“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
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.