I said throw a sinker, not a stinker.
EA Sports has been pretty quiet on the N64. With only a few titles released thus far, the company has been undermined a bit by newcomer Acclaim Sports, who have something of a knack for the 64-bit machine. In fact, last year's hands down baseball winner was Acclaim's All-Star Baseball '99, one of the top N64 games around.
The challenge was clear: could EA regain that spark to compete with Acclaim's follow-up masterpiece, All-Star Baseball 2000? Could the heralded Triple Play series survive the port to the Nintendo? Would EA have the eye of the tiger, rising up to the challenge of their rival?
Nope. Not even close.
Triple Play 2000 for the N64 is one of the poorest baseball games I've seen in a long time. It is lackluster in every sense of the word, with cheap graphics, weak sound, and shabby gameplay. Considering the strength of the Playstation version, this is a surprising and unfortunate turn of events.
For starters, there's the graphics. Choppy animations, poor textures, and lousy detail make for an unpalatable experience. The player movements are jerkier than Steve Martin (you'll get the reference someday, kiddies), particularly when compared to ASB 2000's smooth and life-like effects. While players are apparently modeled after their real world counterparts, you wouldn't guess that by the hunched over, nearly identical, polygonal mishmashes you get to control. And to top it off, collision detection is bad - you don't really 'hit' the ball. If you swing and connect, everything freezes for an instant and the ball ends up flying somewhere into the field. Reminds me of the Nintendo classic VS. Baseball . . . only worse.
Like its Playstation counterpart, Triple Play 2000 has plenty of modes, including Single Game, Season, Home-Run Challenge, and Playoffs. There is really no GM mode, though you can do some pretty basic trading and signing over the course of the season.
Gameplay is uninspired. The basics are there - pitch ball, hit ball, catch ball, throw ball - but just aren't very exciting. Where ASB 2000 gives you an interesting angle and precision in pitching and hitting, Triple Play opts for a more arcadey feel. But this isn't an 'arcade' game like NBA Jam, so it ends up feeling shallow. You don't get sweet spots for each batter, you don't get any icons to aid in pitch and hit accuracy, and you don't get any feel for why one swing leads to a home run while another leads to a ground out. You just don't get much.
One of the most irritating aspects of the game is the fielding. When someone hits the ball, you see this weird yellow arrow indicator telling you where the ball is going, but by the time the indicator appears, the ball has already reached its destination. The camera is terrible: you're able to see very little of the field, which makes trying to secure a line drive difficult. Pop-flies are illustrated by an obnoxious targeting thing that comes up when the ball is in the air, and while it makes it easy to catch the ball, it's a bit . . . much.
The sound is fine for a N64 game, which means not very good. The announcers are kind of lame and over-excited, though at least they're not trying to be overly serious. This is NOT a serious sounding game. When you hit a foul ball, for instance, you hear a *thwoink!* sound, sort of a cartoon clown effect. Freaky. And every time a home team player steps up to bat, they're accompanied by a tidbit of song, perhaps a speed metal riff or a few nonsensical rap lines tied to a cheap beat. I didn't realize that MLB players had their own theme music . . . it's unnerving, I tell yah!
The only argument I have in favor of Triple Play 2000 is its ease of use. Aside from the fielding difficulties, this is a much simpler game to play than the ASB 2000. Younger gamers might find it more inviting and less daunting. Hitting is a cinch, pitching is a breeze, and the interface is pretty intuitive in general.
But, more seasoned gamers should absolutely forego this title in favor of ASB 2000. Triple Play for the N64 fails to match up in every aspect. If it's in the game, it's in Acclaim. (oh please don't sue me for that one).