"Ken Griffey's Grotesquely Swollen Jaw . . ."
Video game baseball attained gameplay perfection with Intellivision baseball. Released in the early eighties, countless hours were spent staring at a flat, two-dimensional field controlling players whose heads were just one giant square pixel. There were two teams, Home and Visitor. Somehow, the game always seemed to be enough. Since then, the games have changed drastically, but the gameplay has stayed roughly the same. How many gameplay variations of Baseball can you have? Sure, now all the games have full MLB licensing, 3D graphics, numerous camera angles, and digitized speech, but the point of the game is still to get your batter to hit the ball and run the bases.
So what seperates video Baseball games then? Well, first and foremost is the control. If controlling the players is hard, you just don't want to play. Close behind that are graphics, and attention to detail. Graphics are the most immediate and obvious aspect that sets Baseball games apart. Though not always true for other games, in the case of Baseball with similar gameplay, the better the graphics, the better the game. Finally, die-hard Baseball fans have always been detail oriented. The day that designers were first able to include each player's real batting stances (3D Baseball was the first to do that) was a day of rejoicing for the die hard fans. If a game has all these three things, it truly is a winner. Major League Baseball: Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. definitely does not fall into the winner's category.
First the graphics. We've all seen what the N64 can do graphically with games like Goldeneye, but we've also seen what happens when designers take short cuts, like Cruisin' USA. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball is the latter. The players do that lovely Gumby action of sliding around the batters box to position themselves for the pitch. When you go to catch a ball, the camera suddenly switches a glove cam that, while it may be nifty, doesn't flow with the rest of the game. Also, when you throw the ball to a base, it seems to take forever with a follow cam on the ball. Very distracting. With very mediocre graphics, goofy animations(apparently the players like to run around the plate when they come up to bat.), and some of the strangest camera angles, I can honestly say that visually this game was not a lot of fun to play.
Major League Baseball does have a very good attention to detail though. All the stats are there. The batters have their own stances. The announcer gives the names of each player at bat. Everything that you'd expect to be in a baseball game nowadays, Major League Baseball has.
The control is decent, not good, not bad. You use the directional C button to guide the players to the different bases. The batter view is okay, but it is hard to determine a strike from a ball with an invisible strike zone. As for the pitcher, that's where the game loses it. You have all of four pitches. A fastball, a changeup, your pitcher's standard pitch, and a specialty pitch. Though there are games with fewer pitches, it just felt that they scrimped on this aspect of gameplay.
All in all, gamers are left with a mediocre product. Not good, not bad, just average. Unfortunately, average generally doesn't cut it in the video gaming world, especially when games like All-Star Baseball '99 show up and blow the doors off this game. So, if you're looking for the best baseball game for the N64, don't get this game. Only if you are one of those people who must own everything baseball that has ever existed, should you consider this game. Even then, rent it first.