or if you actually drop the ball.(Which happens more than you’d think)
Batting, even with everything else going on, is still pretty basic for it’s time. Move the batter around the box, whether up and down or left and right, or anywhere else in the batters box. There’s two options to hit the ball, and that’s excluding bunting. You have the choice of letting your batter (Which,by the way, actually include small, medium, and large players) either simply stand ready for the pitch, or you can tap the button quickly to go into contact mode instead of home run mode. What’s that? CHOICES for batting? RBI strikes again! Even with the new options, they may make batting a bit TOO easy. This game can also feature winning every game 27-0.
Remember what I said before though, about the game being a bit old-fashioned? Well, it’s a true problem, and unfortunately it was not only the story for R.B.I. Baseball, but for Tengen for the most part. The game features no real title music. In fact, there isn’t any music until you hit the actual game, and then the sound problems start to become obvious.
Another feature this game had was an early announcer that rivaled Sport Talk Baseball’s golden voice! Unfortunately, while it was decipherable, it was rarely ever right! It was funny when I first heard “First Base” being called while I had obviously grounded to third. I thought it was a one-time glitch. No. Glitch? Yes. One time? No. It’s a home run, but it’s somehow really been hit straight to second base! Even worse though, is the in-game music I mentioned before. Not only does the game start playing TWO different songs at the same time, it can also start interfering with its already flawed announcer. Still, the game does have competent sounds for basic hitting and pitching, and the crowd is pretty nice sounding, so it’s not annoying enough to turn the sound off. Close though.
While the graphics for the time worked out pretty well for its time, they have not aged well. Not even by the next year after its release. The menu’s and the title screen work out pretty nice, and are easy to navigate, but while actually playing a game, you can see the issues. The option stadium tour on the menu shows a huge flaw. For the most part, every stadium is a near copy of the next (Although that’s Major League Baseball’s fault as well) The stadiums, even with their differences once you look deeper, are still just boring. In fact, pretty much the whole look of the game can be pretty boring. Sure, there are little video’s that play during the game, but they play so much at times they lose their novelty before the third inning.
R.B.I. Baseball overall had a nice run, but its time was up. These days there are so many features baseball games of today that even if R.B.I. had tried to stay around even another year or two it’d be straight up embarrassing. That’s the thing with some groundbreaking games though: it’s fun and new, but it usually doesn’t last long, but not before changing the way some things are done. R.B.I. didn’t stop with the innovations here though. By ’95 we had player pictures and bit more realistic gameplay, but it’s time was already gone.
SCORE: 5 out of 10